Can Celebs Up Their Star Status With Clothes?

Soon we'll be replacing shorts and tank tops with sweaters and coats. But whether you're fixating on fall's fickle fads or begging for bargains, it's likely you'll come across some celebrity names when you're browsing the clothing racks this season.

Branding the big names has become a huge business for retailers high end and low, and bringing in bigger bucks is the bonus. What does that mean for celebrities? Being a talented thespian, singer or dancer may not be enough in a world where staying famous requires putting your name on a product.

If you don't have a makeup campaign like Evas Mendes or Longoria, you should at least have your name on a clothing line or your own fragrance like Liz Taylor, Sarah Jessica Parker or Britney Spears.

Then there are the pop overachievers: those who sing, dance and design. Madonna, who designs for H&M, is a bigger hit in the Swedish-born store than she is in the theater. Kylie Minogue, who also knocked out a line for H&M, and wardrobe revolutionist Gwen Stefani, who has a Vivienne Westwood-inspired clothing line called Lamb, have proven that women who rock the stage can also rock the rack.

Eve is another success story. She's gone from rapper to designer with her line, Fetish, and has even managed to make some movie magic. J. Lo has been a quintuple-threat for years. The actress, singer, dancer, clothing designer and fragrance promoter was clever to take a lesson from her previous paramour, P. Diddy, who has the ultimate expertise in branding and promoting across a plethora of platforms.

Bad Boyz Can Bring in Biz, Too

Producer, artist, designer, actor, television host, and No. 3 on Forbes' Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, Diddy proves bad boyz can be successful. Eminem hit the big time as a rapper but crossed over to movies with "8 Mile" and has decided to share his sense of style in a new clothing line.

Pop prince Justin Timberlake has not been left in the dust. When he's not busy bringing sexy back to his bombshell girlfriend of the moment, he is working hard trying to break into movies as well as designing his heart out for his new clothing line, William Rast. Rapper Nelly hawks Apple Bottom jeans (clearly choosing to focus on the part of anatomy he like best).

My personal gal pal Mila Jovanovich, who came to America as a child supermodel, quickly transitioned to a recording a pop album a few years back. She's made several successful films and recently started a clothing line called Jovanovich Hawke with friend Carmen Hawke. It's already a favorite of Vogue editor in chief, Anna Wintour -- not an easy task to accomplish.

Perhaps it's those years of working as a model that actually gives Jovanovich some expertise and credibility as a designer, instead of being just another prima donna plastering her name to a product for the almighty dollar.

Not Everyone's Cut Out for Fashion

Which brings me to a major point: Just because you wear clothes doesn't mean you should be designing them. I find it incredibly ironic and somewhat pretentious that most of these celebrity designers can't even bother to dress themselves, usually relying on a studio to spend thousands of dollars to hire a stylist (like myself) to dictate what they should wear.

So where does all this self-proclaimed expertise as a fashionista actually come from? I guess the irresistible urge to see one's name and image everywhere. But that's not true across the board.

Beyonce Knowles' House of Dereon line makes fashion sense. Her mother, Tina Knowles, who was sewing up Destiny Child's sparkly dresses when Dior and Versace wouldn't loan them a frock, has helped turned Knowles and her Destiny's Child divas into a designer's dream.

Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen came onto the fashion scene as tween queens and have made some serious dough off Wal-Mart customers. Now that they are a little older, a bit wiser and a lot chicer, they're hyping a newer line that's more upscale and sexy at the ultrahip Maxfields, one of my favorite Los Angeles shopping destinations.

It is the power of the press and the impact of a name that gets licensors hot and bothered to develop a brand, and now, with the democratization of fashion, everyone of every economic level wants to have a bit of Hollywood high life in their own world. It is clearly not about quality of product or design -- it's just about makin' mo' money. Manufacturers don't love fashion or pop stars but they respect the money, and if you can make millions for a record label or movie studio, they presume you can make millions for them.

Take, for example, Jessica Simpson. Her movie career is mediocre to say the least. Her record sales are lukewarm. But her coat collection? It's cohesive and cute and expected to become a cash cow. Her modestly priced shoe line is a sizzling sensation that sells out in stores quicker than you can say "Chicken of the Sea."

One of the strangest success stories on a retail level is Carlos Santana's women's shoe line. Who would've thought the middle-aged crooner's designs would sell out of stores? Similarly, former MTV VJ Daisy Fuentes is one of the top earners at a retail level and single-handedly turned mass-retailer Kohls into a fashionable fixation.

And then there are the Hilton chicks -- why wouldn't they get into the branding biz? After all, it's another way to get attention and it's more profitable and respectable than going to jail. Paris Hilton just launched her new T-shirt and jean line at Kitson and her sister, Nikki, is gearing up for New York's Fashion Week in September.

Maybe all these celebs-cum-designers are thinking that if the people will see their movies, buy their albums or drool over their photos, of course they'll wear their clothes. But will they, really? Time and sales will tell who will drown in this deluge of designer disciples and who will rise to the top as tomorrow's style star.