With Lana Del Ray having few real credentials in the fashion world, Niamh Hynes examines how celebrity endorsements are becoming more prevalent and less credible

Flick through any copy of Vogue, Elle or Harper’s Bazaar, and it’s difficult not to notice editorials punctuated by advertisements featuring celebrities. Mila Kunis for Dior, Nicki Minaj for MAC, Dakota Fanning for Marc Jacobs, Felicity Jones for Dolce and Gabbana; there seems to be an endless stream of brand ambassadors. This is before we even mention that most magazines carry celebrities on the cover, a move pioneered by Anna Wintour back in the early nineties. Fashion Weeks have more singers, actresses and ‘It girls’ sitting in the front rows than ever before, with some reportedly pocketing the not-so-paltry sum of 70,000 euro for their presence. With many fashion houses rallying to ride out the recession, is the publicity generated by having such celebrities associated with their brand a valuable publicity asset, or are we beginning to reach saturation point with both the amount and the legitimacy of these collaborations?

High profile endorsements have been around from the beginnings of luxury fashion itself. Charles Frederick Worth, known as the ‘Father of Haute Couture’ dominated Parisian fashion in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Worth recognised that linking well-known public figures with a brand was a powerful marketing and communications tool. Patronage of ‘La Maison Worth’ by the Empress Eugenie, then wife of Emperor Napoleon III, contributed greatly to the success of his brand – at a time when the concept of celebrity as we know it today was unfathomable.

Many in the fashion world believed it was only a matter of time before Lana Del Rey was approached by a fashion house to endorse their brand. Young, pretty, exuding old Hollywood glamour and currently generating enough headlines to ensure maximum publicity and consequently exposure for any brand; it could be argued she was a natural choice for Mulberry’s creative director Emma Hill to name her autumn/winter 2012 icon bag after.
Controversy about her vocal abilities aside, Del Rey has been accepted wholeheartedly by the fashion world.  Sitting front row at Mulberry’s autumn/winter show at London Fashion Week (where she debuted her namesake bag), she appeared on the cover of Vogue UK’s March edition and will reportedly accompany Joseph Altuzarra, this year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion fund winner, to the 2012 Costume Institute Gala, also known as the Met Ball – one of the most anticipated events of the fashion year.

The question that arises from this is just what exactly are Del Rey’s fashion credentials? The announcement meant she joins the ranks of Alexa Chung, Jane Birkin, and Grace Kelly. Each have had luxury brands, Mulberry and Hermes respectively, name bags after them, but only following successful and established careers and the consensus of iconic style status. In comparison, Del Rey seems a novice, and more risky from a commercial point of view. The Alexa Mulberry has been credited with helping the company buck the trend of the recession – quadrupled profits in 2011 for the company could be attributed in part to the sell-out success of the bag.  However, this success followed years of recognition and appreciation of Chung’s style in the mainstream media and by fashion designers the world over, for many of whom she is a muse. Her distinctive dress sense has made her a generational icon and veritable force in fashion today, with a loyal cult following, and has meant collaborations with high street chains New Look and Vero Moda, as well as front row seats at Chanel, Burberry, and Marc Jacobs to name a few, not to mention campaigns with Pepe Jeans, Superga and Madewell.

Not all celebrity endorsements can claim quite the same level of success. One of the more infamous collaborations of recent years was Lindsay Lohan’s for Emanuel Ungaro. Indeed, Emanuel Ungaro himself, who has sold his interest in the business and is no longer involved with the label, described the collection as ‘a disaster’ following its showcase. The collection sent models with glittery heart shaped nipple pasties down the runway, leaving the audience “aghast”. Women’s Wear Daily described Lohan’s debut with Ungaro as “embarrassing” and painful to watch. Lohan’s creative direction showed it takes more than just the ability to wear another designer and look good in pictures to make it in the fashion industry. It also seemed farcical in the context of practicing designers that someone of such limited experience could act at the helm of a major fashion house.

Hugely successful collaborations, recently seen with Alexa Chung and Kate Moss, seem to depend on whether the fashion credentials of the celebrity in question are genuine. As for the Del Rey, only time will tell. The bag, which is said to encapsulate Lana’s mastery of the “style of Old Hollywood, mixing it with an edgy sense of fun,” launches in May. Whether it’s Kate Moss designing bags for Longchamp, lines for Topshop and now Mango, or Christian Louboutin naming a shoe “The Blake” in honour of a certain Ms. Lively; for better or worse, it appears that the celebrity endorsement is here to stay.