By  on August 7, 2006

LOS ANGELES — St. John icon Kelly Gray is trading her ladylike knits for rock 'n' roll garb.

Gray will be a partner with Mötley Crüe guitarist Nikki Sixx in a new men's wear venture, Royal Underground.

"I don't think anyone else could have convinced me to get back into this business, but he has a passion for clothing that is unparalleled," Gray said in an interview. "He has a little bit of my dad in him, as well as my mom's attention to detail."

Sixx also persuaded Gray — who, as creative director of St. John, appeared in the company's ads, typically with an attendant chorus of male models — to market the line.

"I vowed I would never get in front of the camera again, especially with the big 4-0 coming up, but it's relevant if we put ourselves and our lifestyles out there,'' Gray said. "We want our customers to feel a part of this club. I can't wait to read the editorials saying, 'Can this girl not get enough of herself or what?'"

The contemporary line will include leather, printed cashmere, sweatsuits, T-shirts and denim with Old English iconography such as crowns and crests throughout. The linings of the leather pieces will be printed with lyrics from some of Sixx's songs, and the hangtags will look like laminated all-access passes.

Royal Underground is to debut Oct. 30 at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's and the specialty store Boogie's in Aspen, Colo. "Everyone knows Aspen is my favorite playground," Gray said.

Gray departed the knitwear empire that her parents, Robert and Marie Gray, built in July 2005 as then-chief executive officer Richard Cohen sought to overhaul the Irvine, Calif., company. Marie Gray, who oversaw design, also exited St. John.

Sixx, who designs his own tour costumes and has dabbled with licensors, met Gray at a Mötley Crüe concert in February, but the two didn't exactly become pals.

"In full makeup and costume, he scared the bejeezus out of me, so I didn't say more than 10 words to him for two months," recalled Gray, who has become something of a Mötley Crüe groupie since hitting it off with drummer Tommy Lee last January."Tommy and I became fast friends, and I traveled with him on and off for a couple of months, going to shows when I was in the same city," she said. "When he first invited me to a concert, I was afraid to go because I am a crowd-phobic." To prepare, Gray rented concert DVDs and bought the band's CDs, and she watched her first show from the lighting booth.

"I became fascinated with Nikki because he was so passionate about clothes, and I think he was curious about me, too," Gray said.

After the tour ended, the pair decided to meet for lunch to talk about launching a line.

"We went into the market and realized that so many people want to live this rock 'n' roll lifestyle, but that not many can pull off the watered-down costume look, so we decided to go luxe," she said.

What does her mother think of the line? "When she saw the zipper pulls, she said, 'You've got to get all the weight out of these!' And I was like, 'Mom, we just put all the weight in them. These are guys' clothes."

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