The Donnas have a knack for putting together a mix of looks and dipping deep into the vintage well.
In this day and age, it’s refreshing to meet four pretty twentysomething rock stars who love fashion, fans and fame, but who aren’t necessarily shaking rumps with greased-up dancers or using live cobras as stage props. That’s never been The Donnas’ m.o. Their look and sound is more granddaughters-of-Joan Jett.
The foursome are lead singer Brett Anderson (Donna A), guitarist Allison Robertson (Donna R), bassist Maya Ford (Donna F) and pint-sized drummer Torry Castellano (Donna C), all 24. They’ve been buddies since grade school, formed the band at 13, and their video for “Take It Off” was nominated for Best Group Video at the recent VMAs, going up against Coldplay (who won) and The White Stripes.
Last week, while the band was finishing up the Lollapalooza tour, in support of their fifth album, “Spend the Night,” WWD caught up with Robertson, who dished on fashion and what it’s like to be four girls in rock who aren’t into selling their image.
“I love that we don’t have crazy Donnas spawn girls who copy our look,” Robertson says of fans. “Because we don’t really have that one thing that we can pin down as our look so girls that do look up to us just look like themselves.”
The Donnas themselves were influenced by myriad musical and stylistic genres — Eighties heavy metal bands like Kiss and Mötley Cruë and especially the Riot Grrrl acts such as L7 and Babes in Toyland. “They don’t have much in common, but they do have a lot of style and when they go onstage, they actually thought about what they put on before they got there, as opposed to bands who jump on in what they’ve been wearing all day.”
“We were 13, going to see Bikini Kill and it was like, ‘What is Kathleen Hanna going to wear?’” she says. “How did she do it? She looked so pretty and feminine but still got on stage and kicked so much ass.” But while the four Donnas appreciate the more glam aspects of a rock lifestyle, they understand that sometimes style has to be compromised in the name of a good show. “We don’t wear anything of value onstage,” she says, noting that sweat would ruin clothes or instruments get snagged and rip shirts. “Anything I cherish I would never wear onstage.”Luckily, the girls have had almost complete control over their image — even after signing to a major label, Atlantic. But Robertson does acknowledge the downside of not playing into the stylists’ hands — “We don’t get free clothes or deals or borrow stuff because we don’t have a stylist, and also, when we did photo shoots before we had our own stylist, the magazine brought in their stylists and we were in their hands.”
It’s the editorial shoots that have caused the girls to shed a tear or two, actually. She recalls one shoot where the stylist insisted that she wear what she calls a “turquoise fur pimp coat, something that Kid Rock or Poison’s Bret Michaels or Ludacris would wear — but not me. It’s my life and my body.” In the end, she dug her heels in and refused to wear it. “I was trying to be polite but I had to stand my ground but it doesn’t matter how polite you are, you always look like a bitch,” she says. “You either have to go with the flow and be bummed later when you see the picture and feel like a tool or stand your ground and people might end up saying you’re hard to work with.”
The Donnas are definitely into fashion, however, and keep an eye on the latest trends so that they never look dated. “Brett probably has the biggest collection of nice, really expensive jeans,” she says. “She has really long legs so she’s very particular about jeans.” Among Anderson’s favorites are Coach bags, to which she adds quirky details, like apple or heart charms. “It’s completely refreshing that she’s classic on stage and very bare, like she looks great without any makeup — it’s just sexy without trying to be.”
Meanwhile, she says, “Torry likes a lot of color — I mean, she does wear black leather, but a lot of bright stuff — something that’s a little more feminine.” But it’s Ford’s style that gets Robertson the most excited. “She wore a tutu on the first day of middle school, an Andy Warhol-Marilyn Monroe T-shirt and army boots,” remembers Robertson. “Everybody hated that she had any kind of style at that age.”Robertson herself names her mom and Chrissy Snow, Suzanne Somers’ ditzy character from “Three’s Company,” as icons. From her mom, who, as she puts it, “wore totally Pat Benatar-type stuff — short spiky hair, studded belts, pointy boots or little pink heels,” she got a love of Chanel and all things vintage. Robertson has never been to a fashion show, but says she’d prefer the back rows where she can pay more attention to what’s going on on the catwalk than getting into the front-row frenzy. She also can rattle off more than a few of her favorite designers, including FrostFrench, Luella Bartley, Miu Miu and Gucci.
“I love Marc Jacobs — always have,” she says, especially his secondary Marc by Marc Jacobs line. “I got almost everything he did from that first season. I went insane — I spent all the money I made that year on that line.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
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Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast