Alexa Ray Joel dishes on her favorite jewels, music, and more! Here’s part two of my interview.
HS: Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry?
ARJ: It’s too hard to narrow it down to just one!! But, I do have three favorite pieces that I wear altogether sometimes. One is a black and silver choker-cross which I found myself, the other is a diamond-cross which I was lucky enough to receive from my beautiful Mother, (it sits a few inches below the first cross), and then the longest cross is a vintage silver and turquoise cross my amazing Father gave me recently. (I guess they caught-on that I have a serious affinity for crosses!) It’s nice because they’re all perfectly in alignment with one another, so they look good together, and three crosses makes such a statement even just with a t-shirt and jeans. Plus, I feel like I always have both my Mom and Dad together close to my heart.
HS: Have you always been interested in fashion?
ARJ: Not always! Looking back a few years ago, I would say my style was pretty frumpy. Or, I would just let whatever stylist I was working with take over and drown me in very expensive, designer looks, or very girly, trendy pieces. Still, designer looks and trendy pieces are NOT inherently equivalent to great personal style. And so, I never felt like myself until I really started cultivating my own personal looks, and styling myself. Only over the past year or so have I really honed-in on fashion and developed my own personal aesthetic. I love taking basic, solid-colored pieces and playing them up with layers or a dressy heel, or loads of jewelry. A lot of people operate under the misconception that fashion is all about vanity and self-absorption, but I don’t see it that way. I see it as a beautiful, innovative way to express oneself and to inspire others who take notice. A unique outfit or accessory is a great way to make an immediate impression and statement about one’s individual identity, creativity, and/or personality. It’s like painting on a blank canvas because there is infinite freedom, and you can make it look however you like, but it always looks best when it reflects something personal and specialized about the individual. I don’t believe that there are “rules” to fashion unless you want to be a fashion victim, I say, the sky is the limit! Sometimes I’ll deliberately break the rules and wear two different colored socks with shoes, or wear two knee-socks together. I’ll also tie loose fitted-tops or collard-shirts, (which aren’t meant to be wrinkled and knotted-up), because I love taking a basic top and making it more feminine. Knotting shirts also immediately makes it look more vintage, breaks up the look, and draws attention to the waist, which I love. Lately, I’ve been wearing a lot of black and navy together, which has long been considered a fashion-faux pas. Meanwhile, I think it looks so refined and elegant! When you’re young, and you have a passion for fashion, why not play, right?
HS: Who are a few of your favorite designers?
ARJ: I’ve been wearing a lot from Sample Store these days. They have these beautiful, bohemian hand-made knits in gorgeous, vibrant mixtures of colors, which I’m really into right now. I LOVE the sexy and timeless Azzedine Alaia, (check out the movie “The Grifters”- Angelica Houston looks impossibly sexy in all their fitted suits and blazers. The fit and style is immaculate and brings out a woman’s curves while still elongating and slimming the frame), Vintage Helmut Lang is extremely chic for minimalist basics, Agent Provocateuris the hottest for lingerie, and nobody can beat Christian Louboutin for beautiful shoes!
HS: How has your style evolved?
ARJ: My style really didn’t have any, well, style, until I discovered vintage, AND started really paying attention to fashion on the streets of New York– the hipsters in the East Village, the young fashionistas in the West Village, etc. Their look was so much more original, because most of them were mixing high-end with low-end fashion (with a hearty dose of vintage thrown in). Mixing vintage pieces with contemporary designers really opened up the way I looked at fashion and, therefore, the way I dress myself. I used to just wear all modern designer pieces from head-to-toe, when doing say, a red-carpet look, or wear all casual, low-end clothes altogether (like jeans, a shirt, and casual boots/sneakers) when going, say, out for lunch. Now, I don’t quite feel myself unless I’m mixing high-end, low-end, and vintage altogether to creative one unique, multifaceted look for each day. For example, I hosted a Superbowl-Sunday Party last week, and I wanted to look festive without being too dressed up, so I wore my favorite black American Apparel leg warmers I mentioned earlier (I call them my ‘Sporty Kneesocks!’), along with high black platforms, and a mesh-style Black Sample Dress with straps hitting below the shoulders, (very Marilyn Monroe), along with a thick black vintage-velvet belt to make it look a bit more sexy and fitted, topped with bunches of silver bangles loaded up on one arm. That way, I’ve got a casual, ‘street’ element, the knee-socks/leg-warmers, to keep it young, the dress makes it somewhat dressy and feminine, the vintage belt defines the fit, and the silver accessories make it playful and funky. I used to just think I had to put each item of clothing together to make an outfit that was perfectly cohesive, sensible, and ‘matching’. Now, I have so much more fun breaking it up by mixing high-end and low-end pieces together to tell a story and reveal more than one dimension of style; whereas before, I felt I had to creative an outfit that fit into just one of two looks: Dressy OR Casual. Thanks goodness for the evolution of personal style.
HS: Let’s turn to a little bit about music! You have two very musically inclined parents, how did they influence you to become a singer?
ARJ: Well, growing up, both my Mom and Dad were always hamming it up around the house! They’re both natural-born entertainers, and so, of course, I was heavily influenced by them, since my parents always were and always will be my heros. They were quite a ‘comedic duo’– constantly doing spot-on impersonations, duets, and harmonizing together on everything from Rogers & Hart, to The Beatles, to the latest pop-song on the radio. No, naturally, I just joined in by default! We were big into musicals. I grew up on “Carousel”, “Guys & Dolls”, “My Fair Lady”, “Showboat”and my parents would take me to both the American and London Productions, so I quickly memorized all the music by heart. We were constantly putting on shows and singing around the house. My Mom would video-tape me and Dad, I’d be singing songs from “The Sound of Music” and “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, and Dad, of course, would accompany me perfectly on piano. Mom would dress me up as Ariel from The Little Mermaid, or Cosette from “Les Miserables”, and she’d just video-tape me singing and dancing, and Dad played for hours and hours on end. We had so much fun! And so, I came to realize that I had more fun singing with them than I did doing anything else and that’s when I made up my mind that I wanted to become a singer. Personally, I think the key to life is finding that ONE thing you love to do, more than anything else, that one thing that you wake up in the morning thinking about. And, for me, that one thing is music.
Tune in tomorrow for part three. You won’t want to miss it, xo
(first picture via Mia McDonald, second picture by Dan Katz)