Remember when the hallmark of being a Hollywood “it girl” was to launch a perfume? From Britney Spears to Jennifer Lopez to Sarah Jessica Parker to Kim Kardashian (because, of course, Kim Kardashian), a perfume launch became more than just an endorsement deal. It was the next “project.” It was cause for a talk-show appearance and a magazine interview, both of which were usually peppered with lots of comments about the particular “notes” of the starlet’s new signature scent.
Well, perfume is passé. These days it’s all about a personal brand. The latest actress to venture into the brand business is Reese Witherspoon, whose clothing and home goods line, Draper James, announced Monday that it had raised $10 million “for the continued direct-to-consumer build-out, launch, and expansion of the retail and wholesale business, the ability to pursue a disciplined licensing rollout and offer more products,” according to Draper James cofounder Seth Rodsky. The line is currently sold exclusively online, featuring items from $38 key fobs to $595 dresses.
One aspect of the latest crop of brand-builders that seems to differ from the perfume trend of yore is that it isn’t just limited to the youngest and “hottest” but includes celebrities known more for their ability to make us laugh, too. Melissa McCarthy, 45, launched Melissa McCarthy Seven7, a line of “size-inclusive” women’s clothing, last month at retailers including Macy’s and Nordstrom. The actress says that launching her own clothing line is the fulfillment of a childhood dream, and explains that the decision to go up to a size 28 was a smart business choice as much as it was about selfish venture to build a better closet for herself.
This news comes on the heels of the June launch of EDbyEllen.com, a “flagship e-commerce site” founded by Ellen DeGeneres that sells apparel, accessories, and decor. The line is a clear representation of the style that DeGeneres, 57, has become known for, whether on her afternoon talk show or hosting the Academy Awards. Products are understated and simple, not overly feminine, and several pieces contain positive statements or words.
Perhaps the most prolific in the current brand trend are the Jessicas—Alba and Simpson, that is. Alba launched consumer-goods brand The Honest Company in 2011 after failing to find baby products that she felt comfortable using on her own daughter. Just four years post-launch, the company is valued at $1.7 billion and anticipates an initial public offering in the near future. Simpson, meanwhile, ventured into the brand business in 2006 with a line of shoes but is currently up to twenty-two different licenses and $1 billion in annual sales.
Whatever one thinks of the products in particular, I have to say, it’s great to see the variety of ventures that women in the spotlight are taking on. These different business ventures reveal the unique things that inspire and shape these well-known women and that are likely more relevant to us as well. These companies feel less like a famous name slapped on a product and more like an investment in a community of like-minded women who want to share what they like with each other. And that’s about as inspiring as it gets.