Words To Live By: When Fashion and Music Collide
By Shontel Horne —
Hanna Rochelle knows a good idea when she sees one. The Moscow-born, L.A.-raised singer/songwriter turned her love of lyrics into an enterprising fashion brand with her line Lyric Culture, ( sold at Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom), a surprisingly simple concept jotting the iconic words of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Pink Floyd on everything from t-shirts to bracelets. What started off as a small scale project has grown to include two other lines: Lyrix, sold exclusively at Claire’s targeting teen girls and Lyric Nation for Walmart using lyrics from country and Christian music superstars.
The funky, rock-infused line has been incredibly well-received both by music companies and the entertainment industry, with everyone from Halle Berry and Fergie to Brad Paisley donning pieces from the music-centric collection. The L.A. resident gives us an incredible insight into the making of her brand, and what’s next to come.
CM: Lyric Culture has been around for about 7 years now, where did the idea come from?
HR: I was in the recording studio with a pretty famous producer named Jack Douglas. He’s pretty legendary, he found Cheap Trick in a bowling alley and he did all of the early Aerosmith stuff. He was also the last guy in the studio with John Lennon before he was assassinated. It was like 2 in the morning, and I started writing my own lyrics on my jeans. It looked kind of cool, so I went home and tricked out a pair of my old jeans with Don Henley “Dirty Laundry” lyrics. I wore them to the studio the next day, and Jack said “Those are really cool, I think Steven Tyler would wear jeans like that.” He took a picture, sent it to Steven, and fast forward three years later I’m doing “Dream On” pajamas at Victoria’s Secret. INXS at the time was doing that show “Rock Star” on CBS to find their new front man to replace Michael Hutchence, and they were recording next door to me and said, “Oh can you make us a pair with ‘Devil Inside’ and ‘Suicide Blonde’ lyrics?” And I thought if all of these musicians are liking this, then there’s got to be an idea here.
CM: So where did you go from there?
HR: I went out and I started acquiring the rights to these music catalogues. At the time when I started the business in 2005, no one had taken lyrics and licensed music with just the lyrics. Taking the actual words and separating them from the song and creating a whole line of merchandise around them had never been done before. It was really good timing for me to go out and do this. As a songwriter myself I though this was really cool and I could generate new revenue streams for musicians. I had no experience in manufacturing or the apparel trade. The company was started on the floor in my living room with a hot glue gun and a sharpie, and now it’s grown.
CM: Which music company did you approach first?
HR: I think the first deal that we did was with Warner. After that within a few months I had pretty much all of them: Sony, Universal, EMI, all of them signed on. And now we have close to 100 different licensing deals.
CM: Were you surprised they were so open with letting you use these iconic lyrics?
HR: It was really good timing. I didn’t really even have samples when I walked in there, but I understood the music business. There’s always room for a great idea when there’s chaos in an industry. When one or two of them signed up, then the rest of them all said yes.
CM: So what has been your biggest challenge?
HR: We’re working with some of the greatest words in the world. These are the most legendary words ever written by some of the world’s greatest poets from John Lennon to Bob Dylan. I always tell my graphic designers “You have to really think about what you were doing, are you bringing the words to life visually?” That’s essentially what we’re doing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scarf, or a jacket or a ring. We are bringing the greatest words in the world to life on a product, and I’ve always told all of my designers that the product needs to stand on its own. You could absolutely ruin it; you can’t just throw words on a t-shirt and hope that it works.
CM: How long have you lived in L.A.?
HR: Actually I grew up in L.A. since I was 11 in Chico and El DeBarge’s house. My parents are classical musicians, hardcore classical musicians. I grew up around it, and it was so ironic that when they moved to L.A., they ended up buying Chico and El DeBarge’s old house. But before that I lived in Texas and before that I was born in Moscow. We moved to the states when I was 2 years old.
CM: Where do you live in the city?
HR: Right on the cusp of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, just off the Sunset Strip.
CM: Where are some of your favorite places to go in the city?
HR: I love the Petit Ermitage. I love going there for brunch. It feels very European. I love the rooftop that they have there. It doesn’t feel like I’m in LA. I feel like I’m somewhere in Europe.
CM: Do you have a favorite music venue in L.A.?
HR: Hollywood Bowl for sure. I love anything that’s outdoors. When I got married, we had a rehearsal dinner at the Hollywood Bowl and Earth, Wind and Fire performed. It’s probably one of my favorite music venues ever. For classical musical I love Disney Hall. The sound there is amazing.
CM: Just about everyone has worn something from your line, are there any artists that you would love to see wear a Lyric Culture piece?
HR: We haven’t had Lady Gaga wear anything; I would love for her to wear something. And also, Katy Perry. We haven’t done anything with their lyrics, but I would love to do something with them.
CM: What do you have in the works for the rest of the year?
HR: We haven’t actually done anything with The Doors yet, but we’re planning too. Pink Floyd was a big request for the last two years and that’s why we’re doing a massive collection; it’s coming out at Bloomingdale’s and Hard Rock in February. It’s everything from military jackets to hats and scarfs and cufflinks. The Pink Floyd collection definitely feels like Pink Floyd, it’s totally psychedelic and very mystical. We also have the INXS collection coming out and that one is very dark and gritty. It’s very similar to Michael Hutchence’s lyrics. And we have a bunch of new designs at Walmart.
CM: What are some things you’ve learned since starting Lyric Culture?
We had these great catalogues of country music, and although Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom weren’t really interested in doing anything with Rascal Flatts, Walmart was so excited about it. What we realized is that there is a market for every different type of music, that’s the beauty of our brand. Everybody loves music. Lyrics are such an important part of people’s lives. It’s almost like the soundtracks of their life. People are always requesting special songs that they want to make a statement with.
CM: As a musician, how would you describe your sound?
HR: I would say it was pop with soul. If I were to open for anybody, I would love to open for Sade or Annie Lennox, but I don’t do it anymore since this has become more than a full time job. It consumes me completely. But it’s great because I get to work with these amazing musical artists that I would have never been able to collaborate with as a musician.
CM: Can you pick a favorite lyric?
HR: “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” My motto has always been dream big, it’s just as easy as dreaming small. It takes the same amount of effort to dream that you want huge things versus small things. Sometimes it’s more difficult to dream small. That’s why I love that line. Everybody dreams, everybody has dreams. That’s what John Lennon encapsulated with his words. There’s something about it that brings all kinds of people together.