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Last week, as Gwen Stefani was showing her L.A.M.B. collection in the Lincoln Center Tents, another rocker, Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, was hosting the New York debut of WTB—or—White Trash Beautiful, the fashion line he designs with Nikki Lund. Shown at the Metropolitan Pavilion, the models walked to music which was also co-created by the designers. We spoke with Richie about his views on fashion, women and his very atypical life as a designer.
Racked: When did you start being interested in doing a collection and what made you take the plunge?
Richie: It came out of a song idea I had called "White Trash Beautiful," which was obviously about a girl on the wrong side of the tracks, but she was a fox and everybody dug her. Jon [Bon Jovi] and I had written the song, and it obviously was something we would have wrote when we were in our 20s—it didn't actually fit the style of what we are saying now, being more grown-up. So we shelved the song. Now we fast forward six months, and I'm walking around my house one day and I said, "You know, that really sounds like a cool name for a women's fashion line." So I called my agent and I started to meet people, and he hooked me up with this wonderful girl, Nikki Lund, who had an existing company called Eccentric Symphony. We hit it off and she got exactly what my vision was.
She came over my house a couple of days later, with a truck-load full of fabrics and we just started to jam just almost like song writers. We started putting fabrics together—we'll make a skirt out of this, and we'll compliment it with this, that, and the other thing.
Racked: So you're contribution to the line is literally, physically, designing the clothes with Nikki?
Richie: Yeah, I get into the whole choosing fabrics. Obviously she's the main designer. She's extremely talented. Then six months later, I find out she also happens to be a songwriter and musician. I'm kind of skeptical about it, but we sit down and we write a couple of songs and they are really good. So I asked, "Who do you want to work with?" And she said, "The production team The Matrix." They've worked with Avril Lavigne, Brittney Spears, David Bowie and Korn. So I called them up and said, "Let's get together," and now we have a record. The girls walk to some of the songs at our fashion shows and it's completely different than anything you'd think I'd be involved with musically. Guerilla dance music! I toyed with the idea of putting a song or two on a drive and attaching it when you buy the clothes. It will drive you right to a site where you can see everything.
Racked: You were talking about your vision. What is the inspiration for this collection?
Richie: Well this is like a spring collection, more or less—chiffons and silhouettes, and things like that, but there are a lot of jeans, short jackets and bustiers. It's a spring kind of thing. Our first collection, off the bat it was rockier and heavier: leathers and snakes skins and zebra prints. This collection is a little more airy, a little more ready to wear, so to speak. I think it's going to do well.
Racked: What type of woman—although we kind of have an idea from the name White Trash Beautiful—would you say wears your clothing?
Richie: I think any woman could wear this collection, really. It's like sexy jeans and sexy little shirts. It's not trashy—what it is, is elegant. The name is a little bit funky, so we're going to keep it at WTB. I think the name might constitute some kind of negative connotation but it's really just fun. We're trying to create stuff that's timeless. Nothing to do with trash.
Racked: Whose designs do you wear?
Richie: Everything that I wear on a day to day basis now, and also on stage, I design. So I've been kind of doing this haphazardly for a long time, but now there's a concept behind it...Actually a turning point for me, was when I was about twenty eight years old and I started dating Cher. Obviously she's a fashionista, she taught me a lot.
Racked: What did Cher teach you?
Richie: How to put things together. You shouldn't wear this with that; what was right for the occasion. Because when you're a kid you don't know that kind of stuff, especially when you're a man. She's a great lady.
Racked: So that had an input into your line today?
Richie: Absolutely, I think you bring everything in your life to where you are at this point, right now. Everything I see on women walking down the street is a big part of my input in this particular line. I know what I like to see women in. I think that clothes are an expression for women especially. That's what I want this line to do. Empower women, make them feel like they are an individual, make them feel sexy. Cause everybody's got a little bit of white trash in them. No matter where you are. Everybody wants to be a little sexy and a little trashy. I think it's a part of femininity.
Racked: You've mastered one creative field, what's it like starting as a novice in another one?
Richie: It's great, that's the beauty to life, that you never stop learning. Nikki's teaching me a lot about that stuff. I'm learning a lot about retail, and about fashion retail and all this other stuff, all over the world. It's a great experience and I'm having fun because I get to create in a whole other realm.
Racked: What do Jon Bon Jovi and the rest of the band think of the line?
Richie: They're digging it. Jon's daughter waked in my show in London. My daughter walked in both the LA shows that we've done. Everybody's very supportive in the band of each other's individual projects. No matter what they are. That's what I think is the main ingredient that keeps this band together almost thirty years now.