Kevan Hall is known for creating glamorous red carpet looks, but lately the Los Angeles-based designer has had a hit with daytime attire. In Houston to judge the For the Sake of Art competition benefiting the University Museum at Texas Southern University and make a personal appearance at Elizabeth Anthony with his glamorous '70s-tinged fall collection, Hall took time out to talk about the importance of dressing celebrities, his fashion winners and how he manages to juggle so many different things at one time.
He also caught up with Pam Green, who often models top designers' latest collections at Elizabeth Anthony. Green was the award giver at the 2005 Oscars, where Hall dressed her and others for their big moment before a worldwide audience.
CultureMap: How do celebrities want to dress for the red carpet or a special appearance? Has that changed?
Kevan Hall: There are certain people who have a more sophisticated eye and will be little bit more restrained and more refined in their taste level. But you also have that girl who isn’t dressed for the red carpet unless she’s wearing a fishtail gown that’s overfit and is way too tight.
I prefer the former because I think because a person with sophisticated taste realizes it isn’t too much about your body as it about getting a whole visual impact and creating a moment on that carpet because you know the right girl at the right awards show in the right dress can have an impact. Elizabeth Hurley in the Versace dress. That dress moved her into another level and you look at it differently. It also did it for JLo. The Versace green dress with the plunging neckline took her to a whole new level.
CM: Have you had a red carpet moment like that?
KH: Yes. I had a moment with Vanessa Williams when she was nominated for an Emmy for Ugly Betty. I phoned her and said, "I have a dress for you and I think it’s going to take a little bit of nerve to wear but if you go with me on this I think we can create something that is visually great."
It was a strapless feather gown in pistachio green with a taupe band (and) dégradé to beautiful ostrich feathers. It was amazing. I thought they would say she is molting, she is going to take flight. First of all she is so gorgeous. Those green eyes and that green dress, it was amazing. She started the feather (trend).
CM: What does it mean to have celebrity clients?
KH: It’s great because it really raises the profile (of the brand). And often people see a celebrity in it and they order it. If they haven’t seen it, we will send out emails and they like that.
CM: What is your inspiration for fall?
KH: It's the 1970s mirror ball disco — the great sequined gown, the fabulous malachite jumpsuit, the simplicity of just being a column long sleeve with a high neck, a T-shirt gown in rose gold and platinum sequin combination.
CM: What led you to the '70s?
KH: It was just a kind of feeling that it’s time to look back. It was a great era. Designers of that period, Halston, iconic designers. I designed for Halston.
CM: What did you learn from that experience?
KH: It was a long time ago. But I always loved that period. There was great style and fluidity. That was the inspiration, the great colors, the sensuous silhouettes, the modernity of it I loved. It’s fun when you see it.
CM: You’re known as a red carpet designer. How much of your business is daywear?
KH: I’d say 75 percent of my business is day-into-cocktail. It all started with a dress that has been a carryover for three years. Now, I've done a version with a criss-cross at the shoulder and a boatneck (design) where you can wear beautiful chunky jewelry or a fabulous pin.
Women are buying these beautiful things to wear to work. Maybe she’s an executive or maybe she’s a lady who has time to lunch, but she is on-the-go for 24 hours so she’s buying great pieces like this jacket with a mosaic-sequined T-shirt underneath or a flare pant, I call it a "Travolta pant," in plaid or a T-shirt in jersey and vegan leather. Women want to have a little bit of versatility.
CM: What was it like judging the wearable art competition here in Houston?
KH: It was really an awesome experience. I loved that it was open to everyone who heard about the competition and wanted to enter and I liked that some were experienced artists and some were like the 13-year-old who just heard about it and wanted to participate.
I found it inspiring, first of all to find out more about the event and to see how each person interpreted his or her work. Two people took the same piece of art and interpreted it so differently and I thought that was really interesting. Art can speak to you in different ways.
My favorite story about this whole thing was the Museum of Fine Arts security guard. It’s so great how she loved art so much that she became a security guard at the museum so that she could be near the art. I teared up...that a security guard loved art so much and interpreted it so beautifully, (with a) technique that I was not familiar with and made this thing that was a moment. I told her just keep creating because she has a talent.
CM: You've been in the business for a lot time. What's your secret of success?
KH: Tenacity. I design when I can, a lot of it is business. But I take lots of time to sit by the river in northern California and take my pad and take it all in. It’s my time for inspiration and reflection.