Hellz Bellz Interview
From one of the hardest working ladies in the game right now, Lanie Alabanza has been grinding like crazy to finally be able to enjoy the fruits of her success with her line Hellz Bellz. Having worked as an intern at Alphanumeric she then worked her way up the street wear ladder to Ladies Graphic Designer of Triple 5 Soul, finally landing a gig at Rocawear as Art Director. While all this was happening, Lanie would come home from a full days work and start designing her own range, later to be known as Hellz Bellz. Not one to know what sleep actually is, Lanie finally started seeing her label come to fruition and after ditching working for "the man", became her own boss and CEO of her own label Hellz Bellz. With the Aussie drop just around the corner, Lanie took time out of her mad hectic schedule to chat with Sneaker Freaker's own Muff Daddy Mafia, droppin' knowledge on her label, her philosophy on weapons and why the girls are keepin' it tight in the female street wear scene.
Your pieces are quite provocative and edgy and I read a quote where you said “weapons are a form of empowerment for ladies” which I find kinda interesting because there seems to be this whole sub culture in the street wear scene of girls toting guns and knives on their shirts and probably in their purses, hahaha!!!!,
Haha, I know… I wouldn’t be surprised, but let’s hope that they aren’t. Hopefully the ladies know that when using such imagery I’m not necessarily condoning violence or anything. It’s more or less used symbolically to represent empowerment. I’d hope that Hellz has somewhat of an influence in the whole emergence of women rockin’ provocative and edgy graphics within our culture. As a matter of fact, the most sought after style from my Summer ’07 line is the “F*ck Off” tee… so that just shows me that women nowadays are not afraid to speak their mind and express themselves freely, which is really empowering.
Is it ironic to you that most of the ladies coming out are designing these full on in yo face type imagery of sex, guns and rock n roll and the guys are so into fruity colours and a much softer image?
It’s very ironic. MOB was so on point w/ the “Men Are the New Women” tee. There’s been such a drastic role reversal within’ the past couple of years… it’s hilarious to me. I’m definitely not a fan of guys in bright multi-colours from head to toe. I mean… What ever happened to manly men… men that can care less about matching their shoes to their shirt and their shirt to their hats?
One of my favourite tees in your line is the “gunning for peace” tee, which depicts a bandana clad Minnie Mouse rockin a bazooka over her shoulder, while in her pink dress and heels. It’s the perfect marriage of sweet and gangster! There seems to be a trend at the moment of bastardising Walt Disney characters, with Freshjive doing it and Kaws taking influence from there as well. Did you ever get any heat for being that “out there” considering she is such an iconic part of American culture?
No I haven’t. That particular graphic has been received really well. I think because they love the juxtaposition of the sweet icon w/ a bazooka. Like you said, it’s a “perfect marriage of sweet and gangster”. It’s not only funny it’s also a stab at what’s going on w/ the war in Iraq, so I get people who appreciate both aspect of the design.
You have stated that your fashion influence is Vivienne Westwood and your music tastes range from straight up hip hop to Velvet Underground and Radiohead, which obviously affects your imagery in your clothing with a distinct mix of gangster, hip hop and rock.
I’ve been a huge fan of Vivienne Westwood for a while now. I was first fascinated how she was innovator of the “punk” look and how she later revolutionized the fashion world. I especially love the crossover effect of her designs throughout the years. I know I’ll never ever in a million years be compared to her but she’s definitely an inspiration. Music is a huge inspiration to me, also. It shapes my mood, which in turn affects my designs. That’s why I don’t really get fixed into doing themes season to season because since my taste in music varies so much, my graphics style changes along w/ it.
Is there a sense of camaraderie within all these labels coming out for women, by women…because I know there would probably be a massive misconception that you’re all hard asses that bitch about each other and that its really competitive. Its such a small circle of girls, compared to all the labels being run by men, so I would imagine you all support and challenge each other.
Given the reputation that women have as being catty towards other women, that really isn’t the case amongst the other women brands within the street wear community. There are only a handful of women brands run by women, like Mama, MOB & Hellz. As far as camaraderie goes, I definitely support and respect both Gabriella and Leah for their work and contributions to the culture. Gabriella is actually the founder of the M.I.S.S. Crew, which we’re all a part of. It’s society of women dedicated to bringing creative females together to create an environment where we can network and also share our perspectives on fashion, music, art, and etc.
Isn’t it funny when you look back on how you got to where you are as the creator of your own business. I know you were working all day at Rocawear as ladies art director then you’d come home and stay on the grind creating Hellz Bellz to all hours of the morning. I completely understand that work ethic, because I did the same thing, working all day and dj’ng every night to all hours. I figured once I made it I’d have plenty of time to sleep. Looking back do you wonder how you did it? Because at the time you don’t even think about it, it’s just a necessity to fulfil your dream.
Man, even after leaving Rocawear I still wonder how I do it ‘til this day. It’s so amazing how you can train your body and mind to run off of nearly 3-4 hours of sleep everyday. But you’re right. I do it not because I’m forced to but because I love what I do & cuz I know that if I work my ass of now I’ll be able to relax and enjoy all the things that I dream of having later. So if I have to sacrifice going out and partying all night to stay home, design and talk to factories all night, than that’s perfectly fine w/ me. It’s almost become second nature to my husband, Bam and me but as long as I’m keeping myself healthy and setting aside quality time to talk to my family and be w/ Bam & our dog Marley…then I’m good.
I hear through the grapevine and I have seen a lil sneak peek of the Hellz Bellz Letterman jacket you have coming out, which would be a first for any female clothing line. How did that come about?
Well, when designing anything for Hellz, I basically just make what I want & what I feel is lacking in the market for women like me. I know that there’s been a million different versions of the letterman jacket in the men’s market but none really for the ladies… at least that I know of. So that being said, I made my own version… flipped it a bit & I loved how the proto came out so I can’t even imagine how hot the final piece will be.
What’s next for Hellz Bellz, do you think you’ll branch out into shoes, or do a collab with a sneaker company? Because we need more women to be holdin it down in the sneaker game…it’s going a bit pear shaped at the moment, hahaha!
I’m just working on growing the brand slowly and healthy. As you know, we’re introducing my full cut & sew line for fall 07. As far as collaborations w/ sneaker companies, I’ve been talking to a couple but nothing has been set in stone. I’m crossing my fingers that everything will work out ‘cause I love me some kicks… and plus I want the ladies looking fly from head to toe… so stay tuned for that one.
For more info on HELLZ BELLZ go to www.hellz-bellz.com
HELLZ BELLZ INTERVIEW by MAFIA