What makes a celebrity brand a ‘celebrity brand’? Does the celebrity have to live and breathe the brand, or can they discreetly linger in the background as a footnote of its ownership and still expect it to be successful?
Irish actor, Jamie Dornan, recently announced the launch of his new menswear brand, Eleven Eleven, to his 3 million Instagram followers. Receiving over 420K likes, the post featured snapshots of Dornan wearing the new basics-focussed menswear label with text saying, "I hate shopping and want all men to dress like me. So my mate and I have created a timeless capsule wardrobe over at @thisiseleven_eleven.
"Have a look and buy yourself/boyfriend/husband/lover/ex/brother/stranger something that he’ll always look good in. #thisiseleveneleven #capsulewardrobe”.
The mate in question, and fellow owner, is Jolyon Bohling, who has a background of launching celebrity and influencer brands. A marketing professional with 25 years’ experience, Bohling is the founder of ‘Group Seventy One' which “create and support brands from inception through design and production and onto D2C channels”.
Left - David Gandy wearing his own Wellwear brand
The Eleven Eleven brand currently has 11K followers on Instagram, but the brand doesn’t feature Dornan’s image anywhere on its channels or website. It is worth noting that Dornan started his career as a fashion model, even making it to the heady heights of being a scantily clad Calvin Klein underwear model.
Eleven Eleven states on its website, “Our aim is to make men’s staple products that last, that are thought through in design and detailing, that can be worn alone or together, that can be dressed up or down.
“Eleven Eleven was born out of having to visit many different shops to pull together our wardrobe basics. It was born out of a need to provide strong, interchangeable, simple colour palettes without costing the earth.”
The brand currently offers polo shirts for £45, long sleeve polos for £50, T-shirts for £30, pique shirts for £52, slim fit shirts for £75, chinos for £75 and jumpers for £85.
Confusingly, there are at least two other brands with the Eleven Eleven name. One is called 11.11 / ELEVEN ELEVEN and is sold at matchesfashion.com and another is called eleven eleven fashion. With his background in modelling and, clearly, a huge fan base, is it a mis-step for Dornan to not feature heavily in his new brand’s imagery?
When people buy into celebrity brands they are buying into that person’s image and style. Is it a mistake not to front the campaign and promote the brand yourself and stand by it?
Launching any fashion brand is hard right now, not taking this huge advantage feels like an error.
Recent celebrity brands to run into trouble include Alexa Chung’s namesake brand, which was recently wound up with a loss of more than £11million, Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green which was sold to JD Sports in April 2019 after entering administration with reported debts of £18million and David Beckham’s Kent & Curwen which ceased trading in Nov. 2021. David Beckham bought a stake in the brand in 2016 through his Seven Global company and had ended his partnership with Kent & Curwen previously in April 2020.
Gallagher was rarely pictured wearing his indie-inspired label while Chung’s was priced considerably higher than most of her fan base could afford. For Chung it was difficult for her to remain the girl to watch in her late 30s, especially when the social scene had been completely shut down during Covid.
One recent celebrity launch with the name firmly in front of the camera is David Gandy’s Wellwear, “a world-first concept bringing apparel and well-being together in a lifestyle brand that fuses fashion, function and feeling based on the scientific benefits of wearing soft, comfortable clothing.”
The model told TheIndustry.fashion, “I have never been someone to just put my name or face to something then walk away. I have to believe in something and be fully immersed in the process; my collaborations with M&S and Aspinal are examples of this.” he says. “Starting my own label is one of the last big things I wanted to achieve in the fashion industry, and one that I knew would be incredibly hard to do, so knowledge and timing had to be just right.”
Gandy stars in and fronts his brand’s imagery and social media alongside other models.
“For me, it is a little different as I have come from the modelling world. This is what people have come to know me for, and the Wellwear team believed it’s what people still wanted to see while we are building our audience.” says Gandy. “But I didn’t want the brand to solely be about me. I wanted to use our Wellwear platform to give other upcoming talent the opportunity to be the face of the brand, and grow with us as we do. I want Wellwear to inspire all ages and demographics. Eventually, my vision is for them to take over all the campaigns and Wellwear to become its own entity, rather than always be linked to me visually.” he says.
What does Gandy think about other celebrity brands minus their celebrity’s image?
“It’s each to their own as there is not a right or a wrong way.” he says. “You can look at many top designers with their own brands i.e. Tom Ford or Ralph Lauren. Sometimes they put themselves in the campaign and creative, and sometimes they don’t.
“You can still be the spokesperson, face and founder of a brand without having to be in the creative visually. The one advantage of founding your own brand is that you can make those decisions. But, have to remember if you get those decisions wrong, there is no blaming anyone else, that’s the responsibility you have.” he says.
