Fashion Scouts New Talent

The craze for celebrity apparel deals has returned with a vengeance ¿ despite a track record filled with missteps and few lines that have had any success.

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Mischa Barton

Photo By WWD Staff

They're baaaaack.

The craze for celebrity apparel deals has returned with a vengeance — despite a track record filled with missteps and few lines that have had any consistent, long-term success. A whole new slew of agreements has been announced, and some are in the works as vendors and retailers look to build buzz any way they can.

In the past month alone, Avril Lavigne has signed a deal with Kohl's Corp., Rachel Bilson introduced a line with DKNY Jeans, Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz said he's designing a collection for Nordstrom and even TV personality Kelly Ripa is venturing into activewear design with Ryka.

Industry insiders said the celebrity-as-designer phenomenon (which WWD has dubbed the "delebrity") is alive and well — and pointed to stars ranging from Fergie to America Ferrera and Hayden Panettiere as prime for deals of their own. Even Amy Winehouse could be a possibility — proving once again that controversy sells.

"From [The] Wet Seal [Inc.] to J.C. Penney [Co. Inc.], stores are all looking for the next big thing to be able to bring in new customers," said Michelle Roback, a sales executive with Jerry Leigh, a 48-year-old privately held Los Angeles licensing firm that had a major role in the deal between Lavigne and Kohl's. "Bringing in this sort of talent can certainly do that for these stores."

Roback said she believes the celebrity-as-designer craze is the hottest trend right now. While she declined to name them, she said she is in talks with several well-known celebs who want to become designers.

A celebrity line can be a win-win. With retailers and vendors increasingly looking for exclusive lines to gain a competitive edge, these collections can help. In addition, the stars need the cash. Music sales are tumbling, and the writers' strike earlier this year left many actresses looking for ways to bolster their suddenly reduced incomes.

"It's really become a great way for celebrities to make a lot of money," Roback said. At their peak, these apparel lines can generate revenues in the hundreds of millions, while a hot celebrity fragrance can generate sales of another $50 million or more in its first year in store.
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