How Sustainable are Celebrity Fashion Brands?
Lately it seems like every A, B and C-list celebrity is starting a celebrity fashion line. Reese Witherspoon has Draper James. Beyonce has Ivy Park. Even Bill Murray launched a line of golf clothes. (If you know who Bill Murray is, then you’re as shocked as we are, and if you don’t, then this picture says it all). Launching a fashion line is now the final step in the transition from celebrity to icon. It means your style is so impossible to copy, that you have to invite people to imitate it. Note that the Bill Murray line encourages consumers to “unleash their inner Murray.” We can’t even begin to imagine what that could mean.
But since this trend of celebrity fashion lines has become so far-flung, we have to wonder how much thought and effort these celebrities are really putting into them? And, in an age of fast fashion and overconsumption, are celebrity fashion lines conscious of their environmental impact? Are they just another move in celebrity brand building? Or are there any celebrity fashion brands that are actually doing good?
Social media outlets like Instagram have created such an intimate link between follower and celebrity. There’s a trust being built there that these celebrities are sharing their real lives with us. But what is that trust founded on?
What does a “celebrity endorsement” really mean?
Remember Fyre Festival? (Who doesn’t?) All your fave Instagram supermodels were posting about it before the event. But after the entire fiasco revealed itself to be a scam-sham, influencers were actually sued for not disclosing that they were paid for posting advertised material. The infamous event created a dialogue about the blurry lines of endorsement. Where is the line between being paid to do a job (such as posting about a brand) and being dishonest?
Unfortunately, the same controversy extends to celebrities’ own fashion lines. Some celebrities are a lot less involved than others in the design and manufacture of their fashion brands. In some cases, they become nothing more than a name to strap on the front of the brand. Many celebrities will claim to be very involved, even at the design stage. It’s hard to verify how big their roles actually are in the business. We do know that these folks are busy (especially if they’re still performing). And more often than not, there’s likely a lot of outsourcing.
Why is this clothing so appealing?
So if the clothes aren’t really designed by the celebrity, where is the appeal? Why opt for a celebrity fashion line item rather than a generic one? Well, there’s a lot of psychology around the idea that celebrity endorsements (even if we’re wary of them) really affect us. A study at the University of Arkansas in collaboration with the Manchester Business School in London found that consumers aged 18-24 “take an active role in using celebrities to build their own identities and self-images.” The same study also found that our brain understands our relationships with celebrities as if they are our friends.
This means that celebrity fashion lines have incredible potential to motivate consumers. Regardless of the quality, style or environmental footprint of the clothing, consumers are already likely to favour it. In an age where every clothing purchase has a far-reaching environmental impact, we have to wonder how celebrity fashion lines are harnessing their power.
Are celebrity fashion brands doing more harm than good?
The culture surrounding celebrity fashion lines is potentially dangerous. The sheer quantity and frequency with which these lines are coming out feeds into an ethos of overproduction and overconsumption. The majority of these lines also make no claims about evaluating their environmental impact. They encourage us to buy not because we need clothes, but because we need to curate a certain image of ourselves. And that’s not an eco-friendly shopping strategy.
On the flip side of that, some celebrity fashion lines are indeed using their platforms for good. They are designed specifically to empower a certain group or shed light on a particular issue. Many lines are also geared toward a focus on eco-conscious clothing. These celebrity fashion lines are designed with a purpose, a mission beyond extending the brand of a particular celebrity. These are the brands worth investigating.
Celebrity fashion brands taking steps in the right direction
Photo: Gage Skidmore
Kate Hudson recently launched HappyxNature, a fashion line dedicated to celebrating our relationship with the environment. Several items in the collection are made from recycled water bottles. HappyxNature also uses all biodegradable packaging, and even the labels are made from natural fibres. Clothing doesn’t just appear out of thin air — it comes from textiles that come from the earth. It’s great to see a celebrity fashion brand acknowledging that link between fashion and the environment.
Rosario Dawson is also taking her platform as a fashionista very seriously. Her brand, Studio One Eighty Nine, recently won the CFDA Lexus Fashion Initiative for Sustainability. The company works with local artisans and craftsmen in Africa, and the collection reflects a celebration of African identity. It also supports various community projects both in Africa and in the USA. Rosario Dawson’s brand is clearly one with a purpose and a story.
Finally, Emma Watson has been a sustainability hero for a while. She recently partnered with Good on You, a company focused on championing ethical and sustainable clothing. Recently, they came out with an app that allows you to see the environmental impact of the clothing you’re purchasing. Watson argues that “There’s a bigger story to be told about the conditions in which our clothes are made, the resources that have been used and the impact they’ve had on communities.” She is using her platform to help those stories be told.
It’s hard to imagine the trend of celebrity fashion lines slowing down anytime soon. But in an age where the welfare of the environment feels increasingly precarious, it’s important to think carefully before we buy any piece of clothing. There’s nothing wrong with shopping from celebrity fashion lines. But if celebrity fashion is your go-to shopping inspiration, it’s worth thinking about which celebrities really embody your values. If we all made our shopping decisions consciously and thoughtfully, then we’d have to agree with Emma Watson, that “we’re on a journey towards a more sustainable future.”