It can be difficult for celebrities to 100% commit to wearing their own labels when they have lucrative contracts with other brands, but, wearing other labels often confuses consumers and questions how much input they have in their own label and how much they actually own of it. It’s like when A instead of his own label. It sent the message that his eponymous menswear was inferior or not good enough. If you have your own label why would you not make something you wanted to wear?
Discreet celebrity can work. One successful brand which has the celebrity founders firmly in the background is the super expensive, The Row. Almost cult-like in status, The Row was established in 2006 by twins Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen and has stuck to its format of ultra-luxe, minimal fashion. The twins keep a rarefied distance and a nun-like silence around their label.
Another is Totême. Founded in 2014 by Swedish fashion blogger, fashion journalist, Elin Kling. She stays firmly in the background and has created a buzz with a clear point of view and design DNA.
Victoria Beckham on the other hand has found it difficult. She has tried to stay aloof, but has struggled. She started with the wrong categories. She should have followed Tom Ford’s lead and opened with beauty and sunglasses. You need to produce something people can buy into. She has recently reduced her prices by almost 40% by switching to simpler silhouettes and fewer embellished fabrics. The brand launched in 2008 with many consecutive years of no profits.
Other recent discreet celeb. brands to launch include Coldplay’s Guy Berryman’s ‘Applied Art Forms’, but he has less of a public image to put into the brand.
The undisputed queens of self-promotion are the Kardashians. Kim Kardashian launched her Skims label in September 2019 and it sold out in minutes. She has tapped into the expertise of Frame founder, Jens Grede, who has also partnered with her sister, Khloe with Good American. Kim K is happy to front the campaign for her shapewear brand and her image is now synonymous with the Skims brand.
Over in the UK, Trinny Woodall’s almost religious promotion of beauty brand ‘Trinny London’ has railroaded it into people’s consciousness. Starring in her campaigns, her almost QVC-like self-promotion has made a gross profit of £27.4million in the year to March 2021, a massive increase on the previous year's £8.5million. She understands the competitive nature of the beauty business and also the need to swear by your products.
Today, you need to be gratuitous in your promotion. American almost. British politeness won’t cut it. People need to be continually reminded you have a brand, you stand by your brand and you love your brand. You wouldn’t wear or use anything else. Without buying it, you are missing out, that should be the message, loud and proud.
Having a celebrity front a brand is a huge advantage. Them not wearing it or fronting the brand seems like a huge opportunity wasted, especially given the increased competitiveness of social media and direct to consumer selling.
It is rather difficult to sell a brand that you have backed if you are never seen in it. People want to know why and see it as a negative. Celebrities have to get involved. If you don’t wear the product, the signal is you don’t like it and why the hell would somebody else buy it?
Buy TheChicGeek's latest book FashionWankers - HERE
Check out TheChicGeek's new shop of fabulous plants & books - Give me Penis Cactus!
September is fashion’s month. Once bulging fashion magazine issues - remember those?! - the start of fashion’s most important selling season, and, of course, fashion weeks makes September the most important month of the year for the, estimated, global $1.5 trillion fashion industry.
Above - Louis Vuitton's COVID LV Shield hitting stores in October
Fashion week is the canary in the mine and the biggest to suffer from the pandemic. Events which combine travel and vast numbers of people aren’t going to work right now, and, therefore, puts the traditional idea of fashion weeks into a strange predicament. While many fashion councils are trying to push ‘business as usual’, it is far from it.
New York has started, but few would have realised. Designers sitting out New York Fashion Week, this season, include Marc Jacobs - its biggest draw - plus Ralph Lauren, The Row, Pyer Moss, Michael Kors, Telfar, Oscar de la Renta and Brandon Maxwell. Those still taking part can have a socially distanced crowd of just 30 people, while, before, traditional shows ranged into the multiple of 100s. London's fashion week runs from 17th September - Tuesday 22nd September 2020 with the same strict controls.
Fashion weeks is the fashion business in an event and drives focus and attention from outside its bubble to retail and the idea of purchasing something ‘new’ to consumers. They are also extremely old fashioned and had less and less relevance way before COVID 19.
While the majority of fashion shows are pointless, a few images, brands, designers will emerge that stick and steer the fashion industry into that direction for the next six months. It’s also a coming together of people and a temperature test of the industry. But, they have become bloated and drawn out exercises in wasting time and money when fashion can no longer afford either. Limos driving groups of pampered people all over town for 10 mins feels dated and indulgent.
The major of women’s fashion weeks - New York, London, Milan & Paris - managed to scrape through COVID in February and March at the beginning of the year. This will be the first test of how major fashion weeks will run with a global pandemic hanging over it. Some brands, like Louis Vuitton and YSL, have done separate shows over the past few months, but nothing like previous years.
