Andrea Lieberman's clothing line, ALC, provides a smart and versatile wardrobe for alpha-females – a demographic she's well experienced in attiring. Known as one of music's premier stylists, Lieberman gained fame dressing the likes of Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez, Shirley Manson and Mary J. Blige in some of their most memorable video, stage and red carpet moments.
Some of those relationships grew into even more collaborative roles – she helped Stefani launch clothing line L.A.M.B., and Manson ended up playing muse to Lieberman's own line years later. Now with the launch of ALC's Spring 2012 jewelry line, which features music-spiked staples like refined punk studs and brass, crystal-accented handcuffs, she's ready to take her design endeavors to new heights.
You were one of the premier stylists in the entertainment industry. When did you decide to expand into design?
I always wanted to be a designer. I went to Parsons, and I studied design. Then I fell into styling. I feel like the luckiest girl to have been able to work with so many talented, creative women; but it was a personal choice to change my life, to pursue design. Styling was a lot of commitment and a lot of travel.
What did you enjoy most about styling?
The red carpet stuff I did was always in addition to the greater scope of what styling was for me, which creating images and performances and tours and costumes. I remember being up all night in Vegas, ironing on rhinestones, for example. It was an amazing super fun journey.
You did create one of the most memorable red carpet images in history: J. Lo in that plunging Versace dress at the 2000 Grammy Awards.
Oh, that was very iconic. I spotted that dress and it spoke to me. When we had the actual fitting, she loved it. It was an amazing dress and it was on the right woman at the right time. Jennifer looked Amazonian: amazing, strong, and confident.
Are you attracted to working with powerful women?
The people I've worked with are icons. Gwen is an amazing visionary; I haven't had a hand in her projects for a long time, but I love what she does. I like to think we've all influenced each other in some way; sometimes one thing leads to another. I met Shirley Manson through [video director] Sophie Muller, who also worked with Gwen. Then, I ended up styling a Garbage video [for "Tell Me Where It Hurts"], and Shirley became the muse for my first collection in 2009. She represents my ideal woman: strong, smart, ridiculously cool. Mary J. Blige, too.
Why did you decide to expand ALC into jewelry?
I always did jewelry. It was always one of my favorite parts of styling. I've approached it from an adornment perspective, a tribal viewpoint. It's always been an organic process for me to do fashion jewelry. I like to make things that I want to wear – punk inspired studs, for example. We've grown up with all these musical inspirations from the 1980s; for me, I'm more evolved now and "grown-up, but I still want my jewelry to reflect my life experience and spirit. I keep it raw and refined. Again, I see it as tribal adornment – a moment happened in life, captured in ritual. Jewelry can hold a lot of symbolic value. I lived in Africa, so I will always carry the tribal spirit with me.
How did music influence your style?
I was also child of the 1980s: Duran Duran, are you kidding me? Culture Club, Tears For Fears. I also loved David Bowie and Bob Marley; all really influential to me. I actually was more into the guys than girls. I was so boyish and I shaved my hairback then – I still love boys' style.
Who were some female musicians whose look did catch your eye?
Cher, with her long hair and amazing dresses. There wasn't a lot of variety on television when I was growing up, and I was about five years old when I saw her for the first time. Then, I loved Lauryn Hill's look in the 1990s. And Françoise Hardy is eternal.
You've lived on both coasts. What are your thoughts on how women in New York dress compared to L.A.?
I grew up in NYC, now I live in Los Angeles. It's a different lifestyle in L.A.; people don't dress up here. They dress for their lifestyle, so it's very relaxed. I love that casualness, though. Vintage couture is a huge thing. I do love when people get up and have a full look, and are fully committed to that look – whether uptown or downtown. And New Yorkers have full commitment to style. NYC is much more cosmopolitan, closer to Europe.
Which of your designs best captures your aesthetic?
Probably the handcuffs. For one of my styling projects a few years ago, I had to do a lot of research on handcuffs and keys. I like the challenge: take something that feels hard and make it beautiful. That's what I do with my line. It has an industrial and architectural feel meets Club Nouveau.
What is on your iPod right now?
It's generally old school reggae. Lately, the new Kanye and Jay-Z record – anything by Jay-Z is good. Also, old Willie Nelson. But yeah, I'm happy with my reggae!