Entertainment | Celebrity

Why Jessica Simpson is a billion dollar babe

She can't act, and her country music career proved a total washout - so how on earth did Jessica Simpson build a billion-dollar fashion empire? Sheer blond ambition…

  • By Gemma White, Editor, e+
  • Published: 00:00 June 30, 2011
  • e+

Jessica Simpson
  • Image Credit: Gulf News archives
  • Jessica Simpson's fashion empire is set to top Dh3.6 billion in retail sales next year.
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If you thought that Jessica Simpson splashing out Dh3.6 million on her November wedding to former NFL player, Eric Johnson, later this year - without him putting his hand in his pocket - was a bit much, then more fool you, because as it turns out, that amount is just small change for the 30-year-old Texan.

With her fashion empire set to top Dh3.6 billion in retail sales next year, the blond Dukes of Hazzard star is laughing all the way to the bank.

So, how did the woman who once confused chicken with tuna find herself at the head of one of the most successful fashion businesses in the world? Well, as it turns out, this blond isn't so dumb after all... 

‘People trust me…'

They'd have had a woman who takes herself more seriously than Jessica does, hanging her head in shame, but the amusing bon mots the star became famous for on her Newlyweds reality TV show, including telling US Interior Secretary Gale Norton in 2004, "You've done a nice job decorating the White House," have proved pretty lucrative, she says.

"Dumb is not knowing. Ditzy is having the courage to ask," insists the fashion mogul. "In all honesty, I think people really trust me. I'm very real with who I am. I don't take myself too seriously, and I'm very approachable." 

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Shoe's that girl

A quick click through her website, jessicasimpsoncollection.com, throws up a huge variety of products Jessica has put her name to, including handbags, denim, coats, sunglasses, swimwear and accessories - and that's before you touch on her hair extension range with her ex-pal, celebrity hairdresser Ken Paves, and her edible cosmetics and body care line, Dessert Beauty. But it was with her shoe line that Jessica first started making style waves, signing up with licensing gurus, the Camuto Group back in 2005.

"I didn't really know I was going to be able to take on the fashion world, but when I was given the opportunity to start a line of shoes, I jumped right on board," Jessica told Women's Wear Daily (WWD).

"[Company owner] Vince Camuto is definitely a role model to me when it comes to making shoes. He just believed in me from Newlyweds. He just thought I could relate to the everyday consumer, and that I had it in me to design and wear the product." 

Buying into the blondness

The technical aspects of Jessica's incredible rise to the top, show that the actress boasts almost unprecedented ‘recognition awareness' amongst the age group the advertising industry wants to target the most.

According to the Winter 2011 Performer Q Study from Q Scores Co, among men and women in the 18-34 age group, awareness about Jessica Simpson is at 91 per cent (with most performers peaking at 71 per cent awareness recognition). "Pretty much everyone in that age group knows who she is. It's top-tier awareness," said Henry Schafer, executive vice-president of Q Scores Co. Licensed to sell

Pushing her towards that magic Dh3.6 billion mark are the 22 licensing agreements Jessica has signed, allowing companies access to her image rights, to push products including homeware, fine jewellery and menswear.

And with her mum, Tina, onboard watching her back, Jessica's free to work on the creative side. "How the brand looks and how it all comes together is me, and Jessica, and our team," Tina tells WWD.

With Jessica adding, "I'll get mad if I see something with my name on it and I don't like it. I'll say, ‘Mom, did you approve that? I don't like that. I never saw that, please tell me if you approved it.'" And when it comes to why she thinks she's been able to relate so well to consumers, Jess insists, "I think people really trust me. I want people who wear my clothes to say, ‘Yeah, this is Jessica,' that I'm their friend and I've invested my time and energy. People should feel like themselves in my clothes."

Jessica's business rules 

It's all about image "Image is the most important thing about someone's career and longevity. I want to be around until I'm not around anymore and then some."

Be the brand "What I wear, what I sing, the songs I write, the projects I choose all have to represent Jessica Simpson."

Know your customer "All this looks expensive, and it doesn't fall apart. I don't think we need to go there [upmarket.] Making it affordable for everybody is really where we're at."

Be a role model "I wouldn't take certain jobs if they were to take away from the positive role model that the Jessica Simpson Collection has allowed me to establish… because this is my number one priority."

Get involved "I'm very hands-on and I think you have that personal touch with me, and I think that outreach is very important."

What a figure! 

An at-a-glance look at Jessica's earning power…

Dh360,000 for 2006's Employee of the Month
Dh1.8 million for Pizza Hut and Proactive skincare endorsements
Dh9 million for her movie, Dukes of Hazzard
Dh65 million - her half of what she and ex-husband Nick Lachey earned from endorsements during their four-year marriage

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