Dressing Lenny Kravitz -- Stylist Arianne Phillips pushes the fashion envelope

By Giselle Benatar
Updated March 19, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

When stylist Arianne Phillips, 29, dressed Lenny Kravitz in a skintight Ziggy Stardust-like T-shirt and striped bell-bottoms for the 1990 American Music Awards, the reaction from industry image watchers was overwhelmingly negative. ”I was completely ridiculed,” Phillips admits. ”No one could understand why anyone would wear bell-bottoms. They were like, ‘Thank Gaaawwwd we got rid of them!”’

Phillips’ radical fashion sense has since been spectacularly vindicated, what with every MTV icon unabashedly copying Kravitz’s neohippie style. And she’s still pushing the ”packaging” envelope. It was Phillips who convinced Ice-T to don a cop uniform for a recent Rolling Stone cover and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to pose in nothing but their body tattoos, also for Rolling Stone. ”I’m not into the whole Milli Vanilli manufactured thing,” says Phillips, who also dresses outré pop divas Cher, Patty Smyth, and Vanessa Paradis.

But Kravitz remains her main fashion squeeze. They met socially in the early ’80s, when Kravitz was a little-known songwriter, and Phillips a struggling stylist’s assistant, and have been ”hanging out” ever since. ”Our aesthetics are very much alike,” she says. ”It’s the funkiness of the ’70s mixed with the outrageousness of the whole punk-rock era.”

Phillips pulled Kravitz’s early vintage wardrobe together from thrift stores. These days she designs his more sophisticated tour and video costumes. In his ”Are You Gonna Go My Way” video Kravitz wears a pope-like, sleeveless leather coatdress based on 16th-century ecclesiastical garb. But on his summer concert tour, expect to see plenty of Kravitz’s signature flares. ”Flared pants have worked for Lenny since the beginning,” says Phillips. ”It’s not really retro. For our generation, they’re just classics.”