Get Your Shoedazzle and Jewelmint: Are Celebrity Startups the New Celebrity Clothing Lines?

The celebrity formula for fashion business is pretty linear: get photographed, get an endorsement deal or two under your belt, then strike a deal for your own fragrance or fashion label.

Celebrities have had varying degrees of success and involvement at each stage, but increasingly there’s an additional part to add to the equation: strike a deal for your own e-commerce venture. Making a shoe of the month, or necklace of the month club may not be the most revolutionary of ideas, but for celebrities looking to capitalize on their image it looks like the future of fashion endorsements is moving online.

Kim Kardashian and Kate Bosworth may not compete for the same roles in Hollywood, but online they’re competing for a similar audience with a similar model, albeit with different products.

Kardashian has started by going after those who want to receive a new pair of shoes each month. Shoedazzle was founded by Brian Lee and Robert Shapiro (who first founded LegalZoom, with Kardashian listed as a co-founder and chief stylist. How much involvement she actually has with the site beyond lending her name as a spokesperson is unclear. To be fair, most celebrity fashion brands work in the same way. Regardless of the depth of her involvement behind the scenes, the site which launched in 2009 raised $13 million in April and was reportedly profitable at that time. The $13 million round in April is on top of a $7 million round bringing the total amount raised by the company to $20 million.

Bosworth and her stylist Cher Coulter have gone down the accessories route (also with a monthly selection model) with BeachMint, a company started by MySpace co-founder Josh Berman and serial entrepreneur Diego Berdakin. Jewelmint, which launched just this past October, was the first site out of the BeachMint stable. Apparently, investors felt it was proof enough of BeachMint’s commerce strategy and the company closed a $10 million round in December, bringing their total funding to $15 million. Unlike Shoedazzle, that entire amount is unlikely to be spent on a single site, but rather building out the celebrity backed commerce model.

World of Alfa, which we first covered in a post on online custom clothing companies, ditches the item a month model entirely in favor of a mass customization model for men’s shirts. Founded by brothers Patrick and Boris Kodjoe, actor Boris is the face of the brand, which Patrick insists is a more personal endeavor than your traditional celebrity line. “Boris was not interested in a traditional endorsement of someone else’s vision. Alfa is something close to his heart. Alfa is our personal vision of what is possible – a legitimate fashion revolution.”

The really interesting part of the story is yet to come though, and that’s whether celebrity is sufficient to build an online business around. Not unlike traditional celebrity fashion lines, it’s likely to still be heavily dependent on people who don’t attract any attention on a red carpet. For Jessica Simpson, whose brand is on track to drive $1 billion in sales, a large part of the success has been in partnering with someone who had the ability to ensure above average production quality. Vince Camuto, who founded Nine West and is responsible for the launch of footwear collections for Tory Burch and BCBG among others, may not be a household name; but, his industry experience has undoubtedly been a reason for the brand’s success. Our best guess is that online ventures will follow a similar path.

While the celebrities may help in attracting fans and new users, it’s still going to be up to the entrepreneurs behind the sites to make them a success. It wouldn’t surprise us if sites who’ve already established themselves (think Gilt, for example) tap into a bit of star power for new features and products if the celebrity co-founder model proves to be a successful marketing strategy.

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