The power and the fashion

Whether you like it or not, the power of a celebrity endorsement is an undeniable force in popular culture. A casual look at the evolution of advertising campaigns for everything from skincare to breakfast cereals and most major fashion labels shows how most brands will favour a celebrity over a blank-canvas model or actor.

The fact that Kim Kardashian can command up to $10,000 a Tweet - just to mention a product that she may or may not use personally - attests we'll buy pretty much anything as long as the right person is selling it. Such as leather tracksuit pants. Which I wore once. In London. And never again. Thank you Mr Kardashian (aka Kanye West).

So what happens when celebrities transcend the commercial barrier between themselves and the product and, rather than just being the face of a brand, they become the brand?

My introduction to celebrity clothing lines was probably 20 years ago when Dannii Minogue – back in her Young Talent Time days – launched a line of clothing at K-Mart. I can't say I remember too much about the range, other than it seemed like all the girls at my school were suddenly wearing fluorescent bike-pants and loose, midriff style tops with matching scrunchies – all of which soon turned up in the windows of the nearby St Vincent de Paul.

These days, celebrity collaborations with fashion designers and attempts to launch their own lines has become a standard career progression when album or ticket sales begin to fail.

Celebrity clothing is clearly not so much about the clothes as it is about the celebrity who 'designs' them, with the clothing range seen as a rather dubious extension of the celebrity's identity.

Dr Prudence Black from the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney thinks this approach works because “some people like to live vicariously through the lives of others”.

“But in the end all we are buying is clothes, which may or may not represent any of the values, or the actual preferred style of said celebrity,” she says.

Take the clothing range of British pop singer Robbie Williams, which sits alongside the likes of Paul Smith and Dolce and Gabbana as part of department store David Jones' International Collection. A basic range of male staples, the brand is a nod to Williams' grandfather, Jack Farrell who, according to legend, taught Williams everything he knows about being a man yet relies on Williams' own persona as the boy-band bad boy.

And then there is singer/actor Justin Timberlake's premium denim label, William Rast - although anyone who remembers this might think twice before splurging on Timberlake-designed denim. And who can forget Sean John by Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy, aka P.Diddy) and his range of luxe athletic gear and affordable tuxedos that promised the wearer both class AND street cred at the same time. That's a tough ask even for a real designer.

Thankfully, it appears that common sense prevails more often than not (unless you're this guy) when it comes to our sartorial decision-making process. “The brand of the celebrity might pull an audience,” says Black, “but it won't always translate into sales.”

Case in point would be Baywatch actor David Hasselhof's surfwear line, Malibu Dave; or early 2000s rappers Outkast and their bizarre collection of oversized neon threads; and even Kanye West's initial foray into the fashion world, Pastelle Clothing. All folded within the first year of their launch which means that, despite the occasionally successful fad or trend, we are still able detect a dud and think for ourselves. That's a rather refreshing thought.

I am still tempted to give those leather tracksuit pants another go, though. Just to say I got my money's worth.

Would you buy anything on a celebrity's say so?