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How Jessica Simpson Built a Billion-Dollar Fashion Empire

Jessica Simpson’s fashion line hauls in about $1 billion in annual sales, an aberration in a retail landscape littered with dead celebrity brands.
Jessica Simpson | Source: Shutterstock
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  • Bloomberg

NEW YORK, United States — Jessica Simpson's fashion line hauls in about $1 billion in annual sales, an aberration in a retail landscape littered with dead celebrity brands.

David Hasselhoff’s Malibu Dave, Mandy Moore’s Mblem, Heidi Montag’s Heidiwood—the list of defunct fashion labels of the famous is endless. Yet Simpson’s line has not only survived, it’s grown over the past decade into a true lifestyle empire. How did she accomplish such a feat?

According to the pop star, Simpson just knows what women want. Her assortment of designs seeks to appeal to all kinds of women—a teen searching the mall for a cool denim jacket, a plus-size girl looking for a going- out dress, a grandmother who wants to dazzle in a chic top. “I have been every size on the planet, and I understand—I feel like I understand women,” Simpson said at Forbes’s annual Power Women’s Summit in 2014. “I know there’s all different kinds, you know. There’s life and a whole entire world beyond L.A. and New York. And I do understand the Middle America, and their mindset.”

Last week, licensing company Sequential Brands announced it’s acquiring a majority stake in Simpson’s brand for an undisclosed sum. Formerly under the purview of Vince Camuto, the late founder of Camuto Group, who bought rights to the brand in 2005, Simpson’s label found its groove by targeting regular women, not the high-fashion types celebrities often attempt to court.

Before his death in January, Camuto attributed the line’s appeal to Simpson’s overwhelming likability and good behavior. “It’s almost her 10-year anniversary, and she never got into trouble,” he said in 2014. “We gambled with it, but it worked out.”

The Jessica Simpson label is sold in mainstream department stores such as Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and Dillard’s and boasts more than 30 product categories, including footwear, clothing, accessories, and even a home goods line that’s sold in stores like Bed Bath & Beyond.

The new owner has even bigger plans for Simpson’s brand. According to a report from Women’s Wear Daily, Sequential is set on growth, seeking to create a $2 billion to $3 billion business under the Jessica Simpson banner. Simpson will continue to own equity in her company and stay involved in the design process.

“I’m as committed as I was 10 years ago,” she said in a statement. “Here’s to the next billion.” That next billion is a “wild card,” though, according to Eric Beder, an analyst at Wunderlich Securities.

Since the Jessica Simpson brand is so focused on the American woman “in terms of sensibilities and color palette,” it may have to make some tweaks to find success expanding abroad, Beder wrote in a note to clients.

Although most have failed, a few celebrities have managed to make the jump into fashion. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen's business empire, which includes popular midmarket line Elizabeth and James, is said to be worth at least a billion dollars. Ivanka Trump's eponymous label has become a recognizable fashion name, with about $250 million in annual sales. Other successful labels include Gwen Stefani's L.A.M.B. and Victoria Beckham.

By Kim Bhasin; editor: Katie Drummond.

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