Celebrity, Good Fit Drive Jean Line

Sometimes Kitson owner Fraser Ross doesn’t feel like a retailer, he feels like a celebrity wrangler. He said that he’s lately been turning down pitches to carry celebrity-designed fashion labels at his store on Los Angeles’ chic Robertson Boulevard. But on Nov. 10, celebrity culture took over his store. He hosted a party for William Rast jeans, which are co-designed by Grammy-winning pop star Justin Timberlake.

Ross said he wasn’t swayed by Timberlake’s regular appearances in weekly magazines such as People and Us. Rather, he believes that the combination of the right kind of fame and the right manufacturer could make a hit at his store, whose niche is at the retail intersection of fashion, pop culture and Hollywood.

“He could be the male counterpart to Gwen Stefani,” Ross said of Timberlake’s growing popularity as a fashion designer. Kitson has already encountered success with Stefani’s L.A.M.B. label. Ross said he expected to earn more than $1 million in sales from L.A.M.B. in his store’s one year of carrying it. He thought he could enjoy similar success with a Timberlake product, and after the party it became the top-selling jean at Kitson, which sold $30,000 of William Rast apparel in the three days after the event.

What ultimately convinced Ross to carry William Rast, though, was the track record of the manufacturer, Los Angeles–based People’s Liberation. The company’s own branded jeans line had been selling well at Kitson since it launched in May.

Still, celebrity was the factor driving Kitson’s party for William Rast.

Paris Hilton, Christina Ricci and Shannon Elizabeth stopped by the soiree. Timberlake, wearing an olive green William Rast cap and jacket, mixed with fashion executives such as Peter Koral. Timberlake also was interviewed by “Entertainment Tonight” and posed for pictures with fans among the crowd of 200 partygoers.

But celebrity also has its pitfalls, according to William Rast Chief Executive Daniel Guez. There’s the danger of over-saturation. Guez said he plans to tightly control the distribution of the label to avoid that problem. He also said that quality, fit and good marketing would contribute to his line’s success. The jeans market is filled with labels that “have been on the market for more than five years,” Guez said. “There’s always room for a new jean.” —Andrew Asch