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TheRootDC
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Posted at 11:02 AM ET, 11/10/2011

Designer Kevan Hall on weddings, Michelle Obama, and the women of Hollywood in his designs


The “Vanessa” dress from the Kevan Hall White Label bridal collection. (Anton Oparin/Fashionstock.com)
Designer Kevan Hall has dressed the women of Hollywood for years - from Taraji P. Henson to Gabourey Sidibe, and in his latest bridal collection, he is taking his signature structured yet flowy creations from the red to the white carpet. The Detroit native will preview of both his bridal and ready to wear lines on Friday at The Washington Club. He talked to us about Washington style, what it was like to dress Michelle Obama and his experience of helping the legendary actress Ruby Dee.

You have done bridal collections before.

- I did Tia Mowry’s wedding, and then prior to that we just did like a little capsule group. It might have been six pieces just to test the atelier and to see what the response would be in the market. But our full-blown bridal collection - I mean like the real deal - was launched [in] 2010, October 2010. This will be my third season.

Why present your collection to the brides in Washington?

The women of Washington, they have a lot of style. They’re looking for things that, I feel, are more sophisticated and more understated and I feel like that’s what my collection really does reflect. It does have a bit of the Hollywood glamour in there, that’s really my background. We do lots of red carpet. But I felt like that sophistication of the red carpet would translate beautifully to the white carpet.
The “Grace” dress from the Kevan Hall White Label bridal collection. (Anton Oparin/Fashionstock.com)

The Kevan Hall bride is, I think, sophisticated as well. She likes a bit of flourish and a bit of fantasy. She’s looking for an exciting, beautiful, embellished skirt with some gorgeous detail in it or she’s looking for an unusual kind of bodice. I think that in bridal so much of it does look the same, but we are proposing some great new looks and necklines and beautiful shoulder treatments, and just gorgeous, romantic silhouettes.

You’ve dressed tons of women and tons of celebrities, but I think the one Washingtonians identify with the most is Michelle Obama, whom you dressed in 2010. How did that process go?

We were approached to put together a number of different things for her to look at and select. And we were thrilled when she picked a beautiful shirtdress. It was like a burgundy and bronze colored polka dot tie-front dress - really based on a classic American shirtdress.


US First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on the "Let's Move! initiative during the 2010 Hispanic Heritage Month events of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washingtion, DC, on September 14, 2010. ( JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Did you measure her?

We did not meaure her. I did have a sense of her size, her stylist had forwarded us that information, and we made the dress up and it fit! We were really excited.

Did you ever hear from her personally?

I have not heard from her personally, but I’m hoping that in the future we’ll have an opportunity to dress her more.

What do you think of Washington style?

Washington style is great. I think it’s sophisticated, I think it’s refined, it’s not over the - it’s like a restrained elegance. Nothing over-the-top, but just classy.

I think they have more style than just the conservative jacket and a slim skirt. There’s always room for a little bit of embellishment and detail. I think it’s all in the details.

Tell me about the 2012 collection.

I always love vintage, so there is a bit of looking back to the 1940’s and the 1930’s in this particular collection, where we found some beautiful fabrics that [are] kind of a pebble crepe, which we haven’t really seen in several years.

There’s a gorgeous hammered satin fabric and hammered satin gowns. And then there’s a