Liela Moss of the Duke Spirit on Her Brazen Style and Intense New Video

The fiesty frontwoman of the British blues-rock act offers aesthetic wisdom

The Duke Spirit
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The Duke Spirit - "Glorious", filmed and directed by Kid Acne & Dscreet

For the Duke Spirit's new video "Glorious," which Rolling Stone premieres above, the British blues-rock group invited friend and artist Kid Acne to collaborate on a darkly ritualistic vision that perfectly mirrors the band's raw, nervy aesthetic. In the short and cutting clip, female avengers stalk across a scorched land in full paganistic garb. The plot is murky, but the implications are unsettling and effective: danger abounds, and someone probably won't make it out alive. "Glorious" was shot in spare black and white and is bursting with combustible energy; it's glamorous but sinister, and manages to looks unlike much else right now.

The same attributes apply to frontwoman Liela Moss, who has emerged as one of the spunkiest rock frontwomen of the past decade, and become a salty fashion muse to many. Alexander McQueen once designed an entire collection based on her style; nowadays Emma Cook and Phillip Lim are among her admirers and collaborators. Moss speaks to Rolling Stone between tour stops to talk about the "Glorious" video, how her aesthetics reflects her interior world, and what she absolutely will and won't do in the name of fashion.

What can you tell us about the new video for "Glorious"? It has a slightly dark, paganistic meets avenger feel.
It is definitely postmodern paganism in effect.  Lady warriors cross-country, wearing scant more than uniform white vests with stick on dot nipple stickers. But this isn't any kind of porn show; this is reclamation, investigation and voodoo!

How much control do you personally exert over the art direction choices made in Duke Spirit videos?
Well, we chose to invite the artist into our world. So, in some respects, we had much of that control. In another way, we saw what Kid Acne was doing and felt a kinship so in fact we asked to use what bits of film we were lucky enough to see, and catch what he had left. Sweet and synchronistic.

That paganistic vibe seems to extend to some of your fashion choices, too. What attracts you to the aesthetic – and do you also connect to esoteric/ancient pagan cultures in other ways?
I aim to think about the oneness of life and humanity, how we all actually emanate from one consciousness. We should therefore all be free physically, sexually, creatively to be an aspect of the one source we all originate from. I'm attracted to ritual, meditation, the force of nature. I am not interested in dogma and persecution. And that all flows out into words, songs, image, I suppose.

I enjoyed your evolutionary theories on why people are attracted to blondes. Taking that a step further, have you ever felt pigeonholed as a blonde or do you enjoy debunking some of the myths that accompany sporting that shade? And have you ever dyed it an entirely different color?
I have dyed my hair deep dark brown. It was funny and weird, my head felt heavier. It was like I was in disguise for that year. I let it grow out, and thought not to have this huge white-hair focal point. Debbie Harry and Kim Gordon do blonde best. I've moved away from the peroxide now, to save my fingerprints from melting off. I need those fingerprints to get through U.S. Customs at the airport.

What is your most important priority when dressing for the stage, and for video and photo shoots?
"Can I move in this, will the light catch it in some way? How short are these shorts?" I don't need people seeing what I had for lunch. Ha!

Is it more important to you to have a trademark, iconic look or to continually evolve in unexpected ways?
Maybe the trademark. Which could involve both schools of thought actually like Björk's wonderful alchemical approach to image on each album is her trademark. Then you have the suits of Bryan Ferry or Nick Cave. So seductive, ice cool. Keith Richards and Patti Smith, badass simplicity. Courtney Love and riot grrrls of the 90s were the first to really promote distressed vintage glamour that we see so much of now.

Whose style, male or female, do you admire?
All of the above, and M.I.A and Paul Simonon of the Clash. And a British artist called Bishi – she looks impeccable.

Do you ever work with stylists? Do you consider it a collaborative opportunity or an imposing/restrictive experience?
I would work with someone smart and well-versed in art and fashion history, now that I have a better sense of myself. I had enough fun on my own before to bother, plus I'm quite private when it comes to dressing up. It's not something I want to chatter about incessantly, commenting on how every button, belt and brocade is "awesome." 

What attracts you to Emma Cook and Phillip Lim's designs?
Emma Cook has been doing a lot of oversized print stuff that is inherently joyful and humorous. Kooky even, but elegant. Phillip makes clothes that look like classics from the off, they will not date. He has this kind of effortless, understated art throughout his work from the palette to the fabric and cut.

You also served as a muse for Alexander McQueen when he did his Target capsule line. How did he approach you? I imagine it must have been such an honor.
He was inspired by pictures that his head designer at McQ, Sherrie Lambie, had taken at Glastonbury Festival. She played him the music. They got into the idea of having a band anchor the clothes for that campaign. Sherrie called up, and we took it from there. It was a shock and a nice buzz to get that invitation from McQ. A little unreal.

Did you collaborate or consult on the direction of those clothes?
I was invited in several times to look at what they were pinning up, and it was a warm welcome that they gave, in terms of explaining that this was a one-off range, for a younger market, and could they use my face on a t-shirt? I obviously wasn't going to say no! However, most things were in progress when I hung out in the studio, so I can't claim to having any influence other than being one of various personalities they wanted to express through the project female, empowered, playful, wears leggings!

What does McQueen represent to you, to British fashion?
Theatricality, love, drama, passion, darkness.

What is something about today's fashion climate you enjoy?
You can do anything at all. You really can now I think. From pretending to be an ultra dork to goth sex goddess. What is not to like?!

What is something about it you wish would change?
It does seem anachronistic that all catwalk models are the thinnest people in the world. Why is this still being upheld by those that cast the models? Are they that desperate to save a few meters of fabric? Jesus.

What is the best piece of style advice you've ever received?
I've not had the pleasure of receiving any. Actually, a wonderful press officer called Gina once encouraged me not to be afraid to dress up, and I think that precipitated a change of attitude. Thanks, G!

And what have you discovered about your own style over the years?
I like to dress down as much as up, and high-necks don't suit me. Give me a boat neck anyday.
 
Finally, what are three beauty or style necessities for you when you're on tour?
Knee high boots with a low heel, good for dancing in. Black high-waisted leggings to pull in that emerging beer belly. Chiffon to flow about the stage.