Blonde bombshell Jessica Simpson may be ready to give birth any day now, but that doesn’t mean the soon-to-be mama is settling down anytime soon. The 31-year-old pop singer, who’s often confused for being a ditz thanks to her infamous “chicken or fish” line from 2003’s reality series, “Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica,” is actually one of the top fashion moguls in the country. As a businesswoman, she enjoys success with the Jessica Simpson Collection, a multi-million dollar empire featuring 22 categories, including shoes, handbags, and fragrances, just to name a few. Even as the Texas native prepares to welcome a baby girl alongside new fiancé and NFL player Eric Johnson, she never fails in showing off her dangerously high heels, scoring magazine covers, and launching new projects showcasing her stylish side. Currently, Simpson is serving as a celebrity mentor for “Fashion Star,” NBC’s new TV competition about discovering the next great brand. In a recent roundtable Simpson reveals what it’s like to work with aspiring designers from around the country, her favorite shopping tips, as well as those pesky rumors about a possible maternity line.
How did you get involved with this show?
Jessica Simpson: (Executive Producer) Ben Silverman actually approached me to do this project. Apparently, I was on their radar because of developing the Jessica Simpson Collection from the ground up. Now it’s got amazing legs to run on and I’ve had such a great time just diving in and seeing what I can do. And I really have created more of a passion for fashion over the years just being involved with the business and all of the small details. You know, all of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into making a shoe. There’s so much that goes into each item of clothing and so many people are involved. It’s great to see that unfold and have a successful business. I think teaming up with this show was a perfect fit. I couldn’t turn it down because I felt like it was great for my collection, but it was also important for me to talk to these up and coming designers, mentor them, show them the ropes, and really try to lead them in the right direction.
What was it like working with Elle MacPherson in ‘Fashion Star?’
Jessica Simpson: Elle was amazing to work with. She’s such a beauty icon, so she was definitely stunning to watch, but she also has such a great presence about her and she’s a very professional person. I enjoyed getting her opinions on all of the clothes because she’s launched a really successful line of her own and she’s been in the business for so long. I created a great relationship with Elle and I think people are going to love everything she wears. And of course, her body’s rocking.
It seems that you’re trying to find the next Calvin Klein over the course of a season. How difficult is that when you’re also catering to the needs of a now audience with a show like ‘Fashion Star?’
Jessica Simpson: Well, I think any designer can understand what people need to be wearing right now is the biggest and best step that you can take. Instead of putting your ego first you put the buyer ahead. I think that’s a really important thing to know, what the consumer is waiting to wear. That’s the hardest part, but it’s also the easiest. It makes for the best business. I think we definitely found that in a lot of the designers on the show, but there are a couple that stand out and will be around for a very long time.
Will you also be performing?
Jessica Simpson: No, I’m not performing, but I do get to have my very first Jessica Simpson Collection runway show, so that is a huge dream come true. That’s a part of the finale. It’s a big moment for me and you’ll definitely see me very overjoyed.
Since the pieces need to be wearable and relatable to the everyday woman, how do you keep the challenges exciting for the viewers week-after-week?
Jessica Simpson: Most of the challenges are pretty simple. I think simplicity is one of the hardest things to do as a designer. The simple pieces are always the ones that sell the most. They’re your everyday wear. We really wanted everybody to create a closet, more than anything, for America and pay attention to the details. Just everything that goes into building an empire. All of these designers needed to be capable of everything that was going to come their way. But I think that when it comes to clothing there’s no way you’re going to be disappointed. You’ll definitely see with all of the designers the challenge that it is to actually do something simple.
What did you think was important to bring to the show as a mentor? Did you look at anybody else on shows similar to this for clues on what to do?
Jessica Simpson: No, I really didn’t watch any other shows in going into this. This part of fashion has been my life for the past six, seven years. So, I really just wanted to be there, hang out, talk with the designers, and make sure they did have a vision that listens to the buyers and what they want. That’s really important, to be able to give Macy’s the colors that they’re wanting or the styles they’re selling best on their floors. I wanted to help because they’re great designers. That’s one of the great things about the show because we don’t have to go through the terrible designers to get to the great ones. We have 14 great designers and it’s about picking the one that really has a vision and can be around for the next 20-30 years. It’s not just about being creative. It’s about being business savvy as well.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned when starting your own collection? How does that translate to the show and for those looking to make a name for themselves?
Jessica Simpson: At the beginning, I thought everything I wanted to create was right. But look, I don’t wear flats, I’m very, very pregnant, and it’s my biggest selling shoe in the Jessica Simpson Collection, so I had to give in and be like, ‘Okay, well 90% of America wears flats.’ I really had to teach myself that it wasn’t just about everything I would wear. It’s about looking at a person and giving them an overall look. Everybody is different, so it’s really about understanding their sense of style and making it cohesive in my brand.
A lot of times singers get badmouthed for wanting to be actors, designers, or whatever the case may be, but like you said, this has been your life for a long period of time. You’re actually good at it and you’ve had a lot of success. What does it mean to have a high standing in the fashion world?
Jessica Simpson: I never expected to do what I’ve done in the fashion world, but I feel very blessed to be here. We started off with accessories, so I originally thought I was just going to do shoes and handbags. With the success of that it just gives you more opportunities, so the sky’s the limit. Even with music, acting, and being a mom, I know that I can do it. Life is always about expanding and that’s how we grow. I’m just really happy to be where I’m at and I’m proud to say that I get to do everything I love.
Is your pregnancy inspiring you to release a maternity line?
Jessica Simpson: Yes, I definitely want to do a line of maternity clothes eventually. I came up with some designs, but I haven’t really loved anything yet. The point of launching a maternity line is to do something different. I’m not buying any maternity clothes. I’m wearing clothes in bigger sizes. So, I really want to make a maternity line that’s comfortable, but really stylish for people because I believe we all deserve to feel and look good. It’s a little bit harder because people don’t want to spend a lot of money on maternity clothes because you’re only pregnant for almost 10 months. It’s a harder business, but I feel like it’s something we will do eventually.
You’ve been an inspiration to so many people throughout the years. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to be on ‘Fashion Star?’
Jessica Simpson: The funny thing is that now I’ll go to work, talk to some of the designers on our team and be like, ‘You should totally be on ‘Fashion Star.’ It’s such a great opportunity.’ So, I don’t know. I think that you really just have to be a very creative person who wants to sell more than just to your local town. There are some designers who like to play it safe. They really aren’t meant for ‘Fashion Star.’ We like daring designers and those that will really listen to mentors and buyers. It’s about understanding the business. It’s definitely a mix of someone who’s really creative and someone who really understands the business. If you don’t know the business yet you can learn because Lord knows I came into this not knowing anything about it.
Speaking of inspiration, what are you getting from the young designers you’re working with?
Jessica Simpson: I think just seeing their drive and excitement reignites a fire within me and makes me want to go back to those beginning stages of fresh creativity. I definitely was inspired by all of these designers to be even more involved in our collection. And with a lot of them I learned how to fabric shop and I’ve never really done that before.
What do you think is going to make people go out and buy these designs when there’s not a huge name attached to it?
Jessica Simpson: When you watch the show you’re going to have your favorites. You’re going to see these designers and their backgrounds. You’re going to fall in love with them as people, so it doesn’t really matter if they’re famous or not. You don’t really compare people together as designers. You find yourself rooting for more than one person.
How much of a part does your mentoring play in the end result of the designs?
Jessica Simpson: There are definite moments of surprise, shock, what the heck did you do, and I would have never thought of that. But yes, there is a lot of pressure as a mentor because you don’t want to tell somebody to do the wrong thing. For me, I feel it’s on my shoulders if they took my idea and the buyers were like, ‘No you’re eliminated.’ So, I really encourage people to listen to their own inner dialogue. I’m there just to tweak things along the way, but I don’t really give too big of an idea. I don’t want any blame. I do trust my instincts and I think you’ll see they really are receptive to what the mentors have to say to them.
Will you be influencing the contestants on the show to create personal baby wear?
Jessica Simpson: Well, I didn’t know I was pregnant when we shot the show, so you won’t be seeing that. But I do walk around everywhere wanting to shrink things baby size nowadays.
We won’t be seeing you on the show pregnant at all?
Jessica Simpson: No, no, no, we shot in the early summer. That way we could have all of the clothes manufactured and ready to buy before the show came on. It will be amazing to see myself with a waistline. I’ll be like a big blob sitting on the couch watching myself thin (laughs).
What’s your advice for shoe shopping on a budget?
Jessica Simpson: I definitely think that color trends are fun. Of course, it’s always important to have a great black and nude shoe, but right now I’m loving neon and color blocking. If you want to be that person who walks down the street and gets compliments on your shoes I would definitely go for color block. But the great thing about our collection is that we can do all of the wild, fun things, but make it comfortable. There are things that drive me crazy about certain shoes. If I see a shoe and the stitching isn’t tonal I have a panic attack. Everybody in the company knows not to show Jessica a black shoe with white stitching on it. There are tons of little tricks that go into making the perfect shoe, but I think color and comfort are really important, plus different heel sizes. Even though I prefer 6 inches a lot of people like a 4 or 2 inch heel.
What are some tricks shoppers should be looking out for?
Jessica Simpson: Let’s see, what’s a good trick? Well, I have these shoes right now in the collection that are a nude wedge with fluorescent orange on the bottom and around the ankle. You don’t have to wear them with something fluorescent or black, you know? I think it’s great to mix all of the colors together, but there’s something so sexy about a nude heel on light skin. It really elongates the leg. If you throw the pop of color then it makes a difference to what you see.
How can women dress well on a budget?
Jessica Simpson: I should probably budget myself more. But in the Jessica Simpson Collection we do focus on making our budgets affordable for people and putting together an amazing closet for the consumer. I feel there should be one piece you splurge on. I always splurge on shoes because it can help you put together a really simple outfit for cheap. Also, the big trends right now are all of the colored and printed jeans. You can find them in the $40-60 range and we have that in our collection. Buying fun colors and being able to mix and match things is really important, but there’s that splurge item. You can then build around that.
At the time that you were approached to do ‘Fashion Star,’ you already had so much going on in your life. How do you manage it all?
Jessica Simpson: Fashion has been number one in my life and career. I just thought it was a great way to be able to wear the Jessica Simpson Collection, have the world see it, and really give people an insight on how a business runs. I think ‘Fashion Star’ definitely helps me show everybody how broad the Jessica Simpson Collection is and how many different licensees we have. It was a great way for me to really put the collection on a pedestal and have people see how far it has come.
Is motherhood going to change that for you?
Jessica Simpson: No because we’ve had so much success that going to approval meetings and being inspired isn’t hard at all. It’s a really relaxing career for me. I mean, I travel to New York and made it to Paris for Fashion Week, but other than that it’s really just a career that all I need to do is stay inspired. I don’t see that leaving anytime soon.
What an amazing interview! I love how smart Jessica is and how aware of everything going on in the business. You go girl!