Talking Female Trouble with the Fearless Chelsea Fairless

February 26, 2018

The phrase “female trouble” conjures up one of three references: either the antiquated euphemism for menstruation woes, the 1974 John Waters film about a spoiled teenage runaway turned criminal fashion model, or finally, and most freshly, the line of home goods and apparel by all-around visionary Chelsea Fairless. Formerly the fashion director and archive coordinator for Vfiles, Fairless brought her subversive aesthetic and witty point of view to the endlessly innovative fashion media platform.

Now with Female Trouble, she’s cultivated her sensibility, creating a collection that celebrates femininity in all its cheeky, dangerous, gritty, glamorous and sometimes not so feminine glory. In the age of nasty women and take-no-prisoners hashtags, the concept feels particularly timely.

The tagline “Sex, Drugs & Throw Pillows” sums up the attitude, but items like the Sativa Plath ashtray and Satan’s Sisters nameplate necklace reveal Female Trouble is a complex but campy world. We talked with Fairless about the muses and musings behind the line and, of course, getting high.

How did Female Trouble initially come about? 

I worked as an editor for many years, but I've always wanted to do design work instead. So, I started to think about what my ideal creative outlet would be, and at some point, the concept for Female Trouble came to me. That was probably a couple years ago. And then eventually, I finally got my shit together and did it.

Who is the Female Trouble woman? Which celebrity best represents her? What kind of music does she listen to?

She's bitchy, independent and pop culture-obsessed, with a bit of a camp sensibility. I think Anna Nicole Smith best represents the brand—she was tacky but ultimately fabulous. A real icon. I still remember where I was when she died. I think the Female Trouble woman listens to Lil’ Kim, The B-52's, and k.d. lang's cover of "(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls." 

Much like the recent movement to reclaim the word "slut," the term "female trouble" takes a phrase with negative connotation that was thrust upon women and flips it. Is that the intentional? 

Definitely, I think that women should reclaim all of the sexist language that has been used against them throughout history, although the expression "female trouble" fell out of fashion ages ago. It doesn't really have any impact now. I chose it more because people associate that phrase with women, rebellion, camp, cinema, etc. Or at least I do.

Your Sativa Plath products cleverly blend the reference to one of the most influential poets ever and the variety of strain known for its energizing properties. Are you a big Sylvia Plath fan?

I am a Sylvia Plath fan, and I have been since high school when I first discovered The Bell Jar. But I'll be the first to admit that the book cover for The Bell Jar, the one with the single rose, was as influential to me as the book itself. That was the major design reference behind the shirt.

Are sativas your strain of choice?

Yes, sativa is my strain of choice, although I also smoke hybrids.

Your line makes other eclectic references, from sexy nuns to Satan to old Hollywood to a cast of female characters. What and who inspires you? 

I've always been obsessed with nun imagery. I love the nunsploitation movies from the seventies as well as the more highbrow nun movies like Black Narcissus. Nun fetish clothing is incredible. I don't personally want to wear a latex nun's habit, but I love the look of it. And I've also always been obsessed with celebrities, with films and tabloid culture. I am very inspired by Us Weekly and the National Enquirer. I love all of the bad-girl film stars, like Marlene Dietrich and Pam Grier. Even Angelina Jolie, who I saw in the supermarket the other day. That was surreal. I may have to make a capsule collection about Angelina Jolie nonchalantly shopping for groceries.

How does living in Los Angeles influence you and your brand, if it all? 

It definitely does. I live in Hollywood, where dreams come true. And dreams go to die. There's always been a dark side to Hollywood, and I love the way that eeriness is aestheticized here, via dozens of peeling murals of Marilyn Monroe. Also, Valley of the Dolls was set here. I've been obsessed with that book and the film for as long as I can remember. I always want Female Trouble products to have that Valley of the Dolls vibe.

Who's the most trouble-making female or the baddest bitch you know? 

Probably my dear friend Lea DeLaria. She gets into trouble all the time! And she genuinely doesn't care what anyone thinks, which I respect.

Who are some designers you really respect right now?

I love Walter van Beirendonck, always and forever. I also just discovered the illustrator Robert Beatty, who is absolutely incredible.

What's your favorite way to get high? 

Either via THC-infused gummy candy while watching a movie at ArcLight, like I did for Fifty Shades Darker, or with a pipe in the forest in Humboldt County where I grew up.

Who's a male whom you think could benefit from some Female Trouble in his life? 

Definitely Mike Pence.

What's next for you and Female Trouble? 

I'm working on the next round of products right now, and they will be rolled out gradually throughout the spring. As for me, I'm working on a book at the moment, but I can't discuss it just yet!

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