Beyoncé Takes On the Fashion Label Meat Grinder
Ivy Park, a new fashion line from Beyoncé Knowles, seems to have everything going for it. It's a premium activewear label with an unabashedly on-trend mix of sleek workout gear and casual clothing. And of course, it has the superstar power of Queen Bey herself and a built-in market of fiercely loyal fans, the Beyhive.
But Ivy Park's success may not be as inevitable as one might think. Even Beyoncé will have to struggle to avoid having it join the dead or dying celebrity brands that litter the landscape.
Most celebrity clothing lines crash in an embarrassingly public way. Miley Cyrus tried to launch one at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. with Max Azria. Paris Hilton's line for Dollhouse withered, along with a Lauren Conrad line and Heidi Montag's Heidiwood for Anchor Blue Retail Group Inc. Sarah Jessica Parker's Bitten and Amanda Bynes's Dear died with their partner retailer Steve & Barry's LLC. Eve's Fetish folded after years of trying to gain relevance. Lindsey Lohan's 6126 leggings line was brought down by a series of lawsuits, and Jennifer Lopez called the failure of her fashion labels the biggest disappointment of her career.
Oh, and let's not forget this isn't Beyoncé's first time around–her initial foray into fashion began back in 2004 with a label called House of Deréon. When that line was announced, the singer's solo career was in a much different place. Destiny's Child was recording its final studio album, and she'd just performed the national anthem at the Super Bowl. House of Deréon's styles never won over the masses, and its juniors line, founded by Beyoncé and her sister Solange, folded in 2012.
Michelle Alleyne, a professor at Parsons School of Fashion and founder of fashion consultancy M Shop NYC, said celebrity fashion brands fail so often because the stars don't put in the effort to learn what their customers want to wear. All celebrity brands are hyped hard for launch, but maintaining that momentum, and keeping shoppers interested in the goods that eventually hit the racks, is the arduous part. Though celebrity brands start with gobs of free marketing and exposure, sales are determined by the fashion items themselves, not the name stamped on them, Alleyne said.
"Just because you have a fan base doesn't mean it's going to be successful," she said. "It's all about your product."
A few celebrity labels have triumphed. Jessica Simpson created a billion-dollar empire by embracing women in Middle America. Victoria Beckham moved on from Spice Girl roots with her eponymous high-fashion line, while Nicole Richie transcended the reality TV universe with a jewelry business called House of Harlow. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen won acclaim from critics and fashion insiders with their couture label The Row, alongside contemporary brand Elizabeth and James and junior line Olsenboye.
Representatives for Beyoncé and Arcadia Group didn't respond to requests for comment on her new line. But as she told Elle magazine in a May cover story, the singer seems wholly devoted to Ivy Park and to avoiding the fate of most of those who came before her. For example, she's the one who reached out to Topshop about a possible joint venture, not the other way around. "We had countless meetings; we searched for and auditioned designers for months," Beyoncé said. "I knew the engineering of the fabric and the fit had to be the first priority."
Ivy Park sells items you can wear on or off the treadmill, jumping on a trend the industry calls "athleisure." Leggings go for a bit less than their Lululemon counterparts, at $65 to $85. Sleeveless hoodies and mesh tanks work in the gym or on the street. Sweatshirts stand out as the most unique items, including a $75 corded black jersey and a $45 split back top. The collection has outerwear, too, with mesh bombers, zip hoodies, and reflective jackets. It's available at Topshop, Nordstorm Inc., and Net-A-Porter Ltd.
The label joins a wave of brands vying to take on such powerhouses as Nike Inc., Under Armour Inc., and Lululemon–so many, in fact, that there's worry of a pliable pants overload. Sports Authority Inc. and Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. came out with their own lines, while both discounters and department stores pushed selections of stretchy leggings. High-end fashion designers like Stella McCartney and Tory Burch hopped on board. Even Donatella Versace gave a nod to activewear in January when she walked a collection of sporty outfits down a haute couture runway.
Smaller upstarts are carving out their own niches, too. Outdoor Voices Inc. goes for the more low-key group of shoppers turned off by neon performance garb. K-Deer's signature bright stripes appeal to a more vibrant crowd. Michi seeks out edgier customers willing to throw down $180 for a pair of leggings. Yogasmoga touts responsibly produced, U.S. made gear.
Similarly, Beyoncé's Ivy Park pushes its own point of view: a pastoral, accessible, judgment-free getaway.
"When I'm working and rehearsing, I live in my workout clothes, but I didn't feel there was an athletic brand that spoke to me," Beyoncé said in a press release. "My goal with Ivy Park is to push the boundaries of athletic wear and to support and inspire women who understand that beauty is more than your physical appearance."