Left - LFW's Digital Schedule home page
This season, the London Fashion Week the schedule has been split into three sections and includes brands showing digitally, physically or both - ‘phygital’. The gender neutral showcase will run from Thursday 17th to Tuesday 22nd September 2020 and include both digital activations on www.londonfashionweek.co.uk and physical events, adhering to government guidelines on social distancing. The schedule will host over 80 designers including 40 womenswear, 15 menswear, 20 menswear & womenswear and 5 accessories brands. There will be a total of 50 digital only activations, 21 physical and digital, 7 physical only and 3 designers who will activate through a physical evening event only.
The LFW digital platform, launched in June for the men’s calendar, will continue to serve as the Official Digital Hub and will be freely accessible to everyone, industry professionals and global fashion consumers alike. The British Fashion Council says. “LFW is one of the few international events to still be going ahead in London, proving the industry’s resilience, creativity, and innovation in difficult times. Now more than ever, the BFC acknowledges the necessity to look at the future of LFW and the opportunity to drive change, collaborate and innovate in ways that will establish long-term benefits, develop new sustainable business models and boost the industry’s economic and social power. The British Fashion Industry faces enormous challenges due to the impact of COVID-19 and the BFC keeps on calling on Government to support a sector which in 2019 contributed £35 billion to the UK economy and employs over 890,000 people (Oxford Economics, 2020).”
Having a traditional ‘schedule’ for barely 28 shows seems old fashioned. As fashion blogger @bryanboy tweeted to his 502.4K Twitter followers regarding NYFW, this week, “It’s really annoying how designers still get an individual time slot for what essentially is a release for a pre-taped short film. No one cares!! Just do a date and release it on the morning or afternoon of that day and it doesn’t matter if it overlaps with other designers”.
Right - Burberry Horseferry check face mask coming soon
It’s the equivalent of waiting in all day for an e-mail. Nobody has time for this, especially when it feels like most of this stuff won’t be ordered or bought anyway. Maybe just have a single release date, hub for content and publicise that?
The most anticipated London show is Burberry’s. Rumoured to be Riccardo Tisci’s last, it will be held outdoors. Burberry will use Twitch’s ‘Squad Stream' function, which allows users to view multiple perspectives of the show at a time and chat with fellow viewers using the service’s chat window. It will be live-streamed without an audience.
LFW designer Emilio De La Morena is presenting an exhibition rather than a traditional catwalk show. Called ‘Troubles SS’21’, it is an assimilation of fashion, film, and sculpture into a “consolidation of the designers professional and personal journey in conjunction to the global pandemic”.
Fashion’s optimistic hope has been that this pandemic will blow over and we’ll get back to the normal fashion week circus asap. Fashion weeks work in the future and were hoping that by the time the 2021 collections come out this will all feel like a bad dream, but, it’s also realistic to think otherwise. Fashion is fickle, when the pandemic is over any product will instantly feel dated and obsolete. It is difficult to know how much time and money to invest in it.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, saying that not enough COVID-19 vaccines will be available to inoculate the global population until at least the end of 2024. According to Poonawalla, pharmaceutical companies are not increasing production capacity quickly enough to vaccinate everyone faster. “It’s going to take four to five years until everyone gets the vaccine on this planet,” Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, said.
Some brands are incorporating PPE protection into their collections. Louis Vuitton has designed a coronavirus face shield which can also be flipped up and used as a sun visor. The LV Shield will be available to purchase from 30th October 2020 in selected Louis Vuitton stores worldwide for around £700. Burberry face masks are coming soon on the brand’s website, strange they haven't released these faster, and are donating 20% from the selling price of each face mask to the Burberry Foundation COVID-19 Community Fund operated by The Burberry Foundation to support communities impacted by the pandemic globally.
Fashion weeks as an idea is still important, it just needs to reinvent itself for life post-pandemic. Mega brands can still blow millions on a pointless extravaganza, but for smaller designers and brands it can be their slim opportunity to be scouted and brought to attention. It also reaffirms the importance of seeing, feeling and experiencing fashion, but with many influencers shunning fashion week and with the amount of traditional magazine press dwindling, who is it for exactly?
We do need to see. Digital is all a bit unreal. We may as well be dressing avatars. You also have a better memory of items in real, it’s the equivalent of a school trip, they’re fully rounded and you can picture yourself wearing it. But, is it that worth £100,000s to brands? Fashion week is a preview and is also important for brands to know what to make and order. We’ve tried ‘See now, buy now’ and now’s the time for digital presentations. Is the future for fashion weeks somewhere in-between? Or does that just take us back to square one?!
Buy TheChicGeek's new book FashionWankers - HERE
It was while at the Copenhagen fashion trade show, CIFF, previewing the forthcoming SS19 collections, when I noticed Phipps International. It was a print featuring extinct animals and the quirky and current twist on Americana and the great outdoors that made me stop and take note.
Left - Phipps International - Cotton-terry track top- £620 from Matchesfashion.com
I soon discovered that the previous collection, AW18, had been bought by matchesfashion.com and is available now.
Phipps International was established in 2017 by Spencer Phipps. Born and raised in San Francisco, he studied at Parsons School of Design in New York City graduating in 2008 with a nomination as “designer of the year” for his final year collection - an initial exploration of sustainable fashion.
He started his career at Marc Jacobs as part of the menswear design team and after, relocated to Antwerp to work with Dries Van Noten.
Currently based in Paris, Phipps, was founded on the principles of respect and curiosity for the natural world.
“We are exploring the concept of sustainability and environmental responsibility in the realm of style. Our goal is to change the way we as a culture consume by creating products that are made with respect for the environment, that can educate and enhance lives. We are always striving to improve our practice as we move forward and, as a modern fashion company, we are simply trying to do the right thing,” says Phipps.
Right - Phipps International SS19 - The extinct species print shirt that caught me eye at CIFF
What started as a small T-shirt project between friends has rapidly grown to become a modern, globally conscious fashion brand focused on building a like-minded community with the goal of re-connecting consumers to nature and the world around them.
The products are said to be made with integrity and are created with consideration for the environment using sustainable manufacturing practices and eco-friendly materials. Many of its producers are certified by GOTS or other environmental certification organisations which help to ensure that our products are made ethically.
In addition, most of their garments are made in Portugal which, as a country, is a global leader in the development of sustainable practices. All of their manufacturers there are required by law to recycle their waste appropriately, re-use treatable water, use alternative energy as much as possible, and follow fair trade labour practices.
Left - One of the jackets of the season SS19
Let’s make something clear, Marc Jacobs is a great designer, yet his business is struggling. Why is this? Business of Fashion said, on Tuesday, the label announced its decision to shutter its men’s business, ending a license agreement with Staff International, after the delivery of the Autumn/Winter 2017 season.
Okay, Marc Jacobs menswear had disappeared recently and, to be honest, it never really have any identity and this is ultimately Marc Jacobs’ problem.
Left - Marc Jacobs going out with a Bang, now discontinued
One of the biggest designers in the world and he has difficulty establishing his own brand. Karl Lagerfeld has always been the same, but that’s a whole other ChicGeek comment.
I knew something was wrong when I went to a Coty fragrance launch, last year, and asked how the Marc Jacobs Bang fragrance was doing. They said they’d discontinued it. I was surprised because, firstly, the bottle was great and the black peppery fragrance was very wearable and commerical. Maybe it was those naked ads, starring the man himself, that tipped it over the edge!
Marc Jacobs has done a lot of things: he put Grunge on the catwalk, but unfortunately you’ll never make money from grunge, he pioneered Louis Vuitton’s ready-to-wear and introduced many great collaborations, such as Stephen Sprouse, those leopard print-type scarves were everywhere, but he’s never really owned anything. You can’t point to something and say “that’s very Marc Jacobs” which is when a brand or designer because part of the visual language and, ultimately, means longevity and heritage.
In the early 00s it was all about the Stam handbags, which were expensive, then Marc by Marc Jacobs came along and everything was really cheap. He seemed to miss the middle, sweet spot that Michael Kors has come to dominate. He was either really expensive or pocket-money cheap and that confused the brand. You never felt like spending money on Marc Jacobs.
The fashion probably wasn't expensive looking enough for the clientele who buy designer clothes the world over and when the only shop left on the street in New York that you pioneered is a book shop - BookMarc - great name BTW - it seems as though this is a signifier of how tough things are to make money from ready-to-wear even when your name is established.
The bad news is it’s only going to get more difficult in the next few years in American fashion. Calvin Klein is hoping for a resurgence thanks to Raf Simons, Donna Karan has new owners, that will no doubt start investing heavily and Ralph Lauren is bound to hit bottom soon. They’re all chasing the same customers and competition is difficult in a saturated market. Marc Jacobs needs to decide where is wants to sit within the fashion market and aim for that. Or, hope check shirts make a major comeback!
True blue, TheChicGeek uses bold aquas and sky blues to create pops of colour on a clean and fresh base of white. Never one to blend into the background, TheChicGeek stands out amongst the background of brilliant white chalk by mixing the primary shades of blue. How big, how blue, how beautiful!
Get involved #WhiteOut
Credits - Shoes - Blue Sebago Docksides Ariaprene, White Jeans G-Star RAW, Bomber Jacket - Villain, Jean Jacket - GAP, Watch - Nixon, Bum-Bag - UTC100, Bag - UTC00, Shirt - Topman, Blue Neckerchief With Piping - Thomas Pink, Blue Neckerchief - John Lewis, Blue Fragrance - Marc Jacobs ‘Rain’, Fragrance - Miller Harris Étui Noir
Shot by Robin Forster on Olympus PEN
More images below