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RUNWAY ROBBERY

The Fashion Group International (FGI) will host award-winning fashion journalist and author Teri Agins for a discussion about her newest book, Hijacking the Runway, How Celebrities are Stealing the Spotlight from Fashion Designers. This event will take place on Wednesday, August 26 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Neiman-Marcus at Northpark Center.

The book both repels me and fascinates me. When I first heard about it last year, the title alone made my heart jump and I yelled (to myself), "Yes!" Without knowing anymore about the book, I began reeling off the names in my head - Lindsay Lohan, Creative Director at Ungaro? She lasted one season, presenting a much-maligned collection described by Telegraph.co.UK as "buttock-revealing dresses and strippers' nipple stickers." Iconic founder of the house, Emmanuel Ungaro was deeply embarrassed, saying the collection “was a disaster.” He continued, “I’m furious but there isn’t a thing I can do. I have absolutely no link with that house,” added Ungaro who sold his house to an investment fund in 2005. Case in point.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Designer for Halston Heritage? Since Sarah's look is not really her own (credit goes to Patricia Field), how could she become president and chief creative officer? Halston himself, who founded the legendary house, was a brilliant innovator and became a major celebrity as his designs swept the world. Upon losing control of his company and his name, he died a few years later. The venerable name has had several attempts at revival, but none of them true to the original Halston vision.

Then there's "entertainer" Jessica Simpson on TV's Fashion Star, whose original career as an actress and singer was a joke. But the she appeared with her then-husband Nick Lachey on a reality show about their marriage that portrayed Simpson as a brainless twit with big tits and a complete image engineered by Rachel Zoe. And, mysteriously, people liked that. Agins writes, "When they saw her looking adorable in a midriff top or Daisy Duke cutoffs and boots, they didn’t think of the stylist who might have put together that outfit or the designer who created it. To them, the look was pure Jessica Simpson." So, voilá, she "becomes" a "designer." And fashion mogul.

Design collections "by"

Madonna? Jennifer Lopez? P. Diddy? Venus Williams? Excuse me? These people don't "design" clothes. In fact their public images were created by someone else. But when it comes to celebrities crediting others for their looks, well, memories are short. A favorite axiom of mine is, "Inspiration is forgetting where you stole the idea from in the first place."

This despicable trend is called the "democratization" of fashion. But fashion - real fashion - is a creative endeavor from the heart of artists who have trained, studied and interned to become designers. But with celebrity styling and television, why anyone can be a designer. Not.

In 2011, New York Times columnist Eric Wilson wrote that "luxury fashion houses are becoming less interested in promoting lively personalities than in protecting their own brands."

Agins believes one way fashion designers can attempt to steal back the spotlight from celebrities is to become celebrities themselves. Brands like Tory Burch, Alexander Wang, Michael Kors, and Altuzarra are built around names and faces that are familiar to shoppers; their personal cachet helps lure consumers. Even a brand like Banana Republic is catching on. Though the role of creative director at the company was previously all but anonymous, the company is now using fresh hire Marissa Webb to promote its new look.

"We're seeing designers become more front and center," Agins added. "People need to connect with them in a real way that resonates, so shoppers can go into a store and feel an emotional tie with a designer, the way they do with a celebrity. Designers will have to be out and about in a way that we have never seen before because, like celebrities, they know they have to create a persona, an image, a lifestyle to connect.

Tickets for this event are $50 for FGI members and $60 for nonmembers. Tickets include a copy of Hijacking the Runway and proceeds benefit FGI of Dallas’ foundations scholarships. This past April, FGI of Dallas presented more than $45,000 in cash scholarships and prizes to 16 college students.

For more information about FGI of Dallas and the book discussion with Teri Agins, visit www.dallas.fgi.org or eventbrite.com for the event listing http://bit.ly/1Hgr3wh. You can also follow FGI of Dallas on Instagram @fgidallas. #FGIDallas

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Photography by: Courtesy of FGI Dallas