Look up any photo of Alison Mosshart and she’ll likely be kitted out in her failsafe uniform: a leather biker jacket, star-print silk shirt and black skinny jeans. "I’m wearing the same outfit over and over again," she laughs, "but I actually lost that shirt from Equipment when I was on tour – I was devastated." Lucky, then, that she’s been able to recreate her beloved piece as part of a new collaboration with ultra cool New York label R13. The collection – the musician’s first to come to fruition – is made up of all the rock 'n' roll signifiers you’d expect from a frontwoman known for prowling a stage with menacing rebellion.
Lead vocalist of The Kills and The Dead Weather, Mosshart’s personal style garnered as much press as her snarling drawls and cutting lyrics back in indie rock's '00s heyday, so it’s slightly surprising that it’s taken her this long to dream up her perfect wardrobe. "It’s been a long-winded thing," she tells me upstairs at Browns East in Shoreditch, where the collaborative collection is launching. "I remember I was on tour in 2007, I found the last pair of R13 jeans at Barneys and of course they were so great that I never took them off. Eventually I needed another pair, but I couldn’t find any, so I wrote to the founder, Chris [Leba], and that’s how our friendship began. They’ve been dressing me for the stage for so long, and he just asked me if I’d like to come up with my own stuff. The next week I was sketching ideas."
Mosshart approached the process by thinking about what was missing from her own wardrobe and, after a trip to an Italian print house – "It was so inspiring, like going to an art gallery of fabrics" – she started playing with cuts and styles. A standout look from the collection is a psychedelic two-piece suit, which, she explains, started life in a totally different way. "The original print is so far removed from what you see now, the colours were different, the scale of the print was smaller; I changed it to look like oil in water. I loved the process because you can completely fuck with the original idea. It’s like playing a song over and over again – it grows with you. You get more ballsy every time you sing it, so it evolves."
The rest of the collection is just as electric: there’s leopard print suiting, a divine ice blue mohair knit, a hoodie with gothic transcription and a T-shirt reading "Fast Times" – an homage to her favourite film, Vanishing Point. "It’s two hours long but the only thing that happens in it is a car chase, I’m obsessed with it. It’s got the coolest car in the world, a white Dutch Challenger, the epitome of American muscle, and the best soundtrack." Which song would soundtrack the R13 collaboration? "Probably 'Roadrunner' by The Modern Lovers, which we used in the campaign video."
The accompanying lookbook is equally rock 'n' roll, featuring a post-show dishevelled Mosshart lounging around an old, kitsch hotel. "I spend all my time in hotels, I’m always photographing them, and I wanted to shoot the collection in something that looked like the Chelsea Hotel, because we lived there for a really long time and we miss it every day," she explains. "I asked them, but it’s very much under construction, so, I kid you not, I spent 26 hours on TripAdvisor trawling Manhattan hotels from a similar time period that hadn’t been done up." What was she looking for exactly? "I hate what everyone’s doing to hotels, all that eco lighting and the hard edges. I don’t care if it smells of cigarettes, give it to me! I didn’t give up, and I found Hotel 31, where, like the Chelsea, there’s no arty creative vibe, it’s just brilliant: all mismatched furniture and bedspreads from back in the day."
How much has Mosshart’s style evolved since she started making music? Did the clothes get more flamboyant as the stages got bigger? It’s come full circle, it seems, as she says designers often try and sell her things she wore back in the early '00s. "When I started out, I couldn’t afford to buy clothes, so I got everything at thrift stores, cut them up and sewed them back together. As the crowds got bigger, the outfits demanded more, though. You want to feel like a superhero, because you need that confidence."
I wonder what she makes of the new breed of guitar-wielding bros who take casual to new heights on stage. "I don’t think anybody gets excited about seeing a band on stage dressed like they’re roadies, or like they could’ve driven the tour bus... I see it a lot and it’s very uninspiring to me," she laughs. "I’m not saying you need to be Lady Gaga but like, caring? Caring is good! Did Nirvana change their outfits six times before going on stage? No, but they looked rad as fuck! They say if the band look cool, their music will probably be cool – it seems too simple to work, but it’s true. Look at Iggy Pop, he’s always dressed – or undressed – incredibly. Whether he wears silver trousers or just his underwear, you think, That’s the coolest!"
While we can’t see many other people pulling off the nothing-but-underwear look quite like Iggy, there’s a chance us civilians can get in on Mosshart’s give-a-fuck look with this new collection. Now, take us to our fans.
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