Transcribed by Jenny for BSO!
Gwen Simply Irresistible
Gwen Stefani never expected to be doing so much in so many arenas – she’s a superstar singer, a successful designer (this month: kids line at Target!), a devoted wife, and a mother of two. Luckily, this SoCal gal who knows how to rock it can roll with it too.
By David A. Keeps
Gwen Stefani stands center stage in her light-filled white-and-gray fashion studio, a swank annex to her hilltop home at the end of a long drive in a gated Beverly Hills community. The singer and fashion designer has just finished a two-hour meeting with executives from Target and members of her design team. Gathered at a massive marble table beneath a space-age chandelier, everyone looked at sketches for her Harajuku Mini for Target collection, an adorable new toddler-to-tween line, which hits stores in mid-November. “You can’t edit out any of these designs,” the persuasive businesswoman told the Target folks sweetly. “You’ve got to sell it all.” By the season’s end, they even proposed added swimwear to a future collection. “None of us have ever designed swimsuits before,” Stefani said, considering the idea briefly. “Let’s do it!”
The meeting is now over and the suits are gone, but the pressure isn’t off. “There’s so much to do,” Stefani says. She contemplates what lies ahead: In addition to Harajuku Mini, she’s got the day-to-day demands her two fashion labels – L.A.M.B. and Harajuku Lovers, which brought in sales of over $150 million last year – not to mention her fragrance line and spokeswoman duties for L’Oreal Paris. Her No Doubt bandmates are dropping later to record in her home studio; it looks like their record – their first in a decade – will release next year. “On top of all that, there’s my family,” she says. “There are so many things to make decisions about. Every day is taken up completely. It’s almost impossible, to the point of being insane.”
Thank goodness, then, for moments like this: Stefani’s 3-year-old son, Zuma, fresh from a nap and with the most adorable case of blond bedhead, climbs into her arms and nuzzles her neck. Her eldest, 5-year-old Kingston, is traveling at the moment in Texas with her rock-star husband, Gavin Rossdale, who’s on tour with his band, Bush. “I miss my other boys,” says Stefani, pretend pouting. But the other members of her happy clan are close at hand: Assistants buzz around, pitching in when needed, and her mom and dad live in town, too. And Stefani, 42, no longer feels like she has to do it all. “At work I’ve learned how to delegate,” she says. “It makes you a better wife and mom. You don’t have to be on a ladder in a warehouse, micromanaging. You can be at home. And teamwork is also such a big part of marriage and parenting.”
Stefani sits on a gray leather chair, situating Zuma on her lap, then takes a swig from a concoction by Pressed Juicery, a liquid salad made from celery, kale, romaine, parsley, spinach and cucumber. When asked what she’s wearing, she swiftly runs it down: Yohji Yamamoto abstract-print pants (which somehow match the studio’s graphic wallpapered ceiling), a black top from her pal Andrea Lieberman’s ALC line, and open-toe L.A.M.B. high heels. “Do you want to know my bra’s brand?” she asks, eyebrows raised. “It’s Agent Provocateur. I haven’t pulled this out in a long time. I didn’t even know if it would fit.”
Though she is best known as the beauty with the pale, powdered face, arched eyebrows, and red-lips – “the makeup goes on everyday, even if I’m not going anywhere, “ she says – Stefani has a whisper of a tan. “When you have two little boys, you have to play outside,” she says. “There’s no way around it.” She’s working a Gwen Lite look at the moment, with pink lipstick, toenails painted a color she calls “neon bubblegum,” and a traditional French manicure. “I wanted to see what it would look like to have the kind of nails normal people have, “ she says, laughing. On her arms are bracelets studded with tiny rose-cut gems by an Indian-based designer whom she befriended online. On her right hand she sports a Lorraine Schwartz pave diamond ring shaped like an elephant (one of Kingston’s favorite animals), which was last year’s anniversary present from Rossdale. “I’m due for a new one,” she says. “Our ninth is coming up.”
Though she will happily chat about music and fashion for hours, Stefani says she won’t talk about her husband. “Everyone knows I love him; he’s awesome. But it’s private, and I would rather not get in trouble!” Still, revelations do slip out, like the fact that all the amazing streetwear she’s spotted in isn’t just for the cameras – Stefani says she likes to dress up for Rossdale. The other night they went to dinner with friends and she tried on five outfits before leaving the house. “It was like my own runway. I thought, You are being such an idiot! But I had so much fun.” (The winner? A white bowed Opening Ceremony blouse with L.A.M.B. shorts and tights.) And she expects him to reciprocate. “He’d better,” she says, grinning, then adds, “I like him in all kinds of clothes. He looks good in everything.”
Zuma, now fully awake, squirms and climbs down as Stefani watches him intently. “The thing I’d like to do is enjoy these boys while they’re young – so I don’t regret I was working too much when they’re big and don’t want to cuddle with me anymore,” she says. It’s clear she’ll make it all work, satisfying both her maternal instincts and her creative impulses. But for now, it’s back to business as she settles in and smiles, saying, “So, what did you want to ask me?”
Now that you’ve designed a full line of kids clothing, spill it: What did you wear as a kid?
“My mom made me a lot of Holly Hobbie dresses. Then in sixth grade I was into tight Chemin de Fer corduroys from the store Cotton Tail at the mall. I had no business in them because I did not have a figure.”
What made you want to become a clothing designer?
“I started my first line, L.A.M.B., in 2003 because I didn’t think I would still be making music when I was 40. But I knew I’d be depressed if I wasn’t doing something creative. Plus, I love having a job where I can be in my office and look at the window and see my kids playing.”
Can you sew?
