Byline: Rose Apodaca Jones
LOS ANGELES — As fashion designers and supermodels continue to invade Hollywood behind and in front of the camera, actors are proving they, too, can cross over.
The latest to make the transition is Justine Bateman, who’ll go down in pop culture annals as the oldest Keaton sister on “Family Ties.” Her nascent signature line of edgy sweaters, knitted caps and crochet bikinis emerged out of a relatively new interest in yarns and needles.
Yet unlike other celebrities who’ve been hooked by the craft — making it as requisite here as feng shui, fruit smoothies and yoga — Bateman decided she’d found her next role in life.
“This is my second big career,” she said from her home deep in woodsy Laurel Canyon, just a few miles off of Tinseltown’s gridlocked Sunset Boulevard.
“I went to my [acting] manager and I said: ‘Even though I hadn’t done any acting in a while’ — because it just didn’t interest me — ‘I’m not acting anymore. Thanks for everything.’ I said goodbye to my entertainment lawyer, business manager, everything. I got an accounting firm that handles this kind of business. I went for a trademark lawyer and a copyright lawyer. I have a pretty clear sense of what it’s going to all look like, eventually.”
That was last March, only five months after stumbling into La Knitterie Parisienne in Studio City.
“I was bored,” she continued. “I went into the yarn store and I just started getting more ideas than I knew what to do with.”
She looped angled pullovers from merino, sexy bikinis of mohair and caps from chenille. “I don’t like working with acrylic or any yarn that doesn’t feel good to wear. I can’t stand that.”
An enthusiastic response from friends and stylists who heard about the sweaters by word of mouth, prompted the lithe, bronzed Bateman to go on her gut instinct and change gears. “I can’t live on a fence. I had to just go, ‘OK, either I’m a designer or I’m not.”‘
Henry Duarte recently picked up several scarves trimmed with real mink and fox to go with the rock ‘n’ roll leatherwear in his West Hollywood boutique; across town in Beverly Hills, Acacia special-ordered chenille halters according to the stock palette.
Stylists for Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani and Glamour, Maxim, Mademoiselle, InStyle and Harper’s Bazaar regularly pop in to her home studio.
Guns and Ammo and Field and Stream have also featured her wares. But it was the “Hunting is Cool” slogan under her Bad Baby Boy brand that interested the magazines.
For some reason that Bateman isn’t able to pinpoint, the sweaters gave way to three lines of custom T-shirts: Bad Baby Boy, Bad Baby Girl and Swerve. She cuts up kimonos and images on vintage T-shirts and stitches them onto new tops, or has created her own images — including male and female infants winking and smoking cigarettes.
The lines, she said, will become “a twisted version of Hello Kitty,” with a full range of products and a retail concept with the puffing infants as the stars.
She has already staked a place online with badbabyboy.com, a Pac-Man-inspired Web game of the baby taking out a neon-trimmed town. An e-commerce component is under development, she said.
“For every three ideas I get, I only have time to make one,” she lamented. “And then while I’m making that one, I get three more ideas. I have a real backlog of stuff I want to make.”
Her plan is for swerve.com, badbabyboy.com and badbabygirl.com to finance those ideas, leaving her to pursue less-commercial designs and production with the signature knit line.
“I don’t want to pass it off for somebody else to make unless I have to. It’s no fun for me to crank out the sweaters. The idea really is the specialness. There are a lot of designers and manufacturers who make really great regular clothes. I’m not going to start making jeans because Earl does such a great job. I’m not going to start making suits because I really like how Armani does that. But I want my pieces to be the kind that you can add to your Armani suit or Earl jeans,” she said.
This is fashion as art for the former actress, the organic silhouettes molding to the wearer. “Yarn is kind of like clay to me,” she noted. “There is something so intimate about hand-making these. I’d love to keep that.