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"Justin was the model for all the jeans," the PR rep informed me as I stroked a pair from Timberlake's new clothing line, which has the improbable name William Rast. The concept of JT's precious bottom caressing each and every pair of denimwell, just one prototype, but weren't we all here to imaginewas just too rich. "Wow," I said, caught in that freak-positive, Miss America dialogue you tend to have with PR people. I examined the jeans more closely, sure that they would reveal some special hidden clues to the true shape of JT ass. Hard? Flabby? Concave? Mind-blowing? I stroked again.
No. No clues. From just looking at a pair of jeans, it was hard to get a sense of him.
If Bloomingdale's and Macy's are any indication, these celebrity collections have been the flagging department-store industry's golden goose. Timberlake's line, which he worked on in conjunction with his childhood friend Trace Ayala, is set to debut at Bloomingdale's this week. Not an actual person, William Rast is a combination of Timberlake's grandfather's first name and Ayala's grandfather's last.
Hmm. It's a given that Diddy's will rip from Ralph Lauren, that J. Lo's will be heavy on fur. Usher's overpriced gay pimp look and Andre 3000's unparalleled style leave them ripe for lines as well. But other than a propensity for tight white tanks to show off his trademark "Well, I'm a man now, ladies" biceps, Timberlake seems to portray no overarching image with what he wears. Perhaps because you can literally feel the small army of stylists and image makers swooping down on the dude every couple years for his routine Justin-tweaking, making him sellable to a new target demographic.
If only Justin's capers were translatable in clothing form. Then you could choose the kind of Justin you want to be, just by buying his t-shirt. Forgettable Mouseketeer Justin? Cute-but-boyish 'N Sync Justin, the second coming of NKOTB's Joe-not-Joey McIntyre? No! Maybe . . . Danger Justin! Justin post-Britney breakup! Justin who's shaved off the short and curlies, cavorts with Hispanic girls, and causes wardrobe malfunctions! What about "he-landed-Cameron?" Justin?
Unfortunately, the collection does not encompass the many Justins we have known. There is only one Justin here, and he's ready to sell in Iowa malls. "This clothing is representative of where we come from," Timberlake has said. "It's sort of country, but it's also got a little edge and chic to it."
The country part goes little beyond some middling vintage-esque tees for men and women, printed with slogans that name check Timberlake's home state of Tennessee. (Don't ask us why every company has to vomit out faux-vintage tees these days, but at least Timberlake's come without the stupid sexual entendres.) "Memphis Blues" is printed on one, and, curiously enough, on another there's a quote from famous Tennesseean Andrew Jackson: "The Union Must and Will be Preserved." (Huh? Well, it's scrawled on a rolled piece of paperheld in an eagle's mouth. I guess that looks appropriately Wild West.) The t-shirts go for around $45, as does a camouflage cap, sporting the label "With Compliments, William Rast."
Stronger pieces include men's polos that looks as if they'd been worn to an ideal softness; a rather cute zip-up windbreaker with contrasting stripes available in red, black and army green; and the jeansall in pleasingly non-atrocious rinses and fades. (It's the least you can expect, considering you're shelling out almost $200 a pair.)
At his launch party at Bloomingdale's last Tuesday, Timberlake admitted that Ralph Lauren was a "huge inspiration" for the collection (wait, why does that sound familiar?). Dressed in a black velvet blazer, black button-down shirt and William Rast jeans, the surprisingly unassuming pop star seemed a little flabbergasted with his new designing role. "I'm a pro in front of 20,000 people, but this is the weirdest thing ever," he said, perhaps a little skeeved by the camera crews and chicken-finger-munching guests flanking him as he wended his way around Bloomie's jeans racks. But Timberlake seems to have a serious interest in the collection, or so he attests.
"I got even more anal about buttons. I don't know who's anal about buttons, but I am," Timberlake proclaimed.
"I'm just glad he didn't put his name on it," commented an Instyle.com reporter earlier in the evening. That was probably Timberlake's wisest move. Who really wants to say, "Yeah, got my sweet Justin Timberlake jeans on"?
But we could be wrong . . .