Alison Mosshart rarely – if ever – loses her cool. Onstage with The Kills or The Dead Weather she’s a figure of studied intensity, this controlled menace and imprisoned passion lingering just behind that ever-lit cigarette.
When Clash catches up with her at Browns East in Shoreditch, she’s reclining on a sofa. We’re here to chat about her collaboration with the New York label R13, a full capsule of clothing that ranges from prowling cheetah Iggy Pop ‘73 style jackets through to neo-psychedelic prints and cinematic reference points.
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Even at a glance it’s immediately possible to tell that this is far more than some skin-deep partnership – this is a full creative endeavour, one that the American-born vocalist has approached with ruthless dedication.
“I’ve been friends with them for a while and I’ve been wearing their clothes for a really long time,” she explains of the partnership. “I don’t even remember the conversation, exactly. We were hanging out and all of a sudden I was drawing pictures of what I wanted to make.”
“We have the same love for the same kind of music and art. It’s a perfect fit. I was so trusting. I would draw these pictures send him what I wanted and how I wanted it to be. It took very few changes it was just immediate.”
Having previously studied visual arts in London, Alison Mosshart feels that each form of creativity in her life draws from the same space. “When I am painting I get this adrenaline rush,” she says. “It’s fast... and then music is much more like a sweatier version!”
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One thing that drew her to the R13 collaboration was the shock of the new, the feeling of entering unexplored ground. “It felt like uncharted territory for me,” she insists. “I could definitely fuck it up. But I am very much into it, do you get what I mean? It’s exciting and it’s a learning curve.”
“I trust myself when I make something,” she shrugs. “If I think it’s cool, then at least there will be one person who wants to wear it all the time. I try not to dwell on things going wrong because I don’t think there’s any point in that. So I just try to do everything.”
The end result, though, is fantastic. Drawing on rock ‘n’ roll mythology, Alison Mosshart seems able to transplant this into a future-facing context. It’s both timeless and of its time, stylish clothing that is design to be worn, damaged, and fucked with.
“I don’t know how to sew,” she grins. “It’s like making a sculpture that you can just wear."
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It’s clothing for outlaws, for people on the fringes of society. The range is built for punks and freaks, those who want to stand out because they can never fit in. Stylistically, it leans on both New York and London punk, from The Stooges to the Sex Pistols and beyond, throwing in some references to cult counter-cultural flick Vanishing Points - “probably my favourite ever movie!” - along the way.
She comments: “I suppose being born in the ‘70s and you discover and discovered the music when you were born, 20 years later. That is your music.”
Working fast, Alison thinks the capsule probably took around a week to get into decent shape, and then a few months to finesse. “For me it happens really fast,” she insists. “I write really fast. I am not methodical at all. I am like an explosion going off in the corner and then he has got to collect the pieces and glue them back together.”
“It’s like when you’re making a painting,” she continues. “I never know where it’s going. I just let it take me and I stop when I like it. It’s the same with this.”
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Each detail has to be accounted for – from the fabrics to the colours, down to the smallest element. Her standout leopard skin coat has a brown zipper. “Who demands a brown zipper?” she laughs. “I was so sure about it.”
One recurring motif is cars – both as a symbol of freedom, and brooding sexuality. It’s something Alison Mosshart has played with in her lyrics, and it dominates the new R13 range.
“I mean, I grew up with my dad who’s a car dealer... so I grew up around cars my whole life. They’ve always meant freedom to me – excitement and speed. And I think they are fucking beautiful. I’ve been on the road since I was 14 so the highway is as much my home as anywhere I’ve ever lived”.
That’s the thing: Alison is constantly moving. Recently working on a book and a spoken word project, her life never settles. This comes through most strongly in the look book, with the pictures – which she was integral to – visually referencing New York’s legendary, and long since shuttered, Chelsea Hotel.
“It’s been closed for a very long time,” she explains. “So, I tried to find something with that feeling. I searched because that was such an important part of my life.”
“The building was just insane,” she says. “Everything had high ceilings and the rooms were just huge because people used to actually live there, so it had a little kitchenette, a dining room table that’s kind of wobbling, and a couple of lamps with no bulbs in them, and you always had to go ask for batteries for the remote...”
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“If you walked to the elevator you were stepping over paintings that were drying and somebody would be playing piano in the other room. It was just full of creatives of all walks of music and art and film and theatre... everyone was there. There were a lot of dogs there. The dogs would ride the elevator alone, knowing someone was going to let them out, and someone is going to let them back in. It was wild. It was the coolest time.”
It’s this spirit that comes through in the R13 lookbook, and something Alison Mosshart has never forgotten. Perhaps that’s why clothing means so much to her, Clash ventures – with life in transit, anything that makes you feel at home has tremendous value.
“Your house is with you at all times,” she nods. “So anything that makes you feel settled in anyway is important. I’ve lost clothes on a tour before and I cried. It’s an unnatural reaction. It’s the shittiest, worthless, worth-no-money, piece of shit thing that I’ve had forever, but if I leave it behind... It’s like someone dies. It’s hard-core.”
“Everything is different, every single second – the little things that stay the same, those are the ones that really matter.”
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R13 x Alison Mosshart is out now.
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