Ellen reinvents the Artisanal Wheel
This week, Ellen DeGeneres launched her lifestyle site, ED by Ellen. And it’s great.
You weren’t expecting that, right? The celebrity lifestyle business is so overrun with reality show stars pimping waist cinchers and movie stars curating monogrammed cocktail napkins that it feels like there literally isn’t room for another one. And people like Blake and Gwyneth and Jessica Alba love to tell us how hard lifestyle is and how all criticism stems from women hating on other (successful, beautiful, rich) women. So why would anyone even want to launch a lifestyle site? It’s a thankless job and we are all a big bunch of meanies who can’t appreciate how much wisdom actresses have to impart on us. We are clearly a lost cause.
Except Ellen proves all of them wrong. Last night #EDbyEllen was trending on Twitter (I have yet to see a negative reaction), it’s getting good reviews in the media (like this Vogue packing list), and many celebs, like Kerry Washington, Britney Spears, Madonna, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Pharrell, Pink and Kanye West’s wife, have tweeted their support.
I think the reason for the positive reaction is two fold: one, Ellen is beloved. Guests seem relaxed and pretty stoked to be on her show; no one is going to get a condescending pat on the head or grilled about a DUI. But she’s no pushover. It’s her name on the door. The banter isn’t forced, but it’s also not saccharine. She knows what her role is as a daytime TV host and there’s currently no one better at it.
Second, Ellen has killer style and she’s a reputed home renovation enthusiast. She can wear the sh-t out of a blazer, she always has great shoes and she has a very distinct look. She dresses like a woman who knows herself. This translates very well to lifestyle, which lives and dies on editing. The trick to editing for lifestyle is that it’s not just about the products you choose but it’s also about the dozens (hundreds, thousands) of things you reject. Saying “no” is as important as saying “yes.” You have to be able to trim the nonsense or you end up with a fragmented mess of products and recommendations. Gold-plated juicers! Leather-wrapped flashlights! Southernism pencils! It’s just too much novelty, not enough usefulness. And lifestyle should ultimately be useful, even when the products are aspirational.
Ellen and her team’s sharp eye is evident in the concise product choices and unfussy branding. She’s not trying to wow us with her impressive list of friends or years of crafting experience or put-on relatability. There isn’t one mention of artisans or curating or authenticity that I could find. When you are genuine, you don’t need to constantly tell people how genuine you are.
The confidence is well deserved. Ellen is the place people like Drew Barrymore go to when they need to promote a new wine. The built-in product placement possibilities for ED are endless, and she has a huge daily audience that adores her. She doesn’t need to call the paps or show up on a red carpet to promote her clothing. She just needs to go to work.
And there’s a lot to show off. The products (apparel/home décor/accessories) are a mix of useful and stylish things like striped tees, button down shirts, tote bags, baseball hats, linens and bar accessories. The pieces appear to be high quality, and the price points are affordable: a bunny tee for $45US, a marble pig cheese board is $45US, a blazer tops out as the most expensive piece I could find at $245US. And really, that is what lifestyle should be: presenting things that will enhance your life, not re-invent it. She’s not telling us we need more down-home advice (Reese) or small batch mustard (Blake) or designer jumpsuits (Gwyneth); she’s recommending things she likes and thinks you will, too.
Aesthetically, ED’s presentation is clean and upscale without feeling pretentious or contrived. A cheeseboard is just a cheeseboard, not a 1000 word dissertation on where to get the best grass-fed goat cheese in Montecito. (My only complaint: a good chunk of products aren’t yet available, and there’s a dinner party story I was interested in reading but the link is dead.)
But those are small hiccups. Overall, ED has built a solid foundation and melded with Ellen’s immense likability. She isn’t trying to convert anyone into wearing a V-neck tennis sweater – you either want to or you don’t. If you want to, this is where you can buy it. And if you don’t, well she probably won’t be too fussed about it and will still dance with you.
(Lainey: I have one complaint – no shipping to Canada yet. Which means I have to mule one of these dog tees…unless they sell out!)