Saturday, September 01, 2007

Celebs who dress us

Who do the wannabes wanna look like? Rachel Wells asks the experts which stars set trends and which stars ruin them.

Flick through the racks at a chain store and chances are you'll stumble across a pretty good knock-off of those denim shorts Kate Moss was wearing in Who last month, or that maxi dress Paris Hilton was sporting in Famous a couple of weeks back.

Dressing like our favourite celebrities has become a multimillion-dollar obsession thanks to our preoccupation with celebrity culture and a proliferation of fast-fashion stores and online boutiques that can be selling the latest look within weeks, if not days.

A survey by credit card company Virgin Money last year revealed that Australian women aged 18 to 34 spent $4.6 million, or almost $2000 each, annually to look like celebrities. As a result, chain stores are more likely to look to the streets of London or Los Angeles than the catwalks of Paris and Milan for their style inspiration.

"Chain stores watch celebrities like hawks," says Kerrie McCallum, editor of fashion tome Shop Til You Drop. "Any celebrity that is hot property is on their radar and the chain stores can turn around outfits inspired by that celebrity in a matter of weeks. That's what the customer wants."

McCallum says celebrities provide a more wearable interpretation of new fashion trends than the catwalk ever can.

"Catwalk is still very relevant to the fashion industry but, for the average woman, a celebrity shows them how to take that look to the street. They get hold of trends before we know about them, then they break them down into a look that can be worn on the street. So they are almost showing us how to wear the trends before anyone else," she says.

Sarah Rovis, general manager and head buyer at fast fashion chain Dotti, agrees.

"We do look to the celebrities and we also mix it with what we see on the streets...We travel a lot and hit the streets of London, LA, New York and Tokyo to see what the girls are wearing and how they are putting their outfits together," she says.

Given this demand for the celebrity look, it is not surprising that the days of chain stores delivering new stock only two to four times a year are long gone. Nowadays most fast fashion stores stock new clothes on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis.

It is also not surprising that we have seen a spate of so-called celebrity-designed fashion ranges in recent times - think Kate Moss for Topshop, Madonna for H&M, Lily Allen for British chain New Look and Milla Jovovich and fellow model Carmen Hawk for MNG. Not too mention a flood of celebrity collections including J Lo by Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce's House of Dereon, Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B., Jessica Simpson's Princy and JS by Jessica Simpson lines, Justin Timberlake's William Rast collection and most recently Twenty8Twelve by Sienna and Savannah Miller and Paris Hilton's new namesake label.

So it seems everyone wants to look like their favourite celebrity, but which of them most deserve their following?

According to McCallum, former OC star and Hollywood "It" girl Mischa Barton and style stalwart Kate Moss are leading the celebrity fashion charge, right now. Meanwhile, one-time style leader Sienna Miller - famous for putting boho on the fashion map - has lost her fashion mojo.

"Mischa Barton is the ideal. She's on trend, elegant, young and beautiful, not too scandalous but naughty enough to be interesting. She's a real clothes horse...and Kate Moss still has it...despite her grubby personal life, she has single-handedly influenced the world's perspective on fashion," she says.

In terms of up-and-coming style icons, McCallum says celebrity wannabes should keep their eye on actors Michelle Williams, Camille Belle and Kate Bosworth.

A quick scan of the ever-growing number of online stores devoted to celebrity fashion also offers a good idea of who's hot and who's not.

At As Seen on Screen's website, an online store that sells shameless copies of clothes recently worn by celebrities, the most searched stars include: Paris Hilton, who turns up close to 60 garments (from printed maxi dresses to drawstring jersey mini shorts); Kate Moss, who inspires more than 40 items, from high-waisted denim flares to raw-hemmed denim shorts; and the naughty LA starlet triumvirate of Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and Mischa Barton. Sienna Miller, Kylie Minogue, Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Alba, Lily Allen and J Lo are also popular.

At, where you can buy the same clothes that the celebrities are wearing, and search via TV show, movie, "magazine must-have" or star, Lohan, Richie and Hilton all feature strongly, along with Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, Rachel Bilson, Cameron Diaz, Eva Longoria, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Nicky Hilton, Hilary Duff and J Lo.

Rovis says celebrities on Dotti's radar include Kate Moss, Rachel Bilson, the Olsen twins, Lily Allen and Peaches Geldof (the daughter of Sir Bob Geldof and Paula Yates), who the company has just named as the face of its spring/summer campaign.

These stars appeal to young, fashion- and budget-conscious consumers because they don't dress in head-to-toe designer brands. "Our customers look to these A-listers for their ability to mix designer brands with chain-store bargains or vintage finds," says Rovis. "They love that these celebrities take risks and mix it up a bit."

The most enduring style setters are those who look as though they've spent all of five minutes and little money throwing together a look before rushing out the door.

Being a celebrity doesn't guarantee style status. There are some, like tabloid trainwrecks Britney Spears, Courtney Love and Amy Winehouse, for example, who most women wouldn't part with a single cent to look like. Then there are others who have a "style" completely beyond the reach of average consumers. Victoria Beckham is a classic example. She was recently dubbed a "fashion liability" by a British newspaper - whenever she is spotted in a certain look "she kills it stone-dead".

"The problem is her look is too contrived and so obviously over-styled that it looks like she has tried too hard," says McCallum. And she says there is another kind of celebrity who never makes it to fashion "It" girl status because they choose not to follow trends.

"Even though they're beautiful, people like Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie have more of a classic style," she says. "They don't slavishly follow trends so aren't necessarily as interesting when it comes to pap shots."

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