Charli XCX Wants to Bring Back Grunge and Girl Power

With her lovelorn bangers and brick-soled flatforms, Charli XCX is putting her stamp on the pop world. She’s worked towards it for some time, having started performing at London raves at age 14 and releasing a solid run of singles leading up to her forthcoming debut, including penning Icona Pop’s hit “I Love It." In typical popstar fashion, she’s invented an image that’s as striking as her sound: Cross chokers, shredded tights, neon crop tops, holographic skull glasses, printed leggings, and gobs of glitter are staples in her wardrobe, which draws inspiration from a unique combination of her musical heroes the Spice Girls and film characters like Wednesday Addams. She nods to the former with her wildly charismatic dance tunes and her crusade to revive Girl Power.

In the video for her most recent single, the Gold Panda-sampling jam You (HaHaHa),” Charli marches around a gun factory with a group of retro-rave-gear-clad girls firing lipsticks from AK-47s. Her message, like her music and style, comes across as a technicolor bolt; it’s at once ass-kicking and playful. Even though she’s already graced the cover of a high-fashion magazine -- V, alongside Grimes and Sky Ferreira -- Charli dresses with a winking sense of humor. In the dressing room at the Troubadour, before her set -- where Sky Ferreira joined her to perform “Grins,” from Charli’s Heartbreaks and Earthquakes mixtape -- she sifted through her suitcase, holding up her favorite items as she spotted them and pulled out a sheet of temporary tattoos. “I bought these today from a petrol station. I’m gonna put it on later,” she said, pointing to a panda on the page. Hive spoke to Charli about the eccentricities in her closet, her nostalgia for the ‘90s, and enduring mice poop alongside Grimes and Sky Ferreira in the name of fashion.

Tell me about your V Magazine cover with Grimes and Sky Ferreira.

The shoot was based on the Robert Palmer’s video for “Addicted to Love,” which Sky’s mom is in. The mice were Grimes’ idea.  Claire [Boucher] said, “Why don’t we get some mice?” I was like, “Ha, ha, yeah.” The next thing I knew someone had gone to a pet shop and bought mice that were used for snake food. They were shitting in our hair and pooing all over us-- it was fucking gross. Sky and Grimes have very petite frames- - I’m the curviest. They gave us boots made for super skinny legs; I put mine on and was like, “Oh my god, they’re stuck. I can’t tell anyone.” I couldn’t bend my knees. I was waddling around the whole time. I could never wear Givenchy day-to-day because it’s so hot and tiny.

What was the energy between all of you like on set?

We were listening to our songs on set. When “Oblivion” came on Sky and I got really excited and Claire was like, “This is really weird.” Then we got excited when Sky’s “One” came on. There was absolutely no competition on that shoot, which was amazing. We all kind of know we’re in it together; we’re part of this wave of new artists and instead of bitching we’re supporting each other.

What overlap do you see between your music and style?

My clothes are very raw and my music is dark but I write pop songs so there’s always a pop-ness to my music and clothes. I draw inspiration from pop culture like Wednesday Addams and the Spice Girls, but present it in a raw environment on stage. It’s kind of like baby-cake goth. It’s half black, grungy with crosses and then half sweet. Like, I’m really into my Spice Girls platform boots. I’ve always put thought into what I’m wearing, because as an artist it’s really important for the look to translate into your sound.

Apart from Wednesday Adams and the Spice Girls, where else do you find inspiration?

I always look at the photographer David LaChapelle’s work because I think he’s amazing and all of the clothes in his shots are captured beautifully. I loved when Courtney Love and Drew Barrymore were walking around New York in ripped prom gowns.

How do you filter what you bring on tour?

I just put everything that I’m into in my suitcase at once and half of it I don’t ever wear. This jumper is my friend’s design, called Don’t Speak to Strangers, and I’ve been wearing it everywhere. This leopard print is some serious Scary Spice shit right here.

There’s a lot of ‘90s throwbacks in your suitcase.

I feel like the ‘90s had the best period for style because it was the best of both worlds like grunge and then Girl Power pop as well. Blending those two things together is my goal, style-wise. I really like tying my shirts around my waist. This one is Roberto Piqueras (it looks like Cher’s shirt from Clueless when she’s in her goth phase) and I have these really cool matching trousers that go with them as well. He’s working a lot in the rave party scene in East London at the moment.

What’s the most sentimental thing you travel with?

Maybe this nightgown. I got it when I was living in my first house and there was this awesome vintage shop across the road and they had loads of crazy shit and it was the first thing I bought when I moved in. I wear it onstage with black underneath.

When’s the last time you cleaned out your closet?

I never, ever clean out my closet -- that’s my one rule. I find that if you do, you’re always going to throw out something that you’ll want in 10 years. Like this, I’ve had this bathing suit since I was really young and I thought it was disgusting -- and it is pretty fucking disgusting -- but I recently cut it into a crop top.

What do you think is the weirdest thing someone would find in your closet?

I have loads of space hoppers, those big balloons that you sit on. I have five of them in my room. I used to play a lot of raves when I was 14 and used to bounce around on them and play.

How has your style evolved since you first started performing at raves?

When I was doing the rave thing, everyone was wearing so much glitter and color so it introduced me to that world. I bought this smiley face jumper off of someone at a rave and it says “It’s a ... rave Dave.” It’s for this band called Trash Fashion. I wear it backwards so the writing’s on my ass.

What’s usually inside of your backpack?

My sunglasses, my writing book to jot down lyrics, and I’ve had this book The Coldest Winter ever in my bag for ages. It’s from Azealia Banks. She gave us all gift bags when we played the Mermaid Ball but I haven’t gotten around to reading it so I’m just carrying it everywhere, hoping that one day I’ll read it when I have a second.

What’s the last book that you read?

V Magazine?