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Coachella’s female artists who rock their own style

When it comes to style, truly unabashed style that’s as interesting as it is influential, musicians are at the forefront. Prince, Blondie, Siouxsie Sioux and Michael Jackson are obvious examples — perhaps because they are consistently referenced by young artists as inspiration for their onstage looks.

The long list of musicians (and their faithful followers) flocking to the desert next weekend for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival includes a few style-setting female artists who are generating buzz for their fashion choices as well as their sound, including the poster girl for fashionable pop singers, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg’s lineage alone (her mother is singer/model and ultimate designer muse Jane Birkin and her father singer Serge Gainsbourg) catapults her up to a level of cool some women strive their entire lives to achieve. She’s the face of Balenciaga Paris perfume and muse to the house’s designer Nicholas Ghesquière, who dresses her in the French label’s luxe frocks for her public appearances.

Though Gainsbourg’s established style is the epitome of effortless French cool, it’s the appeal of the festival’s fledgling fashionistas that’s attracting the most attention. Among those who rock individual styles are Victoria Hesketh, with her theatrical look; Elly Jackson and her gender-bending image and rockabilly meets Flock of Seagulls hair; and Florence Welch, with her flame red locks and penchant for vintage treasures. Here is a preview of these striking female singers, who are shaping the look of electro pop with style that rivals Rihanna and makes Lady Gaga seem so last year.

Victoria Hesketh, a.k.a. Little Boots

Hesketh, a 25-year-old petite platinum blond, favors young up-and-coming designers, mainly fellow Brits, including Henry Holland, Felder Felder and Manjit Deu. Currently, she is channeling what she calls “cosmic-futuristic” and says that her onstage style always follows the feel of her music.

“What I wear onstage is an exaggerated version of what I wear during a normal day,” says Hesketh, who likes London’s high street stores, such as TopShop and Urban Outfitters, as well as Marc Jacobs and McQ when she’s not performing. Onstage, the singer goes for pieces that have a lot of structure and shape. “It has to look good from afar,” she says. “And I have to be able to move well in it.”

Expect to see her sporting a custom-made gold dress by British design duo Felder Felder when she hits the Coachella stage.

When performing, Hesketh takes on a persona that’s a mix of Björk and Kylie Minogue. Her hair is rolled or braided around the sides of her head and the singer and her band don big black hoods to camouflage themselves in the dark until the lights and music start going. The theatrics are balanced by her demure stature and the pixie-like features that have drawn comparisons to Minogue and have made her a designer darling of late.

“I love going to fashion shows,” she says. This season she attended shows by DKNY, Henry Holland and Felder Felder, for which she supplied some vocals on the show soundtrack.

Though she may enjoy a few fashion shows each season, don’t expect Hesketh to get caught up in the industry, as her sense of style is dictated solely by her music. “I don’t really follow fashion or watch other people’s style,” she says. Style “has to come from you and what you’re trying to express.”

Florence Welch — Florence and the Machine

With her statuesque frame, long red hair and love of goddess-y vintage pieces, Welch looks like the subject of a Botticelli painting. And her eye for 1920s clothing and accessories that feel as if they’ve been hiding in Grandma’s attic makes her seem much older than her 22 years.

“I’m interested in the style of Stevie Nicks and Siouxsie Sioux,” Welch says. “I love the big platforms and fringe shawls, but I also really like the style of the 1920s.” Her eclectic style leads her to vintage stores when travelling, collecting clothing like postcards to show where she’s been.

But the singer saves the flash for performances (she gushes over the impossibly billowy, peach chiffon gown made for her by designer Qasimi for her video for “Dog Days Are Over”) and says that her everyday look is buttoned up and unassuming. “I like to be able to wander around kind of unnoticed. I’m pretty tall, 5-feet-9, and I’ve got red hair, so I draw a lot of attention.”

Her go-to items include prim cream-colored blouses and brogues. But at the moment, she can’t stop wearing a pair of clogs from Zara that she calls “ugly and industrial-looking, with black leather straps and wooden heels.”

Don’t expect to see the clogs during her Coachella performance, as Welch prefers bare feet to high heels onstage. “The less fussy, the better,” she says. “I prefer going barefoot onstage, especially when playing festivals. I feel more free.”

Elly Jackson — La Roux

Elly Jackson of La Roux is breaking the mold of the typical female pop star. Her striking style falls somewhere between Boy George (with his pork pie hats and angular coats) and androgynous 1990s supermodel Kristen McMenamy (the lithe slouch, fair skin and gender-bending allure).

And then there’s her hair: a tuft of red, cropped pixie-short on the sides and whipped into an asymmetrical wave up top. It’s bed head on steroids, seeming to defy gravity and somehow managing to look as light as meringue, peaks and all. Jackson’s hair has become her signature, with her silhouette as recognizable to La Roux fans as the bat symbol is to the people of Gotham City.

But don’t let her tomboy image fool you. Jackson, 22, is well-versed in designer labels and prefers them on- and off-stage. “I love La Croix, Versace, Gucci — who made my Brit awards suit — Viktor & Rolf, Basso & Brooke — who made me my two Mercury Prize outfits — and Alexander McQueen,” Jackson says. When performing, she opts for jackets with strong silhouettes and a great cut but looks forward to outdoor festivals such as Coachella because she has a chance to be more summery. “I can wear crazy sunglasses and generally be a bit more relaxed.”

Jackson cites David Bowie and Prince as major style influences, and she understands the importance of having a strong onstage presence. “I suppose what differs most onstage and off is the character of La Roux, and the clothes help me become that,” she says. “Pop music especially always works better with an aesthetic, as long as it’s not completely contrived. Fashion is just another way of expressing yourself and your music.”

She is conscious of presenting an image that projects something different than fellow female pop stars. “It has been very important for me to represent a different kind of girl, and I’ve found that young girls have responded positively to there being something else to look up to,” she says.

So don’t expect to see Jackson in Louboutins or any kind of sparkly stiletto. In fact, when it comes to footwear she is loyal to one label. “Gucci is pretty much the only thing I’ll wear on my feet. God bless their amazing loafers!”

melissa.magsaysay@latimes.com


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