From Marlene Dietrich to Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall and Anne Hathaway’s 2011 Oscar ensemble, Hollywood’s leading ladies have long held respect for the monochromatic, androgynous tailored suit.
Swedish alt-pop singer-songwriter Lykke Li opts for a similar aesthetic on stage and in life. “Nick Cave and Patti Smith and millions before me can’t have been wrong on black being their first and last love,” she says. “I was a total floral hippie as a child so when I finally could make my own choices, I’ve been living in different black suit jackets and been really drawn to masculine clothes.” It’s a fashion statement borne of utility—Li lives out of a suitcase while touring and says she has long dreamed of a single, portable uniform she could cart along in a minimalist bag. “I’m not interested in trends,” she declares.
Now, in collaboration with & Other Stories, the higher-end H&M offshoot brand (which, coincidentally, makes its Stateside debut next door to Prada on Broadway this fall), Li’s had the chance to design a collection of pieces, working with the brand every step of the way, from sketches to samples to the final set of garments. “I think the seamstress started getting a bit confused when I started quoting J.R.R. Tolkien in the middle of picking fabrics,” the songstress jokes. The resulting capsule’s references are less esoteric: direct reproductions of fashion staples through the ages including exaggerated bellbottoms, cigarette pants, black mock-neck pullovers, and a drawstring leather carryall. The raw materials lend an entirely contemporary feel. Leather abounds, accessories are sturdy and geometric, and silk offers a feminine touch to masculine blouses.
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Li says she has long dreamed of the perfect piece—”one I can never find, one without any lines or unnecessary details”—and, having whet her taste for turning those mental images into something concrete, she doesn’t see herself turning back.
Musically, Lykke Li’s releases have run the gamut from pop to crooning folk. And no matter the part she casts for herself, she fully inhabits the role. In the video for “Gunshot” (2014), she channels a lovelorn zombie, while “I Follow Rivers” (2011) sees her swathed in black against a snowy Swedish landscape. Her most recent effort, I Never Learn, finds her heartbroken after a relationship turns sour. The outfits she selects are inextricably linked to the characters she plays and the music she creates. When she speaks of her design process for & Other Stories, it’s in romanticized imaginings of a part she might play, like a warrior preparing for battle or a “Bedouin dressing for the desert winds.”
“Music and fashion are a sign of the times and a reflection of what people want and need at this very day and age,” says Li. While she insists her stripped-down, minimalist and masculine look is the result of what she herself “wants and needs,” it nevertheless draws from the iconic women who made menswear their own. It follows suit, if you will.
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