Newsmaker: Jessica Simpson
Pop star Jessica Simpson's fashion line hauls in around $1bn in annual sales, an aberration in a retail landscape littered with dead celebrity brands. David Hasselhoff's Malibu Dave, Mandy Moore's Mblem, Heidi Montag's Heidiwood - the list of defunct fashion labels of the famous is endless. Yet Simpson's line has not only survived, it's grown over the past decade into a true lifestyle empire.
The star says she "just knows what women want". Her designs seek to appeal to all kinds of women: a teen searching the mall for a cool denim jacket, a plus-size girl looking for a going-out dress, a grandmother who wants a chic top.
"I have been every size on the planet, and I feel like I understand women," Simpson said at Forbes's annual Power Women's Summit in 2014. "There's life and a whole entire world beyond LA and New York. And I do understand Middle America and their mindset."
Licensing company Sequential Brands announced it's acquiring a majority stake in Simpson's brand for an undisclosed sum. Formerly under the purview of Vince Camuto, the late founder of Camuto Group, who bought rights to the brand in 2005, Simpson's label found its groove by targeting regular women, not the high-fashion types celebrities often attempt to court. Before his death in January, Camuto attributed the line's appeal to Simpson's likeability and good behaviour. "It's almost her 10-year anniversary, and she never got into trouble," he said in 2014. "We gambled with it, but it worked out." The Jessica Simpson label is sold in mainstream US department stores such as Macy's and boasts over 30 product categories, including footwear, clothing, accessories, and even a home goods line that's sold in stores like Bed Bath & Beyond.
The new owner has even bigger plans. According to a report from 'Women's Wear Daily', Sequential is set on growth, seeking to create a $2bn-$3bn business under the Jessica Simpson banner. Simpson will continue to own equity in her company and stay involved in design. "I'm as committed as I was 10 years ago," she said in a statement. "Here's to the next billion."
That next billion is a "wild card", though, said Eric Beder, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities. Since the brand is so focused on Americans "in sensibilities and colour palette," it may have to make some tweaks to find success expanding abroad, Beder wrote in a note to clients.
Although most have failed, a few celebrities have managed to make the jump into fashion. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen's business empire, which includes popular midmarket line Elizabeth and James, is said to be worth at least $1bn.
Ivanka Trump's eponymous label has become a recognisable fashion name, with about $250m in annual sales. Other successful labels include Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. and Victoria Beckham.