NEW YORK — Don’t even think for a second that Gwen Stefani is over the fashion industry.
“Are you crazy? I love it. It’s my passion and distraction from life,” she told WWD while on a break from rehearsal for her No Doubt tour, which kicks off June 1 in Indianapolis. “The music is so challenging, but the designing is just so much fun, and while both are creative in their own ways, when I sit down to do L.A.M.B, it’s therapeutic.”
Stefani noted that the past year has been a true learning experience for her, balancing her two crafts so she can give both her music and her clothing line the attention they need.
“I will choose three days in a row that are reserved just for L.A.M.B,” she explained. “I meet with my designers and we brainstorm and talk about what we want to do, pick out fabrics, go over the details and really just fully concentrate on the line. No one is allowed to ask me anything about music during that time. So far, it’s been working out really well.”
L.A.M.B is currently carried in high-end specialty stores such as Nordstrom and Kitson in Los Angeles, Barneys New York and Henri Bendel here.
Now Stefani is about to present her second collection to buyers, and while many were skeptical at the high price points of each piece in the spring line, fall 2004 is different. Allyson Krowitz, merchandising manager, ready-to-wear, at Bendel’s, said that each piece in the line is well worth the price.
“The line has been great for us. We started out with spring and ended up doing about three reorders. It’s priced great, is great quality and customers love the fit,” she said of L.A.M.B, which is merchandised near labels like Ya-Ya, D&G and Joie. “The line has great details, like Gwen’s signature linings and lyrics from her songs screened on items. Customers who love Gwen love those details.”
At the launch last year, company executives predicted the line would bring in about $20 million in first-year retail volume. Today, that number has increased dramatically, as it expects to bring in $15 million with the fall collection alone. According to Ken Erman, president of Ska Girl, the company licensing L.A.M.B, the demand for the label has grown so much that fans of Stefani are selling T-shirts on eBay and raking in more than $100 per item. Generally, they retail for around $68.
“We get fans calling our office, they want to get their hands on anything we have,” he said. “They offer to pay for look books or hangtags, whatever.”
But Erman wants to keep the line focused in a limited amount of doors. It’s important, he said, for longevity.
“We are expanding with the fall collection, but are careful about where the line is placed,” he said. “Gwen launched this label with a certain special collection in mind. It’s truly well designed with high-end fabrics. It’s not a junior line, so we are keeping a hold on the distribution.”
The fall line, which wholesales from $22 to $250, according to Stefani, is much more mature than the spring collection. Some of the strongest pieces include a leopard-print wool trenchcoat, a wool plaid skirt with kick pleats, cream cashmere sweater with detachable hood and a button-down white shirt with an oversized collar and cuffs.
“I think the spring line turned out great,” Stefani said. “But I am in love with the fall line. I just love the tweeds, plaids and wools. They are more fun for me to work with. Also, I think that everyone I’m working with really knows me by now and they know my style, which makes the process so much easier. Even I know more about my own style and what I want to create. These are all clothes that were missing from my closet. I just can’t wait to get these in my closet.”
But Stefani said things aren’t always so easy: “I am so passionate about my line, but I also know that I am so new to this business, and I really need to train myself to not get so heartbroken when something is dropped from the collection. That’s horrible when that happens.”
Now, besides prepping for her summer tour with No Doubt — where she will be creating costumes from the fabrics she uses for L.A.M.B — Stefani is working on the spring 2005 collection. One that she said will be girly and boudoir-inspired, perfect for layering.
“I spend so much time making music, and now I’m spending all this time making clothes,” she said. “It’s just such a cool feeling making clothes and seeing people own something that I made. I feel so motivated and I can’t wait to do more.”