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retail-features

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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"When we look at any opportunity, we look for authenticity before we sign on with the personality," he said. "We tend to think if this will be a long-term business, it must have longevity. Also, product is key and the celebrity has to be relevant to the product. You cannot fake out the consumer. It just won't work."

Michael Stone, president and chief executive officer of the Beanstalk Group, a brand-licensing agency that works with celebrities such as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Paris Hilton, agreed there has been a renewed explosion in celebrity deals.

"Retailers are hungry for more," Stone said. "I'm sure there will be some failures. The key is that in order for them to survive, there has to be longevity in the celebrity; the retailer has to be able to see a future for the brand."

As a result, Michael Wood, vice president and director of syndicated research at the Northbrook, Ill.-based Teenage Research Unlimited, predicted there will be many more celebrities adding the designer role in the near future.

"Today's youth are starting to grow up without knowing a celebrity who doesn't already have a clothing line," said Wood. "It's almost like it's just another part of being a celebrity these days. It's like, so what? She has a clothing line, just like every other celebrity on the planet."

Despite that, Wood believes the celebrity-as-designer phenomenon is getting a bit watered down, and it doesn't seem to be exciting teens as much as it used to. Because of that, retailers and vendors are churning through celebrities faster than ever — perhaps a reason so many reality TV stars have a collection.

"There seems to be a movement away from the more destructive celebrities like Britney, Lindsay and Paris," he said of teen attitudes (an indication, perhaps, that a Winehouse collection might face some challenges). "There is a movement towards the more talented and smart celebrities like Natalie Portman, Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon ­— all of whom score very high with teens."

Wood also cited names such as Miley Cyrus (best known as Disney's "Hannah Montana"), Scarlett Johansson (who has a line with Reebok) and Jessica Alba as popular with teens, and said he could see other favorites such as "Heroes" star Panettiere and Vanessa Hudgens (of "High School Musical" fame) with lines of their own.
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