Amy Winehouse's Fred Perry clothing range
Amy Winehouse was many things in her messy, chaotic life - including something of a style icon, famous for her distinctive beehive hairstyle and kohl eye make-up. She was also, for a brief period towards the end, a fashion designer, working on an Amy Winehouse-branded range for the classic clothing company Fred Perry. The new season, which includes a body-con dress, houndstooth shirts and skirts, and a range of accessories, went on sale just days after her death. The clothes bear a Fred Perry logo and the promise that any proceeds will go straight to Winehouse's charitable foundation.
Actually, the range is rather tasteful in a retro-chic kind of way. Which is news in itself, because pop artists pretending to be designers rarely set fashionistas' pulses racing. Not that the artists concerned seem to care too much about wowing the catwalks: in an era of diminishing record sales, it's increasingly about the proceeds from the clothes.
Take Rocawear. In 1999, the Roc-A-Fella Records co-founders Damon Dash and Jay-Z branched out into clothing with this label. The collection was, and remains, the kind of slightly bland assortment of T-shirts, jeans and leisure sportswear one might expect to see in Gap or Abercrombie and Fitch. But it was so successful that in 2007 Jay-Z sold the rights to the Rocawear brand for a staggering US$204 million (Dh739m), while still retaining his stake in the company. Annual sales are around the $700m mark. Last week, Jay-Z tweeted that he would partner his fellow hip-hop star Pharrell Williams - not on a new song, but Williams's clothing line, Billionaire Boys Club.
Of course, music and fashion have always been inextricably linked, right back to The Beatles' sharp suits and mop-tops. But it was hip-hop's peculiar obsession with branding that monetised that relationship. In 1986, Run DMC released a song on Def Jam records called My Adidas - not because they were paid to by the sportswear company, but as a fashion statement. The endorsement deal came later - it's surely no coincidence that the Def Jam label boss Russell Simmons, whose younger brother was in Run DMC, swiftly set up the multimillion-dollar Phat Farm clothing label.
In fact, for a while it seemed that every hip-hop star of worth (50Cent, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes ... the list is endless) had his own clothing label. Most were nothing more than the kind of gear one might expect to see at merchandising stands - Wu Tang Clan's Wu Wear label being a particularly uninspiring offender. Fifteen years on, though, the label still exists, somewhat oddly operating out of a provincial town in Germany.
Others did at least attempt to appear as though thought had gone into the process - Puff Daddy's Sean John line started as a signature collection of sportswear and has ended up peddling tailored clothing at fashion shows and making a fortune from the designs.
Such extra-curricular interests have even infiltrated these stars' songs. Nelly didn't pull the lyrics "Warm, sweatin', it's hot up in this joint, Vokal tank top, on at this point" out of thin air when he wrote Hot in Herre. Vokal was Nelly's own clothing line, and after initial success, it was discontinued when Nelly's female range, Apple Bottoms, took off.
Beyoncé's dabblings in House of Dereon fashion have also shamelessly made their way into her songs. The peerless Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) is just a little less perfect when you realise, halfway through, that she's "got gloss on my lips, a man on my hips, got me tighter in my Dereon jeans".
Cynicism aside, perhaps Beyoncé does take time out from wowing Glastonbury and making new records to sketch beautiful designs. Maybe Justin Timberlake is really involved in the premium jeans that make up his William Rast label, and Madonna spends nights dreaming up children's clothes with her 13-year-old daughter for the Material Girl line.
One sign of the appeal of celebrity lines was found in Liam Gallagher's Pretty Green shop in Manchester, which was targeted during the August 9 British riots. The former Oasis frontman's selection of mod-inspired leisurewear was completely cleaned out of the shop, with estimates suggesting that around £272,000 (Dhs1.6 million) worth of clothing was stolen.
Published: August 21, 2011 04:00 AM