Gwen Stefani’s s/s2012 L.A.M.B. Collection – When Fashion by a Celebrity is a Good Thing

29 Sep

Text, Vivian Kelly

Celebrities have a bad rap in the fashion business. I’d taken a skeptical stance on the idea of the notion of celebrity as fashion designer, since the days when Kathie Lee Gifford “designed” a line for Wal-Mart, followed by legions of demi celebs such as Paris Hilton who capitalized on their fame to produce shoddy garments they themselves would never actually wear. The fact that THEY themselves wore Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta etc etc. said it all.

There are exceptions however, that show that celebrities CAN [in conjunction with the right team] produce a credible fashion line. The first time I witnessed this was while attending a Justin Timberlake concert at Mohegan Sun, soon after his “Future Sex/Love Sounds” tour hit. Joe Zee did an amazing job styling him and Justin carried that white suit as well as John Travolta did his in “Saturday Night Fever”.

IT wasn’t William Rast, but I recall being stupefied when mid-way through the show, he sang a ballad in a plaid William Rast shirt and jeans. That night, I began reconsidering the celebrity as fashion designer issue and resolved to actually READ the WWD articles about Celebrity X designing a fashion line to see if others besides Justin were getting it right.

Good news. In the ranks of the “getting it right” are Justin Timberlake/William Rast, the Olsen Twins/Elizabeth and James, and the subject of this post, Gwen Stefani/L.A.M.B. Until this NYFW, the closest I got to Gwen’s line was seeing pieces at Nordstrom’s on the floor. I liked what I saw and longed to see her next collection in its entirety to see if she continued to follow-through on her branding message ie: herself  = a fun yet sophisticated version of cool.

A key ingredient for a brand’s success is to create an identity and to stick with your DNA. Domenico Dolce & Stefano Gabbana hit gold early in their career with the severe look of elderly Italian women clad in black crossed with sexy corsets and animal print that showed their idealized woman; one who possesses an intriguing angel-devil personality.

Gwen Stefani has similarly created a believable personality for her L.A.M.B line. She is known as a pop star who mixes classic glamour with funky contemporary clothing resulting in a mix that is the modern equivalent of Eighties’ pop star, Cyndi Lauper. Although physically these two don’t resemble one another, they share that irresistible “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” spirit that I’ve loved since Ms. Lauper debuted it in 1983 on MTV.

This season was my first L.A.M.B. show. I’m calling it a “show” even though technically, it was a presentation, set in the “Box” space – my favorite of the Lincoln Center Fashion Week venues as there’s usually little to no waiting, you can get as close as you want to the clothes and the models obligingly pose for shots.

The presentation was scheduled to start at 2:30p.m, but you wouldn’t have known that from the crowd assembled in the holding area when I arrived at 2:20. Normally tardy editors were in line waiting, snaked around the length of the tent to get what I guessed would be only a very quick glimpse of the latest L.A.M.B. collection and hopefully a look at the chanteuse cum fashion designer herself. [Ms. Stefani was not there, sigh.]

I  wiggled to the front of the 4-deep crowd huddled around the models posing on the white blocks, to scan the 23 looks. There was herringbone plaid, a leather moto jacket, some fun Ikat prints and quite a bit of Noir Jewelry; in short, no huge deviations from the brand’s DNA. Just an hour earlier at lunch with Scott French and Meredith Garcia of The Fashion List at Pain Quotidian, we all agreed that the best designers like writers find their voice and stick with it. Their customers appreciate this; can count on them to deliver the goods. Make no mistake – consistency is not boring, it is an asset.

A few months ago, a stroll on the floor at Nordstrom’s Westchester Mall verified this. Marc Jacobs Mark by Marc and L.A.M.B. stood out, because they didn’t need any store signage to identify them. That odd but adorable tweak like a teeny tiny print on a puff sleeve blouse- must be Marc. Black and white herringbone jackets and red accents? Must be L.A.M.B. – it was.

With all of this in the back of my mind, once finally, inside the Box, my first glimpse revealed black and white, this time as an Ikat print top worn with brown herringbone shorts accessorized with a skinny red belt, and towering platform sandals in black, red and cobalt – very Eighties!

The rock and roll portion of the brand was most apparent in the accessories, hair and makeup, namely a leather and gold shark tooth necklace heavily kohled eyes, straight black brows and a two- tone “Pebbles” from The Flintstones hairdo.

Many of the editors in the Tents were wearing this same up-do, minus the volume and two-tone.

Ms.Stefani hit the preppy trend square on with a v-front cream tennis sweater but unlike the one from your parents’ country club, this one is minus the unflattering bulk. The L.A.M.B sweater boasts fine knit gage stitching, which make it an ideal transition piece. These days, transition pieces are where it’s at. What could be better than playing a set of tennis, taking a shower, putting on the same sweater that you walked on the Courts with and getting-on with your day? There’s something for everyone here, and even one piece will up the fun quotient of your spring wardrobe.

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