How Taylor Swift Plans to ‘Style’ China
The star is releasing an exclusive fashion line in China, with the apparent intention of stamping out counterfeits and protecting her brand.
It’s almost too easy to identify Taylor Swift’s uniform.
The ‘Style’ singer seems to own more high-waist skirts and crop tops than a 1940s pin-up girl—which, when paired with her equally distinct red lips, you can’t help but imagine that is her very inspiration.
So will the retro-chic look also serve as inspiration for an upcoming clothing line?
On Monday, JD.com, Inc.—China’s second-largest online retailer—announced it would be exclusively selling a fashion line designed by one of Forbes’ “Most Powerful Women in the World” as she takes a sip of the celebrity-turned-fashion-designer Kool-Aid.
It seems to be an almost too-natural expectation for celebrities. Seemingly everyone from David Hasselhoff and Mandy Moore to Jay Z and Jessica Simpson has attempted to translate a piece of their personal style to their millions of fans internationally.
However, Swift’s collection won’t be available to everyone—only to shoppers in China—and will begin shipping to consumers in August in anticipation for Swift’s November “1989” tour stop in Shanghai.
So why not to American consumers?
According to Mark McDonald, the chairman of Heritage66, a Nashville-based branding firm that helps celebrities tap into the Chinese market and is helping to facilitate Swift’s new endeavor, online retailers such as Alibaba often had “hundreds and hundreds of pages of pirated merchandise of all kinds, none of which were authorized, none of which [Swift] was making money on, and none of which she was exercising creative control over,” he told The Daily Beast.
No further details have been released on the future collection, but it seems to be a move by Swift and her team not necessarily to craft a creative endeavor, but to protect her brand in the Asian market.
Requests were sent to multiple people on Swift’s team, but they have yet to confirm what the designs will entail.
One could speculate that the merchandise could be as simple as the T-shirts sold at her concerts. Or, we could be surprised with something on par with the latest trends in Asia.
“This was a line that was designed with the Chinese market in mind, so it’s going to be a little bit different than she would design for the U.S. market,” McDonald said.
“In China, [JD.com is] associated with quality and authenticity with consumers in a market that is very problematic in the area of fakes and counterfeits,” a spokesperson for the e-commerce site told The Daily Beast. “We have done very well building our brand with consumers, and international brands appreciate being associated with that kind of quality.”
So if Swift is tacking fashion in a big way, will she be able to stack up against her successful celebrity predecessors like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Jessica Simpson, and Justin Timberlake? Or become a bigger disaster than Lindsay Lohan’s line of leggings?
“I almost think it’s more difficult for a celebrity to launch a clothing line,” Tracy Taylor, the U.S. editor of Net-a-Porter.com told Business Insider. “Not only are the eyes of the customer on them, but the eyes of this rarified group that almost is unattainable for celebrities and that’s to be a fashion designer.”
After a very successful film career as children, and running an even more successful production company, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have seemingly become the most successful and influential entertainers-turned-fashion-designers in the game today.
Their three lines—Olsenboye for children, a mid-market Elizabeth & James, and their high-end label The Row—which are sold in retailers like J.C. Penney, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman’s, respectively, are worth a staggering $1 billion.
Kanye West, however, didn’t have such a fortunate solo fashion career.
While the rapper has had a handful of relatively successful footwear and fashion collaborations with brands such as Nike, Adidas, and A.P.C., his own self-helmed brand never really took off.
Starting in 2004, West began touting a questionably anticipated brand by the name of Pastelle.
He wore some of the designs in his music videos and on red carpets, but a complete collection never came to be. The dream died in 2009, when official word spread that the label would never be released.
Still, West has been persistent, even when bigwig fashion critics as recent as February kind of gave him an eye roll.
The powerful PR Kelly Cutrone said she thought, “he’s a joke as a fashion designer,” while New York Fashion Week’s founder Fern Mallis said she was “kind of over Kanye. I mean, I’m not a fan of his music, and the attitude and the agenda is not my style.”
“Success or failure in the industry boils to do one word: authenticity,” Bruce Ross, then-president and CEO of Celebrity Fashion Group, told CNN. “Consumers aren’t stupid and they can generally tell when a celebrity is just doing it for the money while having no interest in the product."
Jessica Simpson, for instance, has built her billion-dollar fashion empire by understanding the women she is selling to: everyday women.
“I’ve been every size on the planet and I understand—I feel like I understand women,” Simpson told Steve Forbes in a Q&A at Forbes’ 2014 Power Women summit. “And I just know how to dress them. I know there’s all different kinds, you know. There’s life and a whole entire world beyond L.A. and New York. And I do understand the Middle America, and their mindset.”
Simpson sells everything from shoes and apparel to beauty and home goods. She’s tapped into every market from girls and teens to businesswomen and moms-to-be.
The same can be said about Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoe line (who knows footwear better than Carrie Bradshaw?), celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe’s fashion kingdom, and Gwen Stefani’s successful collections inspired by the Japanese Harijuku culture that made her music so influential.
So if Swift wants her new endeavor into the Chinese market to be as successful as seemingly every other project she touches, she better know her market and what they want.
According to McDonald, that won’t be a problem.
“The Chinese really like American pop culture—more specifically, pop and country music culture—and they really want American product,” he said. “Taylor and her team has been very diligent about reviewing, modifying and approving the brand… and it is very reflective of what the Chinese market is looking for.”