It’s time to do away with or at least redefine the term “mom jeans.” Used to describe ill-fitting high-waisted denim, it implies that jeans on people who have kids can’t be attractive. The assumption that once you become a mother (or pass your twenties) you needn’t care about how you look is even more off base than the recent Gen-Z proclamation that millennials and Gen Xers shouldn’t wear skinny jeans or part their hair a certain way.
When someone feels confident in their body, in-seams, waist-bands and leg room are arbitrary. It’s about wearing what’s flattering to you and putting it together in a way that suits your taste and attitude, no matter what size or age you happen to be. Daniella Clarke is the poster girl for looking hot in any kind of pants or jeans one chooses. The alluring 52-year-old mom and wife of former Guns n’ Roses guitar player Gilby Clarke is a successful businesswoman and arguably one of the biggest trend-setters ever when it comes to jeans and L.A. style.
For over 20 years she’s been creating, styling and celebrating the rock n’ roll aesthetic in fashion, first as designer for her extremely successful Frankie B. jeans line, and currently as creative force behind active wear brand Solow. She also co-hosts a podcast along with friend Barbranne Wydle (wife of guitar god Zakk Wylde) called Honest AF, on which the long time gal pals chat about aging, products, procedures, fashion, sex, and music with their fellow rock wife friends, doctors, therapists, actors, artists and more.
We spoke by phone with the L.A.-based entrepreneur about it all last week, and she was indeed honest and forthcoming as can be about everything: what inspires her, her family life, and why the idea that people should “dress their age” is not only a disservice to self expression and personal style, but simply a dumb (as f*ck!) concept.
On The Rise
Frankie B. put Clarke on the map, popularizing the low-wise look and inspiring countless copycat lines. Ultimately it became the iconic jean brand of the late ‘90s. It seemed like every girl in L.A. and eventually the world had to have her jeans– especially rock chicks. We wore them with baby tees and studded belts, which evolved into the very ’90s g-string revealing looks favored by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the like. Of course, the belly baring popstar craze came way after the original “hip hugger” look favored by rockers, hippies and boho babes in the ’60s and ’70s.
“It’s so weird because everything is so cyclical. Right now everybody’s wearing mom jeans again. But back then, everybody was wearing mom jeans and basic styles, and I was like, ‘wow, this is not hot,” says Clarke. “Like I want sexy jeans. I want to wear jeans like Robert Plant– really low-slung, tight jeans that leave nothing to the imagination. So I made my own jeans. I didn’t know anything about the business and just kind of jumped in and figured it out.”
Clarke found a hole in the marketplace since nobody was really making jeans that fit women like that. “A lot of people were , ‘oh my God, you got so lucky,’ but it was a lot of work,” she explains. “I’m not a huge believer in only luck. I feel like you have to work really hard and you also have to have a good product. But the fortunate part was that it was at a time where things seemed a little bit more open. Now it almost seems like everything’s been thought of. The internet wasn’t so huge yet, and everything kind of happened organically.”
Being the wife of a rockstar, Clarke would be out and about and people would see her wearing the jeans. It snowballed from there. “People would stop me on the streets and be like where did you get your jeans, where did you get your jeans?!” she recalls. “And then they told somebody and they told somebody and then the next thing you know I was walking into stores and showing them to stores. I feel like it was just such a cool moment in time that you could do that. Today, it would be really hard to recreate that kind of organic excitement. Nowadays, it just seems like you have to go through the internet and go through influencers. Back then it just seemed more authentic because people bought what they loved, not what they were told to love.”
Things happened fast for the company. “It took on a life of its own,” Clarke remembers. “I had a really good run with it. I started in 1999, and I sold it in 2011. We developed a really strong fan base and the girls that loved the line coveted it and collected it and couldn’t wait for the next collection to come out so that they could buy the next one.”
Baby Got (Flash) Back
Her popularity led the Jordache company to offer a licensing deal with another influential trouser brand they owned called Dittos. If you were a girl growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, you know the horseshoe butt design and bell-bottom cut of Dittos, which was both flattering and casual, and sort of pre-dated the darker disco designer jean onslaught.
“I was a huge fan of Dittos,” Clarke tells us. “In the early ’80s I used to love their details and I just thought they made the booty look amazing. It had been dormant for many, many years, and they said ‘we think you might be a perfect person to bring these back into modern day’ and I was like, ‘hell yeah, I’ll do it.”
“The minute the first collection debuted, it just was a hit. It’s funny because I’m wearing my Dittos again. I just wore them yesterday,” she adds.
Though she only worked with Dittos for one season, the success cemented Clarke’s rep as a fashion powerhouse. After she sold Frankie in 2011, she was contractually obligated to stay on the board for four years as a consultant. The difficulty of starting one’s own company, building it and making it your baby, and then selling it and becoming an employee was humbling she says, but once she moved on, new opportunities came her way.
She left the brand she founded on a Friday and the following Monday had a new gig as the creative director of Solow, a chic and unique active wear line. After a couple years doing that she bought the company with friend Lisa Cronin, a producer who worked on VH1’s Rock of Love with Poison’s Bret Michaels (which many will recall was a hair metal precursor to The Bachelor). Clarke -along with Riki Rachtman and Sharon Osbourne- was a judge on the spin-off show called Rock of Love Charm School, where the girls from the ROL went back to school to learn how to better themselves.
“I always tell Frankie my daughter, just keep your eyes and ears open and you know, just be open because you never know what adventure you’re going to go on,” Clarke says of the connections she’s made that led to creative pursuits. “I always instilled that in her– take every meeting, take every phone call, you never know where it’s going to lead you. Even if the meeting doesn’t work out, it might spark something else.”
Currently Solow continues to offer women great basics that work for athletic activities as well as day to day wear. “It’s a very edgy, sexy active wear brand, it’s also stays true to who I am,” Clarke asserts. “I like to dress sexy, so I love it.”
It can’t be overstated: 2020s’ 50-year-olds are not the same as previous decades’ 50-year-olds. J-Lo, Gwen Stefani and Jennifer Anniston for example, are all 50+ and they continue to wear what they want and look fabulous doing so. Clarke is definitely part of this inspiring club of seasoned creative women. “I like to feel good about myself,” she says. “I work hard on my body and so I like to show it off sometimes. That might not be for everybody but it’s what I like to do for myself.”
Solow’s subtly vampy and versatile pieces include leggings, tops and more. “You can throw on a cute pair of shoes, and a blazer and go out in them,” Clarke suggests. “Or wear like a cute one-piece little bodysuit or leotard underneath a pair of jeans or shorts or whatever. I like to make sure that you can incorporate everything into your everyday wardrobe.”
In addition to Solow, Clarke also works with ballroom dancer and food business exec Robin Shriver on a stylish yet comfy footwear line. “I basically take her vision and incorporate it into the styles,” she explains of the women’s shoes, which promise relief for those of us who’ve spent years abusing our feet in heels and now want to be comfortable but still look hip and fashionable.
Clarke’s fashion projects are in sync with her newest endeavor, the Honest AF podcast. Sharing information publicly that she and Wylde used to share privately with each other via text, the show aims to help women with tips and tales on aging, looking good, menopause, marriage, children, and more.
“We’re both trying to figure out ways to keep things fresh and sustain being healthy and looking our best,” Clarke says of the broadcast which she tapes out of her home. “There are women out there that want to discuss this stuff. There’s a lot of things that are going on with our bodies now that nobody told us about. It’s been a freaking lifesaver during the pandemic and it’s just been so much fun. Barbara and I are both with guitar players, we both have kids, both business women and we’ve both been married forever. “
The duo’s uncensored convos cover a lot and guests –such as Osborne, Kathy Valentine, Patti Stranger and the wives of Nikki Sixx, Mike Dirnt (Green Day) and Robert Trujillo (Metallica) to name a few– give it a convivial vibe. They’ve even had both their husbands on the show, and Clarke says both are supportive, even when their wives spill the beans on their private lives.
Clearly both have solid and supportive families where communication and keeping it real are key. Making time for each other no matter how busy is important too. And everyone is busy. Gilby has a new record out, and daughter Frankie (yes, she named her brand after her baby) is following in dad’s footsteps with her rock band Frankie + the Studs.
“When Gilby’s on the road I try to go as much as I can. We always have the rule that we try not stay apart more than two weeks,” she says. “We respect what we each do, but we also prioritize our family.”
While Honest AF covers topics anyone with a brood can relate to and learn from, it is particularly on point when it comes to fashion, beauty and feeling food. A recent episode discussed the dreaded topic of “dressing your age” plus some intriguing tangents, such as kids who rebel against rocker parents, social media trolls and what’s appropriate when. As someone who influenced fashion in such a big way and continues to do so, Clarke’s takes on these topics are informative and inspiring.
“Fashion is supposed to be fun and dressing for yourself should be fun,” the designer insists. “I don’t believe in rules and don’t believe in the saying that if you remember the trend you shouldn’t do it again. Musicians have such individuality and they express it through their style and that’s one thing I’ve loved about being married to one– it kind of gives you license to do whatever you want.”
Learn more about Solow here.
Honest AF availble on Apple Music or where ever you get podcasts.