LOS ANGELES — Kelly Gray is taking the next step in her double life.
Gray, who departed St. John in July 2005 amid upheaval at the $400 million knitwear giant founded by her parents, is launching a women's wear collection and a men's jewelry collection at Royal Underground, the rock 'n' roll-inspired contemporary men's wear company she started in August with Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx. A women's jewelry line may not be far behind.
And she's balancing all that with her return to St. John as a creative consultant.
Speaking on one of her two cell phones in a dusty trailer in the middle of the El Mirage desert, near Palm Springs, Calif., where she and Sixx were shooting their third lifestyle book, Gray told WWD, "We are absolutely in the middle of nowhere and it is just spectacular."
The setting may recall some of the far-flung locales of the iconic St. John ads in which Gray starred for more than two decades. Now, however, Gray, 40, is back in front of the camera with a newfound edge. Asked why they chose the desert (the shoots for the first two men's seasons took place in London and India), Gray replied: "It was the only place they'd let us light on fire. We have panthers and pyrotechnics on the set."
Needless to say, there were no knit suits in sight. "I'm wearing our first women's pieces: a black peacoat and not much underneath, since it's about 80 degrees out; one of our scarves, and a pair of jeans," she said.
She also was sporting a pair of black boots, though Royal Underground does not produce footwear. "I have to wear something on my feet, as a rather large scorpion wandered by a few minutes ago," she said.
To design her latest collection, which she did from a bunk on the Mötley Crüe tour bus in the winter, Gray's work clothes consisted of a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors, jeans and "whatever I slept in the night before. It's fairly different from my St. John life."
Like the Royal Underground men's collection, the 25- to 40-piece women's collection will consist of leather jackets, cashmere sweaters, T-shirts and jeans, as well as dresses and skirts ranging from $100 to $1,200 retail.
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