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Last Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008, 18:22 GMT
Fashioning a business out of fame
By Heather Alexander
BBC News, New York

OutKast's Andre Benjamin is the latest celebrity to launch his own clothing line. But how much involvement do the stars have in the threads that bear their name?

Andre Benjamin
Benjamin, 32, is well known as a singer and sometime actor
Celebrity is well and truly a business.

For many stars, the singing and acting go hand-in-hand with the perfume, the ad campaign and, of course, the clothing line.

Now a new name has been added to that list. Grammy-winning musician Andre Benjamin is turning his hand to designing clothes.

Benjamin - also known as Andre 3000 - joins a long list that also includes Madonna, Paris Hilton, P Diddy and Jennifer Lopez.

But how much work do they actually do?

A style icon over the years, Andre says he has a passion for clothes so takes a keen interest.

''I'm hands-on from start to finish," he explains. "I start the inspiration.

"I have something in my mind I want to see - sometimes just a piece or two I know I want to make - and I kind of build the line around those pieces.''

If he gets it right, it is a potential money spinner. Rapper P Diddy started his menswear line Sean John 10 years ago and can now boast reported annual retail sales of more than $500m (250m).

'Nervous'

Earlier this year, he showed at one of the fashion world's biggest stages when his clothes went down the runway on the closing night of New York Fashion Week.

Model wearing clothes from the Benjamin Bixby line
He has now launched his own Benjamin Bixby clothing line
''I am extremely nervous," he said at the time. "I'm showing on the biggest day of fashion week.

"I'm with the headliners, the big boys Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs. I'm coming to make some noise and have a good time.''

Is it really the star producing the goods, though? Or a raft of real designers backing them up?

Trinny and Susannah from What Not to Wear were critiquing dresses at the Oscars when they revealed they spent 30 days a year working on their Magic Knicker line - which they claim is a fair bit of time given their schedule.

''We choose fabrics, we look at shapes, we think of all the women that we're dressing," they said.

"The great thing about the company we work with is they then source the factories who are making the clothes. All that stuff which takes a lot of time and is very hard work, they do."

Picking out fabrics and approving the looks? It's not exactly getting out the sketching pad and coming up with new and original ideas.

Sceptical

Calvin Klein or Oscar de la Rente probably don't slave away to the early hours in the design studio either, but at least they once did.

P Diddy on the catwalk during New York Fashion Ween
Rapper P Diddy founded his Sean John clothing line in 1998
David Wolfe, creative director of New York fashion consultants the Doneger Group, is sceptical of the level of work celebrities put in.

''I don't think the celebrities do any actual hands-on designing," he says. "I think the most they do is advise and approve.

"They sort of come in and say: 'I like that, I don't like that.'

"The really famous designers have so much knowledge they can supervise and direct in a way that a celebrity can't.

"They have actually learned how to design, while celebrities only know how to shop. And most of them don't even shop any more - their stylists do it for them.''

There's no doubt, though, that some celebrity lines are successful.

But any star considering a change of career should heed the words of top designer Roberto Cavalli. He said a celebrity taking up designing was like him taking up singing.

Watch Heather Alexander's TV report on celebrity fashion on BBC News 24's new entertainment news programme E24. It is shown on BBC News 24 at 1045 GMT and 1745 GMT on Saturdays, and at 1745 GMT and 2145 GMT on Sundays.

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