He is one of Hollywood’s most popular celebrity designers, beloved by the likes of Madonna, Britney Spears, David Beckham and Mariah Carey. Now Christian Audigier, the man behind the Ed Hardy label, is opening his first boutique in the UK, prompting the question: are we ready for his tattoo-inspired, crystal-encrusted clothes?
The popularity of the Ed Hardy range owes nothing to style magazines or fashionistas – it has become famous for its inclusion in celebrity wardrobes.
Although the designs of skulls, roses and tigers are the work of US tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy, they have been transformed into a global brand by French designer Audigier, who has covered a wall in his Los Angeles office with 70 paparazzi shots of Madonna wearing his clothes. Audigier says he is now working with the star to produce her own clothing range.
He was also meant to be working with Michael Jackson on a clothing brand at the time of the singer’s death in June, and Audigier created stage outfits which were to be used in Jackson’s comeback tour. The free publicity from these celebrity endorsements has proved a successful marketing plan – this month, Hubert Guez, chief executive of Ed Hardy, predicted that the brand would generate sales of $400m this year.
“I associate the brand with Madonna,” says Ellie Crompton, style editor of Heat magazine. “It would make sense for them to collaborate on a project. He’s a strong horse to back in fashion, and part of the interest comes from his personality. He’s a crazy character and fashion loves a character.”
As Ed Hardy clothing has become more famous, so has Audigier. The designer, who started his career working for 80s brands such as Fiorucci and Naf Naf, is as flamboyant as the sparkling T-shirts and hooded tops that have made him rich. Britney Spears, Pamela Anderson and Michael Jackson were guests at his 50th birthday party last year. In an interview with American GQ last month, Audigier said he was due to appear in a film with rapper 50 Cent and to record an album with Kanye West. He told GQ: “Obama was 200% advertising. I promote myself to sell my brands. Because now I am a kind of celeb. I am in a different world than the fashion industry. I am with Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Madonna. I build me as a celebrity.”
Audigier certainly knows what sells. In addition to Ed Hardy, the designer runs the Christian Audigier nightclub at the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas. He also launched a fine wine brand this year. “Everyone drinks more during a recession; they want to forget,” he said at the time. Ed Hardy is his second huge clothing hit. He was also behind the Von Dutch Originals brand, which sparked a craze for trucker caps six years ago that saw them worn by celebrities such as Justin Timberlake and Paris Hilton. He left in 2004 after a dispute about money and started Ed Hardy.
But will his clothing range catch on in Britain when the store opens in west London’s Westfield Centre this week? “Stars like David Beckham and Madonna have a massive reach with the British public,” says Crompton, “so I can see it having a far-reaching appeal to the mass market. But how long can Audigier make that last? The label’s got a very strong image, but I don’t see how he can diversify the brand. It might be this year’s fad.”