To anyone with even the remotest awareness of L.A.'s fashion business, this might seem like veeeeery old news, but the WSJ front page has a story about how the major labels and retailers are getting their cues from the smaller, edgier designers, many of whom happen to be based here. Getting particular mention are the brothers Chip & Pepper, whose Vernon.-based jeans company had sales of $40 million in 2006. From almost the start, C&P have based their marketing efforts on celebrities wearing their duds. The paparazzi transmit the images of Jennifer Anniston in whatever to Paris or Bogota or wherever, and suddenly C&P are getting orders. One amazing statistic: the California Fashion Association estimates that 52 percent of merchandise in retailers' contemporary departments last year was made by brands based in the state, up from 17 percent in 1994. From the WSJ:
Founded in 2003, Chip & Pepper saw its sales take off in May 2005, after its publicist Becky Vieira sent a pair of denim cargo shorts to Jessica Simpson's stylist. Ms. Simpson was photographed wearing the shorts on Los Angeles's Robertson Boulevard and Star magazine ran the picture with the caption: "Jessica Simpson bops around L.A. in loose denim cargo shorts by Chip & Pepper." "Before we knew it, the shorts sold out everywhere," Ms. Vieira says. "We had so many re-orders we ran out of stock."
After the experience with Ms. Simpson, Ms. Vieira and the Foster brothers decided not to advertise or do runway shows, but to promote the brand entirely through celebrity marketing. The company spends $8,000 to $16,000 a year giving away free clothing. This season, its celebrity list includes Jessica Alba and John Mayer, a once press-shy singer who has been turning up in celebrity magazines because he is dating Jessica Simpson. The two brothers have also given jeans to other trend-moving "influencers" such as their hairdresser, who wears jeans on the job and coifs stars like Kevin Costner. "Let's say we spend $12,000 a year" on giving celebrities free jeans, Chip Foster says. "That's not even the price of one national [magazine] ad."