Lindsay Lohan and Ungaro can teach retailers a lesson

Lindsay LohanThe New York Post is reporting that fashion house Emanuel Ungaro may have put the nail in its own couture coffin when it hired Lindsay Lohan to design for them.

As I wrote last fall, the collection rendered from her vision was received with uniform distaste -- and now, Ungaro is in shambles and desperately seeking a buyer.

Of course, we can't blame Lohan for all of this mess -- the story goes on to say that the brand has been in tatters for awhile, quoting an industry insider as saying the company's licensees "mostly sell cheap stuff in Asia." Them's fightin' words in the fashion world.

Still, Lohan's chapter in the collapse should yield an important lesson for all apparel brands, from the ultra high to the mass-priced. And that lesson is this: The time to hand your aesthetic over to an unqualified celebrity in exchange for a little press has come and gone.

Ungaro giving Lohan control over a new collection was the equivalent of handing a baby keys to a Ferrari -- but that doesn't mean celebrities are any more acceptable at affordable fashion companies. Grabbing a this-minute celebrity to sign off on a bunch of T-shirts -- as Anchor Blue once did with Heidi Montag -- was a tactic worth chasing when high-low collaborations were still coming into vogue.

But now, in the age of recession-adjusted priorities, plenty of real designers are willing to make clothes for people other than the insanely wealthy. When we have Mint Jodi Arnold for the Limited and Zac Posen for Target, we don't need to indulge the fashion aspirations of Montag, Lohan or their hundred lookalikes. So to all fashion companies, take note: don't look for a cheap thrill from a tabloid queen. It's going to backfire, and besides -- you can do better.
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