Celebrities set up ethical shop

Cheap high street lines with starry labels are so last year. The top trend for 2008 will be the famous flaunting their green credentials. Susie Mesure reports
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The Independent Online

We've seen Kate Moss knock off her own designer wardrobe for Topshop, had M, Madonna's money-saving ranges for H&M, and "Lily [Allen] Loves" a bargain at New Look. But cheap-as-chips celebrity collaborations are looking old hat compared with a new wave of tie-ups that have more than just self-promotion and the retailer's bottom line in mind.

Natalie Portman, the star of films such as Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium and the Star Wars prequels, is going one step further by designing her own vegan-friendly shoes for a New York boutique. The collection, for the Manhattan shoe emporium T Casan, goes on sale next month although keen shoppers can place pre-orders from 15 January. The vegetarian actor's designs will sell for about $200 (100), making them a cheaper alternative to Stella McCartney's leather-eschewing shoes which sell for at least 295.

So far eco-minded celebrity alliances have been few and far between, but retail experts predict that Portman's shoes are the future of high street fashion for 2008. Leona Lewis, the X Factor winner turned pop diva and a fellow vegetarian, last week said she would "love" to create her own range of affordable non-leather bags and shoes.

Meanwhile, Debenhams has allied itself with Sir Steve Redgrave, the Olympic oarsman, who has put his name to a clothing range made with Fairtrade cotton that will go on sale for Fairtrade fortnight next month. And Katharine Hamnett, the fashion designer, is searching for a new high street partner after axing her nascent alliance with Tesco for her range of T-shirts made from organic cotton. Even Pamela Anderson, a spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has done her bit with a cruelty-free clothing line.

Richard Hyman, who runs Verdict Consulting, a retail consultancy, said shops ploughing the well-trodden celebrity endorsement route would not be enough of a draw for saturated shoppers. "This year shops will have to find the right endorsement that is sympathetic to their marketplace," he said, adding that tapping into the consumers' blossoming ethical consciousness with targeted tie-ups was one option retailers would choose. "Retailing today needs to be about offering a genuine point of difference," he added.

Lauretta Roberts, editor of the trade fashion magazine Drapers, said eco-fashion was the "number one cause at the moment", predicting more collaborations. "I don't think we've had Lily Loves Organic Cotton. Not yet, anyway." But she cautioned: "Whoever does it, both in terms of the celebrity and the fashion brand, would have to think very carefully. It would need to be a credible pairing on both sides, as you're just asking for people to scrutinise your behaviour and business practices if you style yourself as an eco-warrior."

Anya Hindmarch, the luxury handbag designer, knows this only too well. Despite being for an ethical cause, her limited-edition "I'm not a plastic bag" cloth bag, sold by Sainsbury's, hit the headlines for the wrong reasons after it emerged it was made in China using cheap labour even though the supermarket said the factory pays double the minimum wage.

And although McCartney makes vegetarian-friendly shoes and clothes, Ethical Consumer magazine, which advises consumers where to shop on ethical grounds, points out that the designer's eponymous label is owned by PPR, the luxury fashion giant behind several other lines that use furs such as fox, badger and mink.

Portman's shoes will be made without animal ingredients: leather, fur and feathers are all off-limits. T Casan has said it will donate 5 per cent of the range's profits to charity.

Natalie Portman

The most glamorous of the new wave of ethical fashion champions, the actress has designed a collection of red-carpet-ready shoes that are fit for vegetarians such as herself. Now all she needs is an Oscar nomination

Sir Steve Redgrave

An unlikely eco-fashion warrior, perhaps, but the multiple Olympic gold medallist rower clearly has principles to protect. A range of Fairtrade cotton clothing bearing his name goes into Debenhams stores next month

Katharine Hamnett

The organic cotton pioneer may have terminated her contract with Tesco to produce environmentally friendly T-shirts, but her sentiment remains. Expect to see more of the same from the designer soon

Anya Hindmarch

The handbag designer sought to do her bit for the planet with a highly covetable reusable carrier bag. How many of the limited edition run ever made contact with the weekly shop, however, is another matter altogether

Pamela Anderson

The ex-'Baywatch' star, an ardent vegetarian, has turned fashion designer with a range of "cruelty-free" clothing, which debuted in 2004. A percentage of the profits went to Peta, the anti-fur animal charity