NEW YORK -- Flip through a fashion magazine, and you're more likely than ever to see the same faces you see on television and in movies.
There's a mod, fierce-looking Jennifer Lopez wielding a Louis Vuitton handbag. There's a ghostly, unadorned Christina Aguilera in Versace. Turn the page, and Cate Blanchett glares intensely at you with smoky black eyes that match her Donna Karan dress. Keep going and you'll see more celebrities putting their considerable charms to use selling clothing: Victoria Beckham for Roc-a-Wear, Angie Harmon for Jones New York and Oscar winner Adrien Brody for Ermenegildo Zegna.
They're not the first famous faces to hawk clothes - Madonna was doing it eight years ago for Versace - but the number of celebrities infringing on runway strutters' turf is increasing.
"It's just part of the cycle," says Barbara Lippert, ad critic for AdWeek magazine.
Lippert says the public's appetite for Hollywood glamour wasn't being satisfied in the early 1990s as actresses embraced a dressed-down, grunge look. The top models earned their "super" stripes by being in the right place at the right time - putting us all on a first-name basis with Cindy, Christy, Naomi, Claudia, Linda, Kate and Stephanie and the rest of the gorgeous gang.
However, when actors started looking more glamorous - and telling the TV cameras at award shows who designed their get-ups - fashion houses took notice.
Not to say that the supermodels have gone away. In a business that traditionally sees models retire by their late 20s, the now-thirtysomethings are still working.
Stephanie Seymour is featured in ads for The Gap, Linda Evangelista can be seen in new Fendi ads and Naomi Campbell recently walked the runways during fashion week in New York. W magazine devoted 40 pages in its September issue to photos and paintings of Kate Moss, calling her the magazine's muse. Christy Turlington appeared on Vogue's cover as recently as 2002 to publicize her line of yoga clothes, Nuala, and Cindy Crawford wrote a children's book after the birth of her first child and worked on a line of maternity clothes with eStyle.
The younger models, however, are not following in their super footsteps and are losing some jobs to celebrities. The public's appetite for celebrity news gives them publicity power that models can't match.
"When you think about the Emmys and the Oscars now and people getting dressed for it and getting gifts, it's been happening for the past five years or so," Lippert says. "Fashion people are much more organized about dressing certain stars and the publicity that comes from that."
The power of celebrity is on full display at newsstands as well, with familiar faces emblazoned on the covers of fashion magazines who just a few years ago only used models for covers. The October cover of Vogue features a smiling Gwyneth Paltrow, while W touts "La Lopez" on its cover. Halle Berry is Elle's cover girl, Catherine Zeta-Jones is on Harper's Bazaar, Penelope Cruz is featured on Allure and Shania Twain is on Glamour. Not an unknown model in sight.
"More and more what's happened over the last couple of years is that women have become disenchanted with models," says Cindy Leive, Glamour's editor in chief. "They think that they're all 6 feet tall, 100 pounds with sharp cheekbones and they don't think that they're real."
Eight of Glamour's 10 covers this year have featured celebrities, compared to just five in 2002.
"They might see Drew Barrymore and say, 'She's had troubles in love just like me,"' Leive says. "Or they see Jennifer Lopez and say, 'Wow she made herself a superstar out of nothing. And she has curves."'
But is a magazine cover more effective simply because a celebrity adorns it? If readers see the celebrity as part of an elite class, the cover can turn them off, Leive says.
Good or bad, a celebrity cover will generate publicity in a marketplace that supports endless "Entertainment Tonight," "Extra" and "E!" knockoffs.
"It's just become a common language," Leive says, comparing celebrity gossip to sports talk. "The fact is that my Glamour reader can be on a bus anywhere and turn to the person next to her and say, 'Man, isn't it crazy how skinny Lara Flynn Boyle has gotten?"'
Reactions to celebrity fashion ads have been a similarly mixed bag, Lippert says. Lippert thinks Madonna's and Missy Elliott's recent romp through the land of the pocket T was great, but admits that many people hated the Gap TV spots.
Aguilera's Versace ads marked an abrupt image change for the "Dirrty" pop star whose look is usually heavy on the makeup and light on the clothing.
"I thought personally they should have put Chelsea Clinton in the ads with the smoky eyes," Lippert jokes, referring to the former first daughter's makeover before a Versace show, where she was photographed sitting next to Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna.
The equation for the Versace ads seemed to be huge star plus fashion house equals a measure of class and sophistication for the young, often raunchy pop star. But what did Donatella Versace get out of it?
"I guess she just did it for shock appeal," Lippert says. "When you're flipping through a magazine it might make you stop."
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