A spotlight on the celeb merch trend
How much money have you spent to get close to your favourite musician? The concert tickets, downloads and LPs have probably all added up – and then there’s the merch. If you really love an artist, you’ll probably be willing to save up for a piece of their brand. Whether that’s a t-shirt with Cardi B’s face on it, or a heart-shaped bag emblazoned with Taylor Swift’s lyrics. By doing so, you’re symbolically buying a piece of the stars themselves. And you’re showing you belong to a tribe of fans worldwide.
Celebrities from Kris Jenner to Harry Styles are cashing in on merchandise, ranging from the expected (t-shirts, sweaters and caps) to the downright bizarre (anyone fancy buying a bottle of Noah Cyrus’ tears?). From the high street to high end, here’s how some of our favourite celebs are getting into the merch game.
The high fashion collab
When Rihanna announced her collaboration with couture behemoth LVMH (owner of Dior, Kenzo and Louis Vuitton, among others) in May, fans went wild. No matter that the workwear-inspired pieces on sale through her FENTY range are well out of most people’s price range — with sunglasses priced at more than £300, and jackets going into the thousands — this launch symbolised an important moment in fashion history, with Ri becoming the first female to ever create a brand for LVMH. For years before now, Pharrell Williams has owned this space, creating sunglasses for Moncler and Louis Vuitton, and a perfume for Comme Des Garcons, as well as his own high-end range Billionaire Boys Club. Now, plenty more popstars are taking their merch to luxury levels — The Weeknd recently designed a range with BAPE, and Taylor Swift is due to release a collection with Stella McCartney.
The pop star capsule collection
In July, Ariana Grande became the latest popstar to create a range for H&M (see lead pic), following the successful example of her record label mate, Justin Bieber, a few years back. The 30-piece collection, promoting Ari’s Sweetener tour, ranges in price from £9.99 for a t-shirt to £24.99 for a hoodie, making it cheap enough for almost anyone to buy into the popstar’s brand of pastel-pink-but-take-no-prisoners feminism. Beyonce has used her merch to political ends too. When Miami police called on fans to stop supporting her the singer after her 2016 Superbowl halftime performance seemed to criticise US law enforcement, the queen responded in bold style — the t-shirts for her Formation world tour carried the self-trolling slogan “Boycott Beyonce”.
Some celebs will put their names (and faces) to pretty weird stuff. Over the years, Miley Cyrus has splashed her branding across rainbow-coloured leggings, lighters, socks, and even dog collars, and now the country-pop star has her own condoms, decorated with the title of her latest EP, She Is Coming. Little sis Noah has a store, PizzaSlime, where, as well as the aforementioned bottles of her tears ($12,000 each, now sadly sold out), she sells pillows decorated with celebrities’ tweets, a pack of stickers featuring Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, and a $300 bag made from a Crocs shoe. Ever wondered how Sia gets her songwriting inspiration? Maybe lighting this custom scented candle will help you get into her headspace (her majestic wig is not included).
As politics becomes increasingly personality-driven, candidates are using nifty merchandising to help win votes. When actress Cynthia Nixon ran for governor of New York City last year, she promoted a range of t-shirts name checking her SATC character, “I’m a Miranda and I’m voting for Cynthia.” When Theresa May announced a snap general election in 2017, ground support for her rival, Jeremy Corbyn, swelled among many younger voters. A bootlegged Nike t-shirt featuring the Labour leader’s name became so iconic that the Victoria and Albert museum acquired it for its fashion collection.
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