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What’s in a name?

What makes some celebrity endorsements  a trend-setting success while others end up in the bargain bin? Rebecca Gonsalves reports

Stephen Manderson has a few words of advice for his fellow celebrities: “Know what you’re good at.” The drug dealer-turned-rapper and reality-show star has many strings to his bow, one of which is working with the sports brand Puma on his own apparel line.

Manderson’s second collection has just arrived in stores and encapsulates the street-cum-sportswear that goes hand in hand with so much urban music. “Designer” is increasingly a tag that musicians and actors wear proudly, as it seems everyone from Rihanna to John Malkovich (the former lending her name to River Island, the latter has his own label Technobohemian) is ready to sketch out a vision for fans.

Kanye West’s collaboration with A.P.C. happened after a mutual friend introduced him to Jean Touitou, the founder of the French ready-to-wear brand. His line for APC consists of eight pieces which sold out online on the day it went on sale. This is in contrast to West’s previous fashion venture, a ready-to-wear collection that showed for two seasons as part of Paris Fashion Week and was largely lambasted despite West’s supposed fashion credentials.

In Manderson’s case, the approach came from the brand: “Puma got in touch and I was like: ‘Well sportswear, I’m not very athletic how is this going to work?’ Back then the catch line was ‘the after-hours athlete’, which I can endorse fully.”

The success of celebrity lines has long depended on the strength of their own style. Rihanna’s collections for River Island are a case in point; Women’s Wear Daily encapsulated her latest collection thus: “The looks were all variations on things from her wardrobe.” 

“You can’t endorse every little thing,” Manderson says. “We say no to a lot more than we say yes to... If I put my name to something then that’s representative of my entire brand; if I do something I want to do it properly.”