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NEW YORK — As if fashion week weren’t scary enough, this season, Kembra Pfahler, who fronts New York cult band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, will put on a show of her own, sending a new 12-piece collection, Kembra, down the runway for the first time at the American Fine Arts Co. gallery on Sept. 16.
For Pfahler and the outrageous members of her crew, who practice rock ’n’ roll as a religion, fashion is just another way to spread the message. “It’s about sharing and caring through art in our own gothic way,” says Pfahler, who enlisted the 10 girls in her band to model. “Besides, we’re hedonistic, and it’s fun to make clothes.”
This story first appeared in the September 4, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But while the band’s on-stage look is glam by way of the Beijing Opera, requiring two hours of makeup before every show, the Kembra collection works a more simplified Goth angle. In keeping with Pfahler’s Wednesday Addams-ish aesthetic, the line includes clean, graphic dresses in black and white, and a double-breasted little boy’s suit.
“Our theatrical shock-rock stagewear is contrary to what we wear during the day. We have more of a uniform sensibility,” Pfahler says. “I like the idea of wild girls wearing simpler clothes.”
After all, the band’s wild girls have been touring the U.S. for a decade, and they can’t always dress to cause a riot.
“We needed something to travel in,” Pfahler explains, “something to wear on planes.”
Her belief in the rock ’n’ roll credo means Pfahler is dedicated to keeping the label accessible. Retail prices range from $225 to $350 for the first collection, but Pfahler would like to price the line lower in upcoming seasons.
The rocker’s mother, Judy Ball, who owns a clothing store called Whispers in Pacific Palisades, Calif., has already picked up the collection, and Pfahler hopes other retailers will follow.
“I’ve never been to Barneys, but I know things there are costly,” she says. “I don’t think a person in a band or a young girl can afford expensive clothes.”
Not that Kembra is for teenagers only. The designer is taking a strictly nonagist approach. “It’s for the unique woman,” she says. “I don’t think it’s too esoteric because it’s clean and easy to wear, and I don’t want to be too exclusive.”
Besides rehearsing for a concert at New York’s B.B. King Blues Club on Oct. 29, Pfahler and Co. have also been busy making props — yes, props — for the fashion show. “It’s like getting excited about a school pageant,” says Pfahler, who, surely, will be the only designer ever to orchestrate a shark attack in tableau vivant on the runway.
“Isn’t it every American girl’s dream to get eaten by a shark?” she asks.