How Fashion Profits From Reality TV
- Marguerite Darlington
- On 03/26/2012
This year may be known as the year that reality television revitalizes the fashion industry. Entertainment properties have always influenced fashion trends, but this year many reality shows have gone one step further: several reality programs are launching fashion lines at major retailers. “Fashion Star,” “American Idol” and “Que Viva: The Chosen” have partnered with major retailers including Macy’s, H&M, Saks Fifth Avenue and Kohl’s to bring viewers the latest looks from the second screen.
These fashion collections have elevated the idea of crossing platforms and viewer engagement to a whole new level. We’re not talking about a t-shirt with the show’s logo; we’re talking about trusted retailers offering viewers exact replicas of the clothes that they see on television. This is more than engagement—this is living the dream.
Can you launch a clothing line without a celebrity?
In the past ten years, the influx of celebrity clothing lines into top retailers has caused a sea change in the fashion industry. In 2010, Forbes covered the celebrity fashion phenomenon after Madonna announced her deal with Macy’s for the Material Girl and MG Icon collections.
Last October, Time published a list of what it deemed to be the top ten celebrity fashion lines. It seems that even an exceptional independent designer with a significant local following could have difficulty catching the eye of a buyer at a major retailer simply because they don’t have an IMDB page, which means they probably don’t have a platform large enough to launch a national brand. Unless, of course, these young designers are lucky enough to win a spot on “Fashion Star.”
“Fashion Star” shines at retail
NBC’s “Fashion Star” has integrated fashion retail deeply into the DNA of the show. Each week, young designers create and show original work to buyers from three of America’s top retailers: Macy’s, H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue (remember our interview with Eric Jennings?). Celebrity mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos help guide the designs based on their knowledge of the industry.
Honestly, this show is a must-watch for any young designers trying to break into the industry. Not only do designer get advice from experts who have successfully launched fashion lines, but viewers also get up close and person from buyers from major retailers.
Macy’s buyer Caprice Willard, H&M buyer Nicole Christie and Saks Fifth Avenue buyer Terron E. Shaffer offer unique insights into how their decisions are made. Knowing how to appeal to buyer is critical in this industry. After an elaborate runway show, buyers chose the winning creations, with the help of audience feedback, and each week the winning pieces selected by buyers are available online and in stores.
Yes, it’s that fast. And the speed with which the clothing appears in retail seems to strike a cord with consumers. In fact, the retail sales numbers are better than the ratings.
“Sales of ‘Fashion Star’ merchandise exceeded expectations,” Macy’s spokesperson Holly Thomas told TV Guide. H&M sold out of a black-and-turquoise dress from contestant Sarah Parrott, while Saks Fifth Avenue sold out on a limited supply of $350 zipper mini-skirts from contestant Orly Shani. “The click-through rate on purchase was hundreds of percentage points higher than normal,” executive producer Ben Silverman told TV Guide, describing the online shoppers after the show.
NBC executives hope that the series, hosted and executive produced by Elle Macpherson, which airs Tuesday nights, will get a boost with the return of “The Voice.” If this happens, this television show could change the way viewers consume and view the fashion industry for good.
“American Idol” launches its AI brand at Kohl’s
In case you were on vacation without an internet connection last week, American Idol announced that it is launching a fashion brand, “Authentic Icon” or AI. FremantleMedia Enterprises and 19 Entertainment signed a deal with Kohl’s Department Stores and LF USA, a subsidiary of Li & Fung Limited. The AI spring collection will be available April-June to coincide with the show’s 11th season.
“For over a decade American Idol has seamlessly woven fashion and music together to transform lives and create music icons,” said David Luner, EVP of consumer products and interactive for FremantleMedia Enterprises. “It was a natural extension to partner on a line of American Idol inspired apparel that captures the essence of our rich music, style and performance heritage.”
LF USA’s MESH division will design and produce the AI collection. Kohl’s will be the exclusive retailer and support the brand with marketing such as national advertising, in store graphics, online and digital media, direct mail and public relations.
“American Idol” has great digital engagement with its voting strategy, but will this involvement turn into retail sales?
The connection to fashion is not as deep as “Fashion Star,” but “American Idol” has a solid, committed viewership. This collection is not just a one-off—Kohl’s practically specializes in entertainment partnerships. Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Jamie King, Simon Fuller and XIX Entertainment inked a deal with Kohl’s Department Stores to be the exclusive retail sponsor of “Q’viva! The Chosen.” Both Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony have clothing lines at the retailer, and those clothing lines will be featured prominently in the show.
“From a business perspective, we’re interested in organic extensions that allow us to leverage and maximize our investment in the Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony lifestyle collections which launched in fall 2011,” said Julie Gardner, Kohl’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “We view ‘Q’Viva! The Chosen’ as an excellent opportunity to extend our brand and increase our mass market reach.”
The Spanish language series celebrating Latin culture, music, and dance made its U.S. debut in January.
Reality vixen or fashionista?
If it’s not the reality show that’s cutting a deal with a retailer for a fashion line, often times it’s the reality star. Since 2010, several female reality TV personalities have released fashion lines, including Olivia Palermo, Whitney Port, Meeka Claxton … even Mark Wahlberg is thinking about getting into the game.
The most interesting, however, is Lauren Conrad. Her 2008 Bloomingdales’ collection was such a flop that it nearly ruined her career in fashion. In 2010, Conrad retooled the offerings to launch as the LC Lauren Conrad collection at Kohl’s with a lower price point. Then, one year later, she launched a higher-end label, Paper Crown, which launched at Nordstrom, Ron Herman, Planet Blue and boutiques in the U. S. last fall.
In December, Conrad became an investor in women-founded BlueAvocado, a sustainable lifestyle products company on a mission to inspire millions to reduce their ecological footprint with “cool products for a hot planet.” This summer, Lauren Conrad will design and debut an eco-collection for BlueAvocado that expands the company’s food-on-the-go product portfolio to include home storage, travel and cosmetic accessories.
BlueAvocado currently offers a range of shopping and lunch kits that reduce everyday waste. Since inception BlueAvocado has kept an estimated 46 million disposable bags from landfills and oceans, up-cycled 805,000 plastic bottles into useful products, and invested in more than 300 women micro-entrepreneurs around the globe.
“For me, the BlueAvocado partnership represents a synergy of things I love to do–design great products, enable women to realize their dreams, and inspire thoughtful action,” said Conrad. “Once you realize the responsibility we have to improve our environment in our lifetime, you feel compelled to act with urgency.”
Here at FMM, we just love to see Conrad grow as a business woman. As she gains experience, she seems to make thoughtful decisions about where to place her money, using her celebrity status to improve the world rather than just putting her name on a VISA card with a ridiculously high interest rate.
Celebrities have become an integral part of the fashion industry, for better or worse, because their fame drives sales. Last month, the Daily Mail reported that Jessica Simpson will make history as the first celebrity to earn $1 billion with a fashion line. Don’t forget, Simpson began her career as a singer, but didn’t become really famous until she starred in a reality show: “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica.”
So celebrity does matter, and we at FMM are thrilled that young, independent designers are becoming instantly famous on “Fashion Star” for their talent and fresh ideas.