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NEW YORK -- Two hours before making her Fashion Week debut Friday night with her pricey L.A.M.B. collection, Gwen Stefani is about as good-natured and friendly as that very animal.
The singer-turned-designer is backstage, watching her models get their faces and hair done. After a makeup artist dabs that signature red lipstick on her pucker, Stefani gets up, warmly greets a few members of her beauty squad and proceeds to pose for pictures. She's casually hip in a white tank paired with army-green baggy pants with L.A.M.B. written on them in gold and silver.
Stefani, 35, knows how to keep her cool.
"I feel a little more relaxed now," says the singer, who has been in Manhattan for the past month feverishly putting the finishing touches on her fifth collection and already working on the next one.
She gets riled by any suggestion that she's just a celebrity figurehead who doesn't pick out every single button or bead.
"I feel very defensive about that question today," Stefani says. "I'm very, very hands-on. I sewed the rhinestones on the wedding dress today. It's my passion, and every bit of the collection starts here."
Not even husband Gavin Rossdale has seen the latest iteration of L.A.M.B., which is sold online and in stores including Nordstrom. "He hasn't been allowed to come to the showroom because I wanted it to be a surprise."
The collection's look is "a little bit The Sound of Music. A little bit of Orange County. A little bit of the Rastafarian rasta girls. A little bit English Great Gatsby garden party girls," Stefani says. "Pretty much the same thing I always do, but different versions of it."
A relaxed Rossdale milled around an hour before the show started and later sat next to Vogue's Anna Wintour. He isn't surprised by his wife's success.
"She's really focused and knows what's in her mind and her vision. It's shocking, stunning," Rossdale says. "She looks the best to me when she takes seven minutes to get together and we go out low-key. She looks great by the pool."
And on the catwalk as well, as Stefani's clothes attracted a seriously A-list turnout. So much so that Britain's Sarah Ferguson sits several rows back from the runway. Lenny Kravitz holds hands with daughter Zoe. Faith Hill sits with her arm around her daughter. Nicky Hilton and Bijou Phillips huddle together.
Stefani's heavily hyped and packed-to-capacity show was slated to close out the spring 2006 Fashion Week. So what about those reports that Stefani is peeved about the last-minute addition of the Fashion for Relief show, which raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims? She scoffs at tabloid tales that the benefit, organized by models Naomi Campbell, Iman and Linda Evangelista, stole her thunder.
"It made me laugh a lot this morning, which relieved my stress," she says. "It's ridiculous. Me and Naomi, we know each other, and I so respect her."
In fact, Stefani showed up about 10 minutes into Fashion for Relief, which started 90 minutes late. Nicole Richie, Kelly Osbourne, Beyonce, Tyson Beckford and singer Amerie walked the catwalk at the open-to-the-public event, along with old-school models Rachel Hunter, Janice Dickinson, Angie Everhart and Pat Cleveland.
Fashion for Relief featured clothing from a variety of designers including Gucci, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors. The clothes will be auctioned on Yahoo.com, and all proceeds will benefit AmeriCares.
Contributing: Alison Maxwell
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