The problems of the celebrity "designed" fashion collection

A recent blog post I wrote on future vintage got me thinking a lot about the craft/ practice of fashion design as a whole and the fact that now it seems that anyone believes they can design a fashion collection, despite no formal training. One of my favourite comments on the topic came from a twitter follower geckocomms who stated:  it’s interesting no one would expect to just design a house / a plane / a – well anything, except fashion.”
So first off where did this trend begin?
Well it seems the trend for celebrities designing their own collections kicked in back in 1998 with Sean Combs/ Puff Daddy/ P Diddy’s sportswear range, which in 2010 had an annual turnover of 500million. On into the noughties we marched forward with more celebrities introducing their own fashion brands, Jenifer Lopez started her J-Lo collection in 2001 which at the time was pretty popular in the states. I have particular issues with her attitude towards her more recent (2011) collaboration with Kohl’s, suggesting that designs for the collection were based on those from her closet.

Although, these examples I’ve mentioned so far are US based, I think it was 2007 when the trend really kicked in, in the UK with the Lily Allen Loves collection for New Look, Kate Moss for Topshop and Madonna for H and M.
I mentioned Kate Moss in my previous blog post which I think was one of the most successful fashion collaborations and really saw this trend increase, unfortunately this seemed to have the effect of suggesting that design can just mean ripping off pieces from your own wardrobe. Not cool, not cool at all.
I LOVE this quote from Jeff Banks about her first Topshop collection ” “Can Kate sharpen a pencil or draw a matchstick man? Banks asked. “I wouldn’t put money on it. I’ll bet [Kate Moss] just grabbed one of her many Prada bags, rifled through her wardrobe … and turned up at Topshop’s head office in Oxford Street for a quick hour’s briefing with the in-house designers and buying staff.” 

A few key examples of the “wardrobe copy” (from the Daily Fail I’m afraid) – The original hacked Bus Stop dress also sends shivers down my spine, and I wrote about it extensively in my dissertation.

You can also read more about the Bus stop copy on Liz Eggleston’s blog

In the UK at least I think this all came off the back of a huge surge of what I call high/low collaborations. Popularised I feel by the Karl Lagerfeld collection for H and M in 2004.
The thing is the effect seems to have snowballed to insane levels now. I can see the design merit of Victoria Beckham’s collections but examples from the past year alone are seeing the trend getting out of hand with the likes of:
Rihanna for Emporio Armani
Agyness Deyn for  Dr Martens
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley for Marks & Spencer
Kelly Brook for New Look
So why do I think this is such a bad idea? There are a few reasons (and I will say I have no problem with high/ low collaborations. I appreciate that this a chance for a little bit of infiltration of high end designers down)
My main problem is it devalues the work of a real fashion designer. As a former fashion student I will tell you that fashion is HARD. Doing  a degree in fashion design was the toughest thing I have ever done, I had to work my socks off to even get a mediocre grade. Not only do you have to be able to draw clothes, but you need to be able to research effectively and ideally pattern cut and actually make clothes (saying that some of the best know designers of all time ahem Dior couldn’t pattern cut, but his desing skills negated the need for this skill).
Studying fashion properly teaches you the importance of  RESEARCH. Research is not copying, yes the greatest designers often take inspiration from designs of the past (John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood are perfect examples of this) but they didn’t copy. By UNDERSTANDING THE CRAFT of design they were able to draw inspiration from other pieces but make them their own.
And finally my problem that the celebrity collection seems to suggest the acceptability of copying to all.
I’ll also draw on an interesting comment recently made on Facebook by incredibly talented handbag designer Karina Hesketh (you can see her bags here) She stated.
So many people ask me if I would make up their designs…a design is not a picture from a magazine, that is plagarism and infringement of someone elses copyright. A design is a good technical drawing accompanied by an accurate pattern with a specification sheet of stress points, cutting instructions and a host of other pointers… can take years to learn how to become a good pattern maker, it is the very essence of all design! “
Well put Karina
The problem is that I think the celebrity effect has caused this idea that anyone can be a designer, and, I’m sorry but this just isn’t the case. This almost gripes me as much as the misuse of the term curator… but again I’ll save that for another post.
So overall I’ll finish on this. To the celebrities out there who think they are designers, in a good 90% of cases you’re not, rather you are just a very well paid canny marketing ploy : )

6 thoughts on “The problems of the celebrity "designed" fashion collection

  1. When the Kate Moss for Top Shop came out there was an article in US Vogue about her, and her "design process." Seems like she showed up at the Top Shop office and the designers brought in vintage things for her to look at. Her involvement in the process was to point to the one she wanted to be copied.I don't remember who said this first, but it's worth repeating: Just because you wear clothes does not mean you know how to design them.

  2. Didn't Gloria Swanson put her name to a line of clothes? I recall it being some time around the 1930s/1940s. She was always noted for being very stylish, so perhaps someone at a dress company decided to take advantage of that.I do simple handknitting designs. Turning a piece of string into a 3D object takes time and skill. One friend did says to me, "We should design together – I'll have ideas and draw them out and you can do the maths." Um, no. If I'm spending that much time working out construction, i'll be doing it for my own ideas!

  3. Dear Liz, thank you for following my wee little blog. I browsed through your blog a little bit and found you're a really interesting and so beautiful person. It's stunning that you own 40 Horrockses dresses. I read all the text above and find your thoughts most convincing. I wish you a wonderful, sunny Sunday afternoon. Hugs from Miss Maple

  4. Very interesting article Liz; I agree that big celebrity names are more than likely telling actual in house designs/cutters/pattern-understanding people the type of clothes they themselves like, or in the case of Kate Moss, actually wear. I have absolutely no problem with this if that is what they called themselves 'a range by Kelly Brook of the type of clothes she likes and would wear' as opposed to her name being in the place of actual designer.I'm guessing the combination of celebrity and High Street store works both ways as both parties benefit financially and just as the recent barrage of blog posts on other vintage blogs suggest, there is a sub-culture of women wanting to look like and imitate the style of their celebrity girl-crushes, just as there is a vintage sub-culture of wanting to look like a silver screen siren.It's usually always about communication and in this case the concept is fine but applying the term 'designer' is not.xXx

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