The Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel has played host to the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Jean Harlow, so when Gwen Stefani walks in on a sunny afternoon with her Old Hollywood glamour — dark oversize sunglasses, scarlet lips, and platinum tresses swept into a polished updo — she certainly looks the part.
“Sorry I’m late,” says Stefani, sliding into a green velvet banquette amid a fragrant whirl of cocoabutter. “I was getting my color done, and now I feel like a different person. So much better.”
She’s wearing a demure plaid cap-sleeve blazer and pencil skirt of her own design with sparkly diamonds on her ears and fingers, an appropriate look for the ladies-who-lunch crowd. But on closer inspection there are a few givaways that she is, in fact, a Grammy-winning rock star. Stacks of white rubber bracelets are piled on her forearms, a lacy blue peeks our above her threadbare ribbed tank top, and her nails are painted a stark white.
Stefani, 40, an Orange County girl born and bred, has just returned from a lengthy vacation in St. Tropez with her husband of seven years, British rocker Gavin Rossdale, and their two boys, Kingston, 3, and Zuma, 1, for whom she wears two delicate gold crosses around her neck. The successful designer, with seven years at the helm of her LAMB line, couldn’t be more excited to show her latest collection at the upcoming New York Fashion Week.
It’s surprising that Stefani, an unabashed girlie girl, has been hanging out with the fellas her whole life — first No Doubt, her all-male rock band, and now in her houseful of boys. Pushing her sideswept bangs out of her big brown eyes, she leans in conspiratoirally when she whispers, “Do you love clothes?” Content with her response, she grins and squeals, “I love clothes too. So much it’s embarassing. But it’s so fun!”
She shares a photo of adorable baby Zuma on her Blackberry and orders a soy-milk coffee before settling in for some good old-fashioned girl talk.
1. Have you always been obsessed with fashion, even before you started designing?
It’s been the same my whole life. I made so many clothes growing up, and I used to design my own costumes. Like, in college — we’d have a concert coming up and all I would do was just daydream about what I was going to make. And it’s the same now. Fashion gets me so excited.
2. Where did you draw inspiration for your spring line?
I wanted to make a collection I was really going to wear. I was into gray, black and white with just touches of color, like yellow here and there. And a lot of drapery and slouchy stuff, and some tailoring — and looks that were a bit ’80s but also modern. We pull inspiration from everywhere and make it our own. It’s important to me to be involved because it’s about what I would wear, to be honest. It’s very selfish!
3. And what is it about designing that you love so much?
When you find your passion, you can’t help it. I’m generally lazy. I like to sleep, I like to eat, I don’t like to work out, I don’t like to do anything. I want to watch TV, eat in bed, and sleep. And with designing, it’s just fun. I always enjoy doing that. It’s never a drag.
4. After two solo album and two babies, you just completed a 60-concert tour with No Doubt. What was that like?
This tour was so emotional because it meant going back onstage with those guys who were my best friends since I was 17. We’re in such a great emotional space right now. And knowing that it’s not going to last forever makes it even more precious. I had tears in my eyes as I singing certain songs, like “Simple Kind of Life,” where I say, “I always thought I’d be a mom” — and all of a sudden I am, and my kids are sitting on the side of the stage watching me sing. It’s really intense.
5. Do you enjoy performing onstage in front of thousands of people?
I love it. It is so awesome. I love getting ready and getting in costume, and then performing and being physical. If you don’t play live concerts, nothing feels real. It’s just a song on the radio you hear when you’re driving, and it doesn’t affect you. But when you walk ot onstage and there are people who actually spent their money to buy a ticket and they’re singing the songs, it’s suddenly mind-blowing.
6. What initally made you decide to jump from musician to designer?
I wanted so badly to have a backup plan for when I’m not performing anymore. Let’s be realistic: It’s not going to be like this forever. So I wanted to continue having something creative to do. I have to be creative to be happy. I don’t have a strong sense of self-worth unless I’m doing something. I was a different person before I started to write. When I realized I could be a songwriter and that people would listen — that was when I started feeling good in my life.
7. You’ve said you had writer’s block when trying to work on the next No Doubt record. Have you overcome it?
I just wrote a song, which is really exciting! It’s not even done and I’ve listened to it two billion times already. It’s like I can’t stop. I’m embarassed — if my husband comes in and I’m listening to it, I’m like, I’m sorry.
8. Tell us about your boys — what are their personalities like, and which one of their parents do people say they look most like?
They are totally different, and they look totally different. Kingston didn’t like the fans on tour. He doesn’t like having his photo taken or the paparazzi. We call him Sid, like Sid Vicious. He’s a little punk, he really is. Zuma is more of a show-off. He wants everyone to watch him, he’s a goofball, and he’s really silly. He’s a funny guy. People say Zuma looks like my dad, and like me more — and obviously Kingston looks exactly like Gavin from head to toe. It’s crazy how the second child is so different from the first and has the same parents.
9. Does Kingston pick out his own clothes? He has such a cool style, and he really seems to own it.
I know! At that age they like to be in control of everything, so I let him choose. Luckily, everything in his closet is cute, so no matter what he picks, he’s gonna look good. For a while he was into costumes. Now he doesn’t ever want to wear shoes.
10. What do you miss about L.A. when you’re living in London, and vice versa?
I miss my family when I’m in England. And when I’m in L.A., I miss the role I have when I’m in London. I’m not working there, so Gavin spoils me and I get to be really dependent. I don’t drive when I’m there, and I like that. It’s a different lifestyle to be able to walk to the little village to get milk. I take Kingston to the gym with me, with no nanny or assistant, and that would be very rare in L.A. — that I could actually go somewhere on my own. Things can get out of hand with the paparazzi, so I don’t feel safe.
11. Do you or your kids adopt an accent when you’re over there?
Not me, I can’t even pretend. But kids are like little sponges. Once in a while Kingston will pick up a word, like “I’m going to take a bahhth.” And I’m like, really? A bahhth!
12. When I interviewed Gavin years ago, he said he prides himself on being an excellent gift giver. Do you ever drop any hints about what you want?
Oh no, we’re not allowed to do that. It’s just old-fashioned gift giving. He goes all out, you know? He’s romantic, so it’s good. He is a creative guy, and he’s amazingly inspiring with that creativity. We had a really good Christmas last year; it was fun getting gifts for the kids.
13. How do you and Gavin coordinate your outfits for a red-carpet event — is his outfit based on your dress?
We just do our own thing, and it always seems to work. He has such great style. I get ideas from a lot of his clothes for the women’s clothing line because I like that kind of mixture. I use a lot of stuff in his closet. I’ll be like, Ooh, we should do a girl version of this!
14. Let’s talk about your closet. With all your LAMB collections, and pieces of Galliano and Vivienne Westwood, tell us: What’s it like in there?
It’s really a work of art. I have a very, very large closet. Girls fall on the ground when they walk in. They’ll be like, ‘I just want to stay in here!’ It’s awesome. I keep all my main costumes and archive my favorite things, and I’ve held on to so many things I’ve designed in the past seven years, so you can imagine how many clothes there are. It’s insanity. I just cleaned out my closet, and I had like, 20 bags of stuff. Usually I let my friends and family just go nuts, but this time I’m going to do an auction and give it to charity. I mean, why should my sister always get it?
15. You’ve even worn red lipstick while you’re jogging. Is there any time you don’t wear it?
No, I wear it all the time. I wear pink, I wear gloss, I wear everything, but my husband prefers when I wear red. I want him to like me still! I remember the first time I wore dark red lipstick. I was maybe 18, and I can remember the moment I put it on — in my Honda Prelude that I bought for like, $3,000 — and looking in the mirror going, “Good, I like that.” Never again did I stop wearing it.
16. How do you get motivated to work out so religiously?
I like to wear clothes. That’s the only reason. You can’t make a whole fashion collection and not be able to fit in it. Plus, I feel so much better. And if you work out, then you can eat!
17. What advice can you give to women who see your post-baby body and feel inspired?
I have to work out before noon or I won’d do it. You just have to get what you want in your head. It’s hard, but it’s like a domino effect once you see the results. I think I’m like the average person when it comes to all those things, so if I can do it, then I think anyone can do it.
18. What’s your favorite meal to cook, your signature dish?
I don’t cook. I can toast in the toaster. I can pour and set the table. No, Gavin is the one. It’s not even an option, he is so passionate about it. He cooks every day. He loves to go grocery shopping and find different things. I’m really lucky. It’s actally lucky and hard at the same time because sometimes you want to be fit and not eat it, but you have to eat it.
19. Are you and Gavin going to try for a little girl? Someone should get to inherit your wardrobe!
I don’t know. Having children is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. No one could have prepared me for how awsome it is, and how hard. And having two boys — there’s a lot of energy. I mean, it does seem weird that I don’t have a girl, but I feel like I’m running out of time. I also don’t want to spread myself so thin that I can’t even be good for them. Poor Zuma, he’d be the middle guy. I’m not focusing on it right now, but it’s not up to me anyway, you know? These things are miracles, so we’ll see. Otherwise, the clothes are probably to go to some girlfriend of Kingston’s!
20. What do you consider to be your biggest career achievement to date?
Walking through an airport in Isreal, and soldiers with machine guns coming up and beling like, “Don’t Speak.” Or meeting kids who tell you that you’ve changed their lives because the music is so powerful. Or seeing girls who are wearing my clothes and saved all their money to get them, and suddenly they have this style and “this is who I am,” and at that age it’s really important. I get to meet all those people, and it makes me feel so good.