A rainbow suits her fine
-A J When singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis released her 2014 album “The Voyager,” she also introduced her “graffiti Gram Parsons suit.” It was a sartorial nod to the ornate, nature-inspired suit that flamboyant tailor Nudie Cohn styled for the country rock icon in the ’60s. Now Lewis’ signature look, her original suit was sourced by stylist Shirley Kurata, then airbrushed by graphic designer Adam Siegel. The star-dusted designs have been splashed across all things Lewis — from her guitar to her shoes to the label of her own private wine. She’s been suited on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and onstage at last year’s Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. Fans are no doubt wondering if Lewis will don her magical rainbow suit when she hits the sunbaked desert stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 12 and 19.
The Studio City-based singer called from New York — where she was shooting a video for her “smoldering ex” single “She’s Not Me” — to talk suits, style evolution, Goodwill shopping and her least favorite Coachella fashions. Will the “graffiti Gram Parsons suit” be coming to Coachella with you?
First of all, I want to address the suit, which has really changed my outlook on life and fashion. It makes me feel like a lady version of Willy Wonka. I have four suits, and the more I post on my Instagram … people are starting to turn on the suit. They’re starting to comment: “God, Jenny! You really need to stop wearing that suit. Like, right now!” And I just wonder why would anyone wear anything other than rainbows if they had the choice?
I don’t know if people know the difference between the suits because to me they’re so different and they’re individual works of art. Each one is so unique and beautiful, and I feel so magical when I wear them. But to answer your question, I have a special new thing for Coachella, and it’s thematically in line with what I’ve been doing but slightly different.
So you can’t give any hints?
Well, I don’t wanna fully give it away, but I may have to install shoulder pads. [Laughs.]
It isn’t that I don’t like your rainbows. I was just concerned for you … that you might get overheated.
I appreciate that. And I actually played Lollapalooza last year in the rainbow suit and... I was going to faint onstage, it was so hot! But there is something about wearing a suit for me where I sort of embody a different character than if I’m in hot pants. What is that character? How would you describe it?
There’s something really grounded feeling about wearing a men’s suit. There’s a certain ease to it, you know? My posture’s kind of relaxed.
What is your take on “Coachella style” becoming just as important as the music for some people?
Well, I never begrudge someone who wants to wear as little as possible. [Laughs.] Which seems to be the trend, like “a bikini with a flower crown” is acceptable attire. It is out in the desert, so even if it is from Forever 21 — or Forever 31 … or Forever 41, as I will call it in a few years — I think it hearkens back to Gram Parsons and that kind of idea of the desert in the ’70s. So I think it’s well intended.
But I would like the flower crown to be retired for a moment. How would you describe your personal style evolution?
Late bloomer. Growing up, I was a tomboy, but I was also an actress. I had to dress up for my day job, but when I finished work on the set I would change into a giant pair of Dickies and a weird rave hat. Actually, my mom, for whatever reason, encouraged me to not wear skirts or shorts. So as a kid I never exposed my arms or legs for the most part.
So in my mid- to late 20s, I sort of had a style revolution. ... My shorts just kept getting shorter because I could, and I felt confident for the first time in my life because I’d found myself through music.
It’s funny going from that in my late 20s, early 30s and finding myself in a suit in my mid-30s.
It’s weird how … it’s always like when I’m having a personal crisis, my fashion reflects that. And when I come out of it, it’s like I have incredible thrift store luck. It’s like the thrift store gods will look down on me and they’re like, “We will give you these gifts!” Do you do a lot of thrifting?
Yeah. I’d say 90% of my wardrobe is thrift. For me, the songwriting process is linked to going to thrift stores. Somehow it’s a very solitary mission to go on. And there’s always music in the background that you wouldn’t necessarily listen to on your own. And the cast of characters is always so amazing. I always have the best conversations when I’m at the Goodwill! Are there any designers that you love?
Well, I accept all free things from designers. Just putting that out there. [Laughs.] I’m actually friends with [Rodarte designers] Kate and Laura Mulleavy. They’re so very sweet. They just sent me these amazing heels that I wore in the video I just shot. Rachel Antonoff is incredible, and she’s about my size [5-foot-3 ⁄ ], so she designs for smaller women. She’s so talented and generous! And Elkin is another L.A.-based company that also has smaller women in mind, and it’s just the best stuff ever.
But if I’m going to spring on my own, I will cough up the big bucks for a pair of Saint Laurent boots.
JENNY LEWIS , seen in 2014, on her “graffiti Gram Parsons suit”: “It makes me feel like a lady version of Willy Wonka.”