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August 23 2014

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Sleigh Bells Frontwoman Alexis Krauss Talks Coachella Fashion Norms, Style Evolutions, and Wearing Crocs

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alexisThank the rock-and-roll style gods for Alexis Krauss, front woman of noisy pop duo Sleigh Bells, whose sartorial-slaying style is greatly appreciated in the current sea of zanily dressed pop starlets with a penchant for trend-hopping. There’s the sea punk, the ratchet realness, the ghetto gothic, the lovelorn old Hollywood damsel in distress. Then there’s—sartorial sigh—the normcore. But with three Sleigh Bells’ albums under her studded belt, Krauss continues to keep it real with the classic rock-and-roll duds. She’s doing something very right, and we’re not just talking about Sleigh Bells’ inescapable bangers soundtracking Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring, and HBO’s Girls.

The Brooklyn-based band plays Coachella for the third time starting this weekend (Saturday at 9:10 p.m. PST between Lorde and Pharrell, to be exact), which will find Krauss hair-whipping (and probably crowd-surfing) whilst belting it out.

Style.com caught up with the former schoolteacher before she headed over to the festival. She spilled about her thoughts on the (oftentimes unfortunate) Coachella fashion norm, her dreams of working with Alexander Wang and meeting Pharrell, and her style evolution: her suburban alt-kid-meets-pop-diva high school style; her corporate, crocs-heavy schoolteacher style; and her (of course) current killer style as a punky princess.

What was your style like in high school?
It was kind of weird because I was also in a girl pop band, RubyBlue. It was this weird disconnect where among my friends I was wearing, like, creepers and studded belts and spaghetti tank tops with, like, the Gwen Stefani knots in my hair. But then in my professional life—which sounds crazy to say because I was, like, 15—but with RubyBlue, it was much more bubblegum-pop style. There were, like, sparkling bell-bottoms going on and hot pink corset tops. I went through my period in high school where all I would listen to was The Ramones, The Clash, The Smiths. I feel like I was the typical suburban alternative-looking kid but also, like, pop diva. It was a weird juxtaposition.

You were also an elementary schoolteacher pre-Sleigh Bells. How’d you dress then?
I’d like to think that I tried to be more fashionable than most teachers. The first year, I tried really hard. I thought, How can I embrace this corporate, casual world but do it in a way that’s fashionable? I did try to look cute, but then by my second year—I’m not gonna lie—I walked around in Crocs. I’d walk up four flights of stairs and stand in a classroom all day. When you’re waking up at 5 in the morning, you don’t really have the luxury of thinking of fashion like I do now.

What are your thoughts on the fashion and beauty expectations of women in pop music?
I definitely think women are held to a different standard than men, and as a female musician, you’re expected to engage with fashion and beauty in a way that men obviously aren’t. That being said, there’s this whole styling industry that goes along with being a female artist. A lot of artists engage with that but a bit haphazardly. People are giving them clothes, but they don’t really have a strong sense of personal style. Then there’s obviously artists who have incredible personal style and have that gift to curate amazing designers and pieces and kind of pull it all together seemingly effortlessly. It’s kind of hard because you have to figure out who you are. Are you gonna be the person who can wear crazy couture pieces, or are you gonna be the person who just kind of wears basics?

I’ve finally kind of developed my own space that I’m comfortable in. I like being adventurous to a degree, but I also really like keeping it simple with denim, black, leather—simple pieces and moods that obviously reference classic rock ‘n’ rollers like Debbie Harry and Joan Jett. I’m really interested in fashion as an accessory to the music, and not as the dominant show. But that’s just me. For a while, I feel like I tried to make myself into something I wasn’t by just saying yes to everything. It became stressful and disingenuous, so at this point, I like repping pieces by brands that I love and I know and I have a personal relationship with. I’m not looking to wear something because it’s on trend, or I should wear that because it will get me attention. I’m much more interested in calling up somebody I know and being like, “Hey, let’s work on this really awesome, badass, simple denim jacket” and call it a day.

Would you ever consider being the face of a major fashion brand? Alexander Wang, for instance, has a thing for musicians in campaigns and front-rows.
I was just gonna say Alex. I went to his show back in September, and I had the pleasure of meeting him. For the show, he gave me these incredibly skinny leather pants and a great, black simple tank top and these incredible boots. It was just like, “If I had the money, this is how I’d dress every day.” He was such a doll, and it would be such a dream to collaborate with him in some capacity. I think he’s really innovative and always does stuff that is fun and playful but never for the sake of being adventurous or silly or avant-garde. He manages to be that designer I think really caters to the New York woman who is interested in her basics and her blacks, her leather, her denim, her great pair of black pants and a classic dress. It never feels contrived to me.

I’ve had the privilege of going to a few Kenzo shows, and Humberto [Leon] and Carol [Lim] are so wonderful. I’m not naturally really comfortable with bold patterns and prints, but they do it in a way that I absolutely love. Their latest collection was so gorgeous. I’d love to do something with them at some point.

So, according to your Instagram, you also love nail art.
I see nail art as a really great accessory. I’m much more into having crazy nail art than a really crazy necklace. I think it’s a great representation of the rest of your style. I like to keep my nail palate pretty classic: black, metallic, gold. I’ve been really into different nude polishes lately. And I love studs. Nail art’s been great because it comes out of a personal relationship with my friend Ria, who has a Tumblr called RiaNailz.tumblr.com. She’s been a collaborator with me on nail art and styling and video things. It’s a really cool, badass, female-dominated culture.

What are you expecting to see style-wise at Coachella this year?
I think there’ll be a lot of crop tops and high-waisted shorts, which I have no problem with—I love it. And lots of florals and neons and updated hippie sort of stuff—which is cool, it’s not personally my thing. My whole wardrobe is black and lace and leather and studs and leopard print. I’m like, “God, man, I need a more summer look.” I think the best festival style is simple and sexy: really good denim cutoff shorts, a good tank top, jerseys are always good, a layer—whether it’s a badass leather jacket or a vest—and just keeping it simple. A good T-shirt and cutoff jeans always cut it, in my opinion.

Is there anyone in particular you hope to meet with that coveted backstage pass?
I wanna meet Lorde and Pharrell—speaking of fashion, I wonder if he’ll wear his hat. I’d probably die and go to heaven if I met Pharrell. I just wanna ask him, “How do you make your skin look so incredible? How do you not age?”

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Dept. of Culture