You could say Florence Welch has had an incredible year. Starting in January, Florence + the Machine's debut album, Lungs, hit #1 on the UK charts and sent the singer and her band on a whirlwind of international performances. In the following months the band garnered a viral video, an SNL performance, a shout out from the cast of Glee and, as of this week, a Grammy nod. A budding trendsetter, Welch teamed with Talenthouse.com to hold a competition this fall for a lucky fan to design her costume for a Terminal 5 performance. W caught up with the effervescent Welch to talk about the competition, her fashion obsessions and, of course, music.
What inspired the idea for a costume design competition?
We kind of had a great fan base in the US and it just seemed like a nice thing to do. I'd never really done anything like this before at all. Not even in the UK. People send me designs that they think would look nice, but I've never actually done it as part of a competition where people could submit. It's always interesting to see how people visualize your look.
How many people applied?
There were like 800?
How did you guys pick the winner?
We narrowed it down to a select few and then just debated over which one to choose. I liked the ones that were the most inventive, but classic. You could see that there were interesting details. It's the small things, I think, that kind of catch your attention.
Florence and the competition winner, Cristina Adami.
And so the winner came to the show at Terminal 5?
Yeah she did. And I met her in London because she's based in London. We flew her out to New York to see the outfit in action. But she's really sweet and she got to my house and we were like trying on peach bodysuit, and I made a couple cups of tea.
Who are your favorite designers?
Givenchy, I wore a Givenchy dress to the VMA red carpet. Bodyamr. He is amazing. I've worn so many of his dresses, like they're so good for shows. Even the color palate and everything, you know, and everything just fits. Anything by Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy--he's a total genius. I love the big classics like Chanel and Dior. But I'm also a big fan of Temperley London and Alberta Ferreti... God, the list goes on! (Laughs)
Do you think that your style had changed since you've started performing more?
You have more freedom to kind of experiment because people do kind of want to lend you clothes, which is brilliant. So you can kind of develop your style more, which is great. You know, I used to go on stage in top socks and like a £3 dress from the charity shop. That's when it was just me and two boys-- and you know, I didn't really think too much about what I wore on stage. I'd usually just wear one of like [the boy's] shirts and some shorts (laughs) and jump around. And that was quite a long time ago. Now the band is bigger, and there are girls in the band--it's all becomes part of the fun of it, and it becomes part of the show.
Sketches of the winning design
You've gotten to go on tour with a lot of really awesome bands, play shows with big bands. Who are your favorite contemporary bands?
Yeah one of our first tours, like the tour where I was running around on stage in a boy's shirt. It was the MGMT tour, which actually changed my outfits a bit because Andrew [VanWyngarden, of MGMT] would be on stage wearing a dress and I thought, Wow maybe I'll put a dress on.
Yeah, they're pretty theatrical too.
Yeah, we toured and traveled together for a really long time. I think I was kind of influenced to dress a bit more out there because we would all get dressed together and like I'd be putting glitter on Andrew and we'd swap dresses. And he actually gave me a lime green catsuit that I went on to wear with a curtain, like a glittery see-through curtain, at my first Reading performance. From touring with other bands, like seeing their performances, you kind of influence each other and things kind of--you egg each other on.
Kind of like a friendly competition. What's been one of your favorite big performances in recent memory?
We performed in an old Roman amphitheater where gladiators used to duel. It's kind of frightening just because there's been so much blood and death in there but it's kind of amazing. Part of the theater was shut off to the audience, and I just sneaked up there by myself in the moonlight, just creeping around this ancient amphitheater. And there's no, like, bars on any of the arches-- you're just running around this amphitheater. And I went all the way up to the top and I was overlooking the whole of Nimes, which is this old Roman garrison in France. And it's kind of amazing thinking, 'Well this where singing has brought me'--I'm standing on top of a Roman amphitheater looking at the moon.
So do you still get stage fright?
You know what? I get the most stage fright playing in my hometown, in London, I don't know why that is. I just think it's because in London people have seen me develop. It's kind of like you put so much pressure on yourself to be good because it's your home crowd. I get stage fright there. But the most stage fright I get is doing TV performances, definitely.
Speaking of, how was SNL? It looked great.
It was so fun! And Anne Hathaway was such a sweetheart and everyone just kind of hangs out backstage and watches each other perform and everyone is so friendly and it's just such a nice atmosphere.
Have you seen the YouTube video of the baby dancing to your song?
Like five people have sent it to me, it's so cute. I can't believe what a phenomenon it's become. I think that's probably got us more radio play now than anything else. I was like, well, cheers. Whoever that baby is, I want to meet that kid (laughs).
"Lungs" by Florence + the Machine
Do you have plans for the holidays?
I'm going to go home and try and like start work on the next record pretty much immediately as soon as I get back, which is in like two days. And there are plans for Vegas for the New Year.
Have you ever been there?
No, it's going to be insane.
And what else do you have planned for next year? Are you just focusing on the album or—?
Spend all my money for the next album in Vegas.... Uh, have to hitchhike my way back to England. (laughs) And, yeah, I think that's pretty much my plan.