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Lyric Culture Weaving Word Images

If music stars can wear their hearts on their sleeves, why not the rest of us?

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — If music stars can wear their hearts on their sleeves, why not the rest of us?

Hanna Schmieder, president of Lyric Culture, a new jeans and sportswear line with the lyrics of classic rock songs screen-printed on the fabric, aims to answer that question. The collection is set to make its debut in the spring.

“Music is a universal language, and lyrics are a lifestyle,” said Schmieder, whose album, “Wound & Hypnotized,” is also due out in the spring.

Schmieder has been writing song lyrics on her jeans for years. She never considered going into the fashion business until her producer, Jack Douglas, saw her wearing a pair of jeans she had emblazoned with the words to Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry.” He spoke about the concept with fashionable rocker friends such as Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who encouraged Schmieder to start the line.

To secure the rights to songs by The Beatles, America and David Bowie, among others whose lyrics she admires, Schmieder acted as an artist first and a businesswoman second. “I approached the record labels as a musician wanting to do something special on a premium level, not another merchandiser looking to make a buck off a concert T-shirt,” she said.

The result is a line of embellished jeans, T-shirts, denim and leather jackets, shorts, skirts and belts that will retail between $80 and $800. Jewelry and bags, designed by an in-house team of 10, are also in the works. Schmieder plans to launch the line in specialty retailers such as Fred Segal, Scoop and H Lorenzo, as well as Saks Fifth Avenue, and then branch out into other major department stores.

“Due to our significant licenses and truly innovative product, we’ve been receiving an incredible amount of interest in our line. We project moving between 40 and 50,000 units in our first year, with significant growth in our second and third years,” said Ronny J. Halperin, chief executive officer.

The product landed in the spotlight when Brooke Burke wore a leather skirt and bustier decorated with The Beatles’ “Let It Be” on an August episode of CBS TV’s “Rock Star Supernova,” and Kelly Clarkson sported an “American Pie” T-shirt to sing the national anthem at the opening of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race at the California Speedway in Fontana in September.

This story first appeared in the November 22, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The fine-gauge T-shirts sport artsy graphics that incorporate words and several of them also are printed on the inside.

Entering the competitive premium denim market without design experience was a challenge. “I had a little advantage because I am the target customer for my jeans,” she said.

During the research and development process, Schmieder and her girlfriends — actresses, models and musicians — tried on their jeans alongside the competition to ensure a proper fit. She then screen-printed lyrics down the sides, and embellished some with Swarovski crystals, satin ribbon or snakeskin.

Schmieder, whose father was a violinist and conductor and whose mother was a music festival producer, grew up around violin masters such as Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin and Jascha Heifetz and spent her childhood performing in operettas and musicals. Still, she was reluctant to get into the music business.

“It’s not a kind business … So much is marketing, so I decided to learn that side,” she said. Her years as a public relations and marketing executive taught her to find alternative revenue streams for creativity, which has come full circle in Lyric Culture.

She encourages musicians to drop by her Sunset Strip headquarters, a house blocks from clubs such as The Viper Room and The Roxy, to participate in the design process. The band America recently handwrote the lyrics to “Horse With No Name,” which were later printed onto a jacket and skirt. Schmieder sees it as the ultimate melding of art and fashion: “Artists collaborate and they get a royalty from every unit, so everybody wins.”