“Yes. It runs in the family. My grandma made my mom’s prom dress – Mom didn’t have a choice! And Mom would take us to the fabric store and we’d pick out Vogue and McCall’s patterns. When I got older I was very antifashion. I was into thrift stores and making my own stuff. I had my own sewing machine, glue guns, and projects everywhere. My room was a danger zone!”
Is fashion easier than music?
“It’s not as draining. But fashion is much more greedy – there are endless ideas and dreams about what you want to wear. And then you’ve got to make that happen. But I enjoy all parts of the creative process – making the cookies and eating the dough.”
Do your sons wear whatever they want?
“I’m not strict. I like them to be creative and have fun. I’d love to be a part of it – don’t get me wrong. Sometimes they’ll get dressed and it’s horrifying. But they often come out in outfits that are awesome.”
Do you dress differently when you are with the kids?
“Well, if we’re at the park, I try not to wear heels. The kids are so gigantic if would be painful. I always bring back-up shoes!”
Do you have a huge closet?
“It’s a work of art. But it needs to be cleaned out again. There’s a whole wall of shoes – a shameful amount. But I design them and I do wear them. And I put them up for sale at charity auctions.”
What was your first fashion splurge?
“The first piece I really wanted was a Betsey Johnson crushed-velvet, patchwork number, but I couldn’t afford it. I tried to make my own – a complete disaster. The first piece I spent money on was an $800 Vivienne Westwood corset I wore in the “Spiderwebs” video.”
How did you arrive at your signature dramatic lip look?
“When I was 17, my grandmother got me a gift pack with all these different colored lipsticks, and one of them was burgundy. I tried it on and looked in the rearview mirror and said, “That looks good.” I’ve worn it ever since.”
What’s the secret to your amazing hairstyles?
“You have to bleach your hair because it makes the texture different. I have to fry it to do all these sets and styles!”
Didn’t you work at the cosmetics counter at the department store when you were younger?
“Yes, I sold Ultima II and Borghese, but first I worked in classic sportswear, which was literally a wall of polyester pants in every single color of the rainbow and matching print blouses. Women would come in and I’d help them look nice. I was styling back then, but I wanted to graduate up to one of those bitches at the makeup counter who looked like the “Addicted to Love” girls in the Robert Palmer video.”
Were you always such an ambitious go-getter?
“Its not ambition. It’s passion. Generally, I am really lazy. I just want to lie in bed and eat. The TV will just be on – I won’t be watching anything specific – and I’ll be shopping online aimlessly. There’s Yoox, Shopbop, Net-a-Porter. Even if I don’t buy anything, I like to look. I can’t imagine a day off, really. I didn’t know that all of this would happen at one time – that I’d be a wife and mom, still making records, having three clothing lines… and pulling my hair out.”
How do you stay sane with all the demands on your time?
“Meditation is my new thing. But I’m not going to lie: Sometimes I go into my closet and lock the door so no can find me!”
Additional quotes from InStyle magazine:
“It’s so amazing that I have three fashion lines. I watch Project Runway and there are these people trying to do fashion shows and I think, How did I get to do this?”
“I really love old Hollywood. I love that glamorous world and the makeup those stars wore.”
“Being a mother is probably the most challenging thing I do. The responsibility of it is very heavy. But it’s the only thing that matters! If you don’t do it right, it’s going to have the most consequences.”
“I’m conscious of what I eat, but some days I cave and have those cookies. On fun nights with the family, my husband cooks amazing things and there will be carbs.”
“My hair color is L’Oreal, but I won’t reveal the number. And I do my roots as often as Marilyn Monroe did hers. I’m serious, I found out.”
“The first time I went to a couture show, I cried. I thought, This is my world – where have I been?”
“In the past I was a runner and a kickboxer, I also did weight training. These days I do Pilates, yoga, and a lot of walking – not it’s more about feeling good than looking good.”
Quotes on Harajuku Mini:
“The kids clothes are a reflection of things I wear – like polka dots. I asked Vivienne Westwood to make me the dress I’m wearing for the 2003 Grammys. I actually got the fabric myself and flew it over to her.”
“I love the whole androgynous look of men’s jackets and bow ties. In the “Spiderwebs” video I wore punker pants with straps, but the boys tartan version has a contrasting color zipper and detail. The plaid is so traditional and so right for the holiday season.”
“This outfit was influenced by the military-inspired section of L.A.M.B. show. I love mixing proportions, shapes, and materials, like pairing a leather jacket with a short skirt and tights.”
Her 3 fave femmes:
“I love her look in the 1930s and ‘40s films, but I really think she personified the 1950s with those amazing print dresses. There is also something incredible about her being so beautiful yet so funny too. You know, I was a redhead once. Right after we came home from the first No Doubt tour I felt like I might get recognized, so I colored my hair red. I hated it.”
“Certain films in your life make a huge impression. When I saw The Sound of Music, I thought Julie Andrews was so talented and the character she played was so wonderful. I never wanted to meet her so my impression wouldn’t get ruined! I take a lot of inspiration from the way she dressed in that film. The first dress I ever wore onstage was a copy of the one she wore when she sings “I Have Confidence.” It was a tweed drop-waist with little pleats, and I made it myself!”
“There is something so magnetic about Deborah. The reason so many people followed her is she really had ‘it’. She was so ahead of her time. Her style juxtaposed pretty and punky, like wearing a boy’s T-shirt and red lipstick. I like the contrast of her edgy, hard, male attitude and her sexy, girlie makeup and hair. I admire that cause I love to get onstage with energy and attitude, but I also love the theater and beautiful hair and makeup. That kind of contrast is something I always put into my concerts and collections.”