From the "Jersey Shore" … to the runway?
That could be the destined path for budding fashion maven Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, who debuted her first fashion line, SnookiLove by Nicole Polizzi, at the Magic Market Week clothing convention for industry buyers in Las Vegas last Tuesday.
The reality star, 26, partnered with clothing manufacturer Double Zero for her new women's sportswear collection, which is set to debut this fall. The line features 60-80 garments ranging in price from $19.95 to $99.95. Snooki hasn't yet announced which retail partners will carry her collection (which is currently available for sale on her website), but hopes to get it in several stores.
The aspiring fashionista tells Yahoo that she had been looking for a few years for the right company to help bring her vision to life. "After trying a few companies I realized Double Zero was the best fit for my line," she says. "Hard working people who understand where I wanted to go in terms of fashion and designs."
Snooki collaborated with Double Zero's chief designer Jason Kim to produce the juniors collection. "Jason is my homie. He knows what I love and we work together to build ideas for great pieces!" she says about her personal involvement in the fashion process. "I hand him look books of ideas I love and then we tweak them to make it my own!"
Though she still stars alongside her best friend, Jenni Farley, on the "Jersey Shore" spinoff "Snooki & JWoww" (the show recently wrapped its third season), turned in a strong performance last fall on Season 17 of "Dancing With the Stars," and hosts various events and cable TV specials, her most lucrative endeavor is without a doubt her extensive entrepreneurial product empire. Scrolling through Snooki's Facebook page can feel like shopping on a personally branded version of Amazon.
Most of Snooki's products can be found for sale in the Snooki Shop, the retail section of her website. "The opportunity for these ventures is only because of the fans and their support!" she explains. "They've supported me through my crazy times growing up on 'Jersey Shore' and now maturing with me in becoming a mother and I couldn't be happier! My brand will only expand with all the amazing support I get."
In addition to her fans, Snooki is also inspired by Jessica Simpson, a singer/reality star who transformed herself into a fashion mogul. The Jessica Simpson Collection earned $750 million in 2010. "I aspire to be like Jessica Simpson," says Snooki. "She's real, she's a mother, and she's a successful business woman who I would love to be like."
So is Snooki poised to become the next Jessica Simpson, where the value of all her various product lines is greater than her worth in the field in which she first became famous? Probably not.
"The key to success is authenticity," one celebrity branding expert tells Yahoo, adding that he wouldn't want to go into business with the reality star. "How is she authentic? Who wants Snooki?
"The fact that she aspires to Jessica Simpson is great. We could all aspire to be Bill Gates, but that doesn't mean we're going to be as rich as he is," he continues, adding, "It all comes down to the product and how relevant Snooki is today."
Dorothy Pomerantz, who compiles the annual Celebrity 100 list for Forbes, agrees. "I think what Jessica Simpson did was really, really hard, and I don’t think it’s something just anyone can do," she tells Yahoo. "The problem with Snooki is that she’s trying to change her brand. She was the wild child. We all liked watching her because you didn't know what she was going to say or do next — that's why she stood out on the show. That’s not necessarily the person we want to dress like or who a mom in Cleveland wants to dress like. We were laughing with her, not at her, but she was not somebody we wanted to emulate."
However, Pomerantz — who notes that as of June 2012, the earnings Forbes had listed for Snooki the previous year were around $3 million — thinks the guidette deserves some props. "She’s still doing a really good job. I think most people would’ve thought they would’ve never heard from her again at this point."
Beyond the SnookiLove fashion collection, here's a breakdown of all of the areas she's got a hand in these days:
Books: Did you know that Nicole Polizzi is also a New York Times bestselling author? First came "A Shore Thing," a not-so-veiled fictional account of a group of friends having a "summer to remember" together on the Jersey Shore. (Sound familiar?) Then came her popular non-fiction guide to being her: "Confessions of a Guidette." In 2012, we got the fictional sequel to "A Shore Thing," the aptly titled "Gorilla Beach." And most recently, at the end of 2013 she released "Baby Bumps: From Party Girl to Proud Mama, and All the Messy Milestones Along the Way," which chronicled her very dramatic transition into motherhood.
Up next? Snooki tells Yahoo she'd like to write a children's book.
Slippers: Back in 2011, Snooki hooked up with Kentucky-based company Happy Feet to debut her line of Snooki Slippers for kids. She got the endorsement deal after she popularized the flamboyant footwear from having worn them on "Jersey Shore." "People love them since they are so comfortable," she notes.
Happy Feet owner Pat Yates told Yahoo in 2012 that although the line had a slow start, sales soon went "through the roof." But it certainly wasn't a hit from the start. Earlier Yates told WWD, "Her name hasn’t [gained] retail traction yet. [Stores] don’t believe it can appeal to the masses."
[Related: Snooki Launching Slipper Line for Children and Infants]
These days the Happy Feet line isn't just for kids anymore. Now men, women, and children can buy the brightly colored zebra-striped and leopard-print shoes online, along with Snooki's line of sandals, sunglasses, handbags, and even stuffed animals.
Fragrances and nail products: Snooki Scents is the name of her fragrance and nails line in partnership with Perfumania.com. Currently, there are two perfumes available — Snooki Couture for Women and Snooki for Women — but she notes she'd like to create another fragrance soon. As for the press-on nails and nail polish lines, well, they come in the exact shades that you'd expect.
Self-tanners: Snooki teamed up with Supre Tan to help her fans add the "T" into "GTL" from the comfort of their own homes. Snooki tells Yahoo that her tanning line has been her most lucrative product to date. "My tanning lotion has been a huge success," she says. "Just like everything else, but tanning is a hard business to be successful in and our brand is one of the top-selling lotions. I love designing the bottles and fragrances!"
In addition to dark bronzers, bronzing lotions, and other ointments, the line also includes moisturizers, body washes, and body scrubs. She says she's going to be launching a new product soon called "Vow to Be Dark."
Jewelry: Snooki had been hawking a Stars & Studs jewelry collection on her personal website in 2012. Also, there was a Snooki's Jewelry section on her Snooki Slippers site. However, her jewelry endeavors seem to be on hold because both sites currently take you to dead links, and Snooki declined to comment on the status of her jewelry line.
Headphones: The Snooki Sounds section of her store seems to be down as well. It's being highlighted in the flash panel at the top of the Snooki Shop and she was promoting it to her 10 million Facebook fans as recently as Valentine's Day. But, as of now, it leads shoppers to a dead link as well. Snooki also declined to comment on the status of her headphones line.
Sunglasses: The Jersey Shore Shades section of the NYS Collection Eyewear page currently takes you to a dead link, but Snooki says that she's planning on relaunching it shortly.
Apps, phone/tablet accessories, hair products: All of these are items listed on Snooki's bio page as being areas she's involved with, but aren't currently available for sale in the Snooki Shop.
Whether she's the next Jessica Simpson or not, Snooki's clearly a busy woman! And Stacy Jones, of Hollywood Branded, sees potential in the pint-sized reality star's brand.
"With brand extensions including nail polish, perfume, and even slippers, Snooki is certainly embraced by licensing partners who believe she is able to drive and build brand lines, which may eventually extend to her own wholly owned brand empire," she notes. "Consumers buy what celebrities wear — and celebrities who capitalize on their own influence and ability to be a walking billboard for their designs strongly benefit financially. … [And Snooki] has been able to tone down her persona while still keeping fans engaged."
And while Snooki — who is mom to 1-and-a-half-year-old son Lorenzo and has an upcoming "Great Gatsby"-themed wedding to Jionni LaValle scheduled for 2014 — may need to reinvent herself in order for her product lines to be as successful as Jessica Simpson's, Jones reminds us that Simpson also had to shake the ditzy image she became known for following her MTV show, "Newlyweds."
"In truth, the two [Jessica and Snooki] share a lot of commonality based on their reality star roots. Jessica Simpson was able to distance herself with time from some of her more infamous comments — Chicken of the Sea, anyone? — and obviously has had an extremely good team help guide her along the way to her current successes. [Snooki's]) going to have to continue to reinvent herself without losing her audience — and hope that they continue to grow along with her and want to emulate whatever style she develops. That may mean leaving behind some of the former Jersey style, and truly going in a more polished and mature direction, as those millennials join the workforce and find that those louder styles aren’t as welcome in Corporate America."
And Snooki's fan base has certainly worked to her advantage.
Michael Stone, the CEO of Beanstalk (a top branding and licensing company), notes that, "Snooki's personal appearances command a reported $20,000. Her product updates, which are sent to her almost 7 million Twitter followers and over 10 million Facebook fans, tend to create frenzy. So is she branching into products like other celebrities? Yes. But is she reliable long-term, or just a rapidly burning flame (the latter being a common characteristic of reality TV stars)? That remains to be seen."
Snooki also has more to prove before big retailers are willing to take a chance on her. "Retailers are very risk adverse and reluctant to jump on the flames of fame when they are unsure if the fame will last 12 months ahead," he explains. "They need that 12-month level of confidence and so many reality star product launches have fizzled quickly."
In addition, Stone points out that Snooki's had some ups and downs with her licensed product in general. "Walmart offers a line of [her] slippers and a three piece gift set, but that appears to be it. Kohl's appears to have dropped the line. She appeared, successfully, on HSN in 2011, at the height of her fame, but doesn’t appear to still be on the network. And there are some random products on other online retailers like Amazon and perfume at Sears, Kmart, and Perfumania. … Some of her mishaps include that her first book — 'A Shore Thing' sold less than 9,000 copies. Another was that she sued SRG Ventures over product licensing and was then counter-sued in return when they argued that her arrest for disorderly conduct in New Jersey made it impossible to shift merchandise."
Her brand is also a little all over the place. "The 'Snooki Culture,' as they call it, consists of slippers, sunglasses, tanning and sunless lotions, headphones, her own hairstyle, trademarked 'Snooki' phrases, and more ... But right now it's a bit random and helter skelter, definitely not a cohesive, well-planned brand and it’s really not present at retail in a significant way," says Stone. "Of course, in the end, one needs to ask: Is she just a quick one-hit wonder of a reality TV star who consumers will quickly see through?"
Still, Stone wouldn't rule out a Snooki fashion empire just yet. "It’s certainly possible that, with the right strategy and planning, she can pull it off. In terms of what comes next, the big question is: Can she grow and diversify her fan base without alienating the fans who made her famous in the first place? Snooki has to take her fans on the journey with her. In her own words, she has to ensure she remains 'real.' If she does, then there is a next chapter to her consumer products career."