Reality TV star Bethenny Frankel is determined to squeeze her larger-than-life persona into peddling a line of Skinnygirl Shapewear. The svelte 40-year old just cinched a licensing deal with Dreamwear Inc. for a collection of shapers. The slimming foundation garments are a wise and very necessary cornerstone in Frankel's trademark Skinnygirl empire.
Frankel first burst on the scene in NBC's "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart." From there she segued into Bravo's series "The Real Housewives of New York City," then its companion, "Bethenny Getting Married." A slippery turn on "Skating with the Stars" followed in December. Now "Bethenny Ever After" follows her escapades through wife- and motherhood.
Love her or hate her, Frankel is nothing if not consistent. Through each show, the tightly wound slip of an entrepreneur stole center stage and used her burgeoning celebrity status to launch a complete lifestyle brand. Parlaying her penchant for cooking light, getting thin, and staying happy, Frankel's introduced cookbooks, cleansing tonics, exercise DVDs, even a Skinnygirl Margarita (think a pre-mixed 100-calorie beverage made with clear tequila).
Something for every size girl
But the shapewear may be the biggest revenue generator yet. First, because Frankel's covered all bases in a collection divided into cheeky groups: The Skinny, Secret Service, Glamouflage and Show, Don't Tell all priced between $20 and $40.
Tight-fitting camis, tanks, slips, briefs and leggings ensure its wearer appears toned under her clothes, ostensibly as she battles the bulges with Bethenny's other products. Should a girl want, ahem, more desirable lumps, panties with butt pads add curves where nature didn't. There's even, according to Frankel, "A sexy apron with a bra, a fun item with a little skirt you might wear for Valentine's Day to wake up in and fix your husband breakfast in." (pictured above)
A big industry for Skinnygirl
WWD reports the shapewear license is projected to generate first-year wholesale sales of $3 million. Though that puts her in competition with fellow Housewife Jill Zarin who launched Skweez Shapewear during Fashion Week last month, Frankel's got an edge. Zarin doesn't have the brand recognition of her former co-star (and her Web site doesn't seem to be working). Skinnygirl Shapers will be available on the brand's own Web site starting in mid-March and QVC is going to feature the collection this summer.
Home shopping could be a juicy plum for Frankel. That audience is receptive to all manner of celebrity shilling as sales figures show. Grammy-winning Mary J. Blige set a new bar for HSN sales when her My Life fragrance shattered records. 60,000 orders poured in over only six hours in August. All without anyone taking a whiff first.
It's not clear if Frankel's foray into foundationwear is going to extend to plus sizes. But if not, it should. At either end of the market spectrum, size matters. The secret to snagging the most customers is not the number of doors or web portals, it's in the cup (and panty, corset, garter, etc.) size. In the lingerie business, the bigger the range of sizes, the bigger the company's marketshare.
Frankel would do well to take a page from companies that enhance their "big" winners. Hanesbrands' (HBI) Just My Size apparel drove its retail casualwear sales to nearly 50 percent growth in the first quarter last year. And let's not forget that the Spanx company is steadily growing thanks to founder Sara Blakely's genius move to produce Spanx for men.
Image via Skinnygirl