Fashion designers often claim to take inspiration from esoteric (and eye-roll-inducing) sources: a Spanish cave etching! A line from The Waste Land! A Polaroid taken on an exotic childhood vacation to Zanzibar!
Not Jessica Simpson. The pop star-turned-retail mogul finds her inspiration closer to home — and further down to earth.
“When I’m in approval or inspiration meetings, I think of what I want my Nana to wear, and what my 2-year-old daughter Maxwell would look adorable in,” said Simpson during a keynote Q&A at Thursday’s annual Forbes Power Women summit.
Forbes chairman and editor-in-chief Steve Forbes interviewed Simpson in front of an audience of women entrepreneurs, leaders, philanthropists and business executives. He described her career as “astonishing” in both breadth and longevity.
Indeed, the Jessica Simpson Collection comprises over 30 product categories, from her hugely popular shoe line to sunglasses and jewelry. Almost ten years in, the brand rakes in about $1 billion a year at retail.
(Simpson, for the record, takes home tens of millions of that annually, per Forbes’ calculations. Her earnings got a boost when she became a mom.)
“My business is the heart of who I am,” said Simpson. She went on explain how she has manages to outsell most runway designers several times over by understanding everyday women, the vast majority of whom are larger than a size 2 and may feel alienated by what they see in Vogue.
“I want to make every woman feel confident in what they’re wearing,” she said. “I do feel like we’re very fashion-forward, but we also listen to the consumer.”
Simpson believes American women relate to her weight fluctuations, which have been documented in detail by the tabloid press for years.
“I have been every size on the planet and I understand women,” she said. “And I just know how to dress them. I know there’s all different kinds. There’s life in the whole world beyond LA and New York. I understand Middle America and their mindset.”
She and her design and business teams know their markets, too. “We do know what our Macy’s customer likes,” she said. “We know what our Dillard’s customer buys. We know where women shop and what they’re buying.”
Simpson strives to make her collection not just aesthetically pleasing for the everyday shopper, but comfortable too.
She spoke of flight attendants stopping in the airplane aisle to tell her they only wear her footwear during long-haul trips. And young women tell her they love hitting the clubs in her heels.
“They know if they buy a Jessica Simpson shoe they can dance all night long,” she said.
Up next for the fashion mogul? A home goods line, and then a baby collection.
“People will be sleeping on my bedspreads!” she said, giddy at the prospect.
And as for kiddie clothing, she assured the audience that as a mom of two infants, she knows which kinds of onesies are the easiest to get on, and take off, a squirming baby.