Kenyans find little to celebrate about its celebrities. Worldwide, it is near impossible to get away from their allure, money, power, status and social influence.
Internationally, the concept of a celebrity is as a product. A true celebrity can be deconstructed; taken apart and put back together, separated into enough digestible media bits — hair, skin, bodies, fashion sense, style and influence, actual success story, relationships, of-the-moment scandal and intrigue, diet, health, creative impact.
This is not a one-dimensional creature like, say, the much celebrated Kenyan politician.
In that regard, I will be the first to admit, it makes most of our local celebrities rather boring.
The path of celebrity is fraught with effort, littered with the ability to stay relevant, thereby endorsing products that have nothing and everything to do with one’s actual career, adopting and expressing interests, projects, personalities and identities. It makes one multi-faceted.
The greatest manifestation of this happens to be through fashion. It raises the power stakes.
Locally, there is little activity to this end. Examples do stand out though.
The Janet Collection offers a limited selection of classy yet sexy dresses for the professional woman that news anchor Janet Mbugua designed in collaboration with fashion designer Wambui Wakenya. Launched in March 2012, her platform is perfect.
Prime Time as an ad slot belongs to the big boys. Janet wears hers every evening. Proceeds go towards educating youth in Korogocho.
Rufftone’s clothing line has an ideal niche if there ever was one appealing to a much neglected market – men. More so after he launched the Chrome Edition about a year ago.
Emmy Kosgey’s fashion line is the perfect extension of her personal style with a very now desirable blend of contemporary African fashion sold from her shop in Nairobi.
There is no reason why these celebrity lines should not succeed. Jessica Simpson was in 2011 touted as the first celebrity billionaire via the fashion route.
Her shoes are available locally at Designer’s Outlet, 20th Century. Her label includes accessories, swimwear, fragrances and handbags. She once did hair extensions. Her clothes have a universal, practical charm.
Victoria Bechkham’s dresses since her 2008 label have made her legend in the world of fashion.
She elongates the silhouette while gifting women with spectacular curves.
Her grasp of proportions and artistic wizardry lifts buttocks, trims waistlines, flattens stomachs and flares out hips through cleverly placed internal panels.
They retail for up to $600 a piece. When she launched her fashion line the industry giggled behind their hands.
They sobered up when her clothes began appearing on the red carpet and celebrities of all ages genuinely raved about the fit.
In November 2011 she won the British Designer of the Year award.
There now exists a compelling list of accomplished celebrity designers with new entrants every other day.
Rihanna and Mary J Blige are working on theirs, good news for women of colour in an industry where black success is not so frequent an occurrence.
Not all celebrity lines work for the good. Jennifer Lopez partnered with Tommy Hilfiger through Sweetface. It tanked.
Turns out she was not creatively involved in the process. She and her then husband revisited Hilfiger and currently work in collaboration with Kohls for a his and hers line.
The main fear with celebrity clothing lines is that primarily, celebrities do it because they have over-inflated egos continuously stroked by Yes-Men who repeatedly tell them how great, brilliant and infallible they are until the market disproves this theory.
Aside from that is the feeling that their true creativity is expressed in their first career and fashion is merely an interest, hobby or curiosity fuelled by said Yes-Men and clever stylists.
In comes hesitant fashion insiders reluctant to be associated with a celebrity fashion line in anticipation of inevitable failure.
Celebrity labels last not by sheer force of personality or brand but on wearability. Labels that have stood the test of time have commercial value.
They are essentially creative but are pared down, accessible but not so much and suitably expensive so as to not dilute the brand (both personal and commercial).
They are not precisely an extension of the celebrity but exist outside of them. Cut, fit, precision, finishing and sophistication need to stand out.