Whether it's Madonna or Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga or Katy Perry, style's a huge part of an artist's identity. But country singer Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town showed Lucky that you can still create a spectacle sans feathers, purple hair and stuffed animals. Founded in 1998, the band is comprised of four members: Jimi Westbrook, Phillip Sweet, Kimberly Schlapman and Fairchild. Schlapman and Fairchild met while attending Samford University in Alabama, and they moved to Nashville where they eventually formed Little Big Town. Their most recent album Tornado was released this past September, and the album’s platinum single “Pontoon” won Single of the Year at last week's 46th Annual CMA Awards. The group picked up another award for Vocal Group of the Year.
In a musical genre heavily stereotyped as being a little cheesy, fashion-wise (well, not you, Taylor Swift!), we love these two female vocalists' innovative clothing choices. (And Fairchild's Pinterest is proof positive that she's the real deal when it comes to style). Want to hear what inspires Little Big Town's unique approach to fashion? Read on...from Schlapman’s Karen Walker Number One sunglasses to Fairchild’s Mara Hoffman shorts, Fairchild shares us how she and her bandmate put their own spin on Nashville style.
You and Kimberly definitely have your own cool looks. Do you think people associate Little Big Town with fashion? Are you guys considered to edgy in the country world when it comes to style?
I do think we are always trying to be fashion-forward and look at things that are coming down the runway even and thinking how can we make those our own and put them on stage. We like to do things that maybe no one else is doing so it’s completely original. I think that makes concerts and award shows more fun for the fans. Fashion is part of being an entertainer. It’s a way to express ourselves.
In your number one single “Pontoon,” I happened to notice your Mara Hoffman bathing suit and Kimberly’s Karen Walker sunglasses, which I love. Do you style yourself for your videos?
We work with Karla Welch out of LA and collaborate with her. I knew right off the bat what the video should be. Of course, you wouldn’t expect to see high fashion on a pontoon. I thought marrying pieces that girls could find with the unattainable, like the Balmain tux jacket I wore over the Mara Hoffman shorts set, would be really fun. I thought the fans would go crazy, and they did. I said to Karla, ‘What if we just go full-tilt on the fashion, so what you’d see on this pontoon would be more of what you see on a yacht?’ Karla pulled perfect pieces. Some of the things were attainable, like the J.Crew panama hat, and some were super high-end that you’d never see on a pontoon.
As two strong female vocalists, how do you differentiate yourselves from each other when it comes to music and style?
We are so different. When we do big TV moments we always look for things that go together like we are going to the same party but still have two distinctive looks. The same goes for the guys. Kimberly and I can be more expressive, of course, with our clothing than they can, but we are always trying to define everyone’s personalities within the band. Kimberly is so sunny in her personality and just a light. We’ve been friends for 25 years. She’s just sunshine in the room, and she dresses that way. It’s warm, it’s sunny, it’s pretty. She likes vintage-detailed kinds of things. I like things that have more an edge to them. Tonight we are doing a big show in Nashville, and I’ll probably wear my leather A.L.C. pants. It will have a more rock and roll vibe. I’ve always liked that.
So you and Kimberly met in college at Samford University in Alabama. Were you always interested in fashion?
I don’t know that Kimberly was. I think her love for it grew out of singing and doing what we do for a living. But I have always been into it. I used to design my own prom dresses because I didn’t’ want anything off the rack. I would go and find Vogue Patterns and marry the back of a skirt of a Vogue pattern with the shoulder from a different pattern, for example. Then I would take all the patterns to a dress designer and pick out the fabric and have them make me something. I did that for fraternity formals as well. And I can’t say they always came out great. You know, I laugh at some of them now, but it definitely was inspired.
Do you think country music in general is evolving?
Completely. We’ve got some great women in this industry that love fashion and are leading the way. Taylor Swift has great taste and Faith Hill, of course. Whether she’s wearing Tom Ford or Gucci, you can always look at what she’s doing, and it’s always going to be fashion-forward. And now that Nicole [Kidman] and Keith [Urban] are married, it’s always fun to watch Nicole on the red carpet. So there’s a lot of fashion going on in Nashville. We have a lot of amazing boutiques here that are leading the way, and I think the world is looking to Nashville. It’s a city full of Americana-inspired clothing but also with brand new things just coming off the runway. It’s cool to see how Nashville girls are putting these two styles together. It’s fun to have girls like Karen Elson living here in Nashville.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop in Nashville or on the road?
Well, I love Imogene + Willie. They have a great denim line, and I’ve bought many pairs of vintage boots there and great earthy pieces of jewelry like turquoise. I love H. Audrey and Haven. Both of those stores will go to Paris to look for brand new designers and are always looking to carry pieces that no one else is carrying here in Nashville.
Are you into social media? How about fashion blogs, which do you read?
I read Lucky’s Pinterest, and I’m crazy about the magazine. I’m a magazine fanatic. I mean if you came into my house it’s just ridiculous. There are stacks and stacks of magazine everywhere. But my advice on the road or in an airport is just to buy magazines and sit down and have a glass of wine and peruse through what’s going on. I follow Women’s Wear Daily and Fashiontoast too.
Her Style Icon
"Kate Moss is such an influence. She has such an eclectic sense of style that every time she walks out it seems effortless, even if she has a gown on. It may be a gown with a pair of ankle boots and some crazy vintage fur, and it doesn’t look contrived. It just looks easy. It has to do with her being comfortable in her own skin."
"I think people like Ali MacGraw. I love her classic look and the way she put herself together. I love the ‘60s and ‘70s things she was doing."
The Fringe Factor
"I think country music has a great heritage of leather and fringe and kind of over the top Americana-inspired wear. Even if you watch what’s happening right now on the runway with designers like Isabel Marant, you’re seeing all this fringe. I’m a big fan of Isabel Marant. Who doesn’t love her right now?" ISABEL MARANT SUEDE JACKET, $1963, SHOPMRSH.COM.
"I love Alexander Wang. I love Rag & Bone. I love their denim and pants. I like J Brand and MOTHER denim. MOTHER denim is probably my favorite new denim. I just think they fit fantastically." MOTHER JEANS, $196, SHOPBOP.COM.
"I have this great jumpsuit that's Maison Martin Margiela. It’s one of my favorite purchases this year. It’s black with fringe from the halter to the bottom of the pants. It just moves, and the way it was made is really beautiful. Even if I’m going to the grocery store, I want to look good." MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA, $640, LUISAROMA.COM.
Flea Market Find
"I’m always collecting belts. I found a leather flea market guy in Florida just outside the venue where we were playing, and he was hand tooling leather. I got a belt, and the guys got guitar straps. His work was beautiful, and it was just a guy out of a flea market hand tooling leather for years." VINTAGE HAND WOVEN LEATHER BELT, $298, FREEPEOPLE.COM.
Worth the Splurge
"I have a pair of Céline pants I’m crazy about. I don’t know if anyone makes a pair that fits like that." CÉLINE DRESS PANTS, $560, YOOX.COM.
The Staple T
"A must-have of mine is an amazing t-shirt. It could be James Perse or Target. I don’t care where it comes from. Just a great-fitting t-shirt you can pair with a sequin pant. That’s always my rule. If a dramatic piece will go with a t-shirt, you know you have something cool." JAMES PERSE CURVED HEM RAGLAN TEE, $73.50,Shopbop.com.
"My closet has a lot of tux jackets. It could be from Zara, which is really a great place to get amazing tux jackets. They look great on stage without having to spend a fortune." TUXEDO BLAZER, $73.50, Zara.com.
It's All About The Boot
"Right now I have on Golden Goose ankle boots that I’ve re-soled three times because I’ve loved them so much. They are absolutely the thing that I can’t live without. I’d pick a boot over a heel just for comfort, plus I like to move around on stage. If I have a little bit of a heel it’s fine, but getting into crazy stilettos, Kimberly can do that on stage and be just fine, but I would break my neck." GOLDEN GOOSE MOTO BOOTS, $1095, Barneys.com.