These days, it’s no surprise that your favorite celebrity is coming out with a clothing line. Sure, everybody claims to be creating the most ground-breaking, hip, fashion-forward collection. But we all know how that goes. There are tons of promo pics, interviews, sneak-peaks and what not. Sometimes even “fashion shows with no fashions”. No shade intended. But more often than not, once all is said and done, we’re left with a bunch of blah pieces, some cute and trendy – fine – but certainly not worth all the hype and anticipation.

Now I don’t mean to sound like a complete skeptic, because there are certainly a few celeb lines that consistently make me drool over must-have pieces. Gwen Stefani, for example, always inspires me to stack my pesos so that I can splurge on a pair of killer L.A.M.B. pumps! But there are also a few key questions that I must ask myself when hearing of the “next great” celebrity fashion line.

* CREATIVITY: How much input do they really have? There’s nothing better than hearing that some stars – such as the Olsen twins, as I learned on Oprah – are actually present and active in the design process from beginning to end. They do rough sketches, pick fabric swatches and trim, style shoots/shows, and even have a basic knowledge of sewing and construction. But I don’t have much respect for so-called “designers” who simply provide financial backing and a face for the line, and receive credit for other people’s work. There’s a clear distinction between designer and sponsor.

* WEARABILITY: Would they even wear this stuff? No offense to the creators of brands such as Baby Phat and Dereon, but too often I’ve seen items of theirs that led me to wonder: “Who the hell would wear this mess?” Not to say that all of their clothes are hideous, but surely some items lack the taste and signature style that’s exhibited by the women who endorse them. I understand that the goal of a successful brand is to cater to a “target audience” that may veer towards certain trends– yeah yeah, sure. But how sincere is it to promote an item that you would never be caught dead in the street wearing? Because unless I’m mistaken, I’ve never seen Kimora rockin these, nor Beyonce killin ‘em in this. But I’m just saying… Designers such as Rachel Roy and Andre 3000 who allow their own personal style esthetic to shine through their designs seem to be far more genuine in their efforts.

* VALUE: Is it a name we’re paying for, or quality garments and accessories? A common thread amongst many celebrity clothing lines is higher price points. But is it always worth the splurge? If someone were to simply remove the tag from that sweater, bag, or pair of shoes, would we still be so inclined to hand over our Visa? In some cases, I guarantee we’d think twice. You see, having a rich name and lavish reputation at the forefront of the line does not ensure that the same high standards are being met in the production of their products. Are the fabrics and dye going to hold up in the wash? Will these buttons and zippers function properly for long? You never know.

* BRANDING: Must we always “Say [Your] Name”? Clearly, we’re aware of the multi-million dollar powerhouses behind the likes of Sean John, Rocawear, Dereon, and Apple Bottom. But in case we forgot – they make sure to stamp those names and logos loud and proud all over each garment! Why must they o.d. like that? I can’t even lie, I once saw the cutest pair of distressed skinny jeans that I just knew I had to have. Perfect color, just enough stretch, and decent price. But as soon as I flipped that hanger around and caught glimpse of those juicy Granny Smith-shaped pockets on each cheek, I dropped those bad boys right where I stood. Way to ruin a good thing, guys. Thanks a lot.

Despite the downfalls we’ve seen in certain lines, we can’t forget to pay homage to those who’ve actually gotten it right. Because in the case of certain celebrities, great success and profit have resulted since they decided to branch out into the wonderful world of fashion. Consider SEAN JOHN by Diddy: 11 years in the business, and no sign of falling off. Annual participation in New York Fashion Week. National ad campaigns via television, billboards, and the pages of top fashion publications. And the 2004 CFDA award for Men’s Designer of the Year. Enough said, huh? Even Angela and Vanessa Simmons are getting it right with their PASTRY line. You may wonder why a teeny-bopper seeming brand would deserve such recognition after a seasoned vet. But if you look at the logistics, these girls deserve their shine: They found a specific demographic to target, in an age range not too far from their own – so they can relate to their customers. They picked a clever brand concept – sweets and treats – that allows them to experiment openly with funky colors, fabrics, and product names. And even better, they used their television exposure to show the world that they are truly putting in the hours to help push their line to the next level. Kudos, ladies.

So, what’s you all’s take on the surge of celebrity fashion lines. Are we “buying” it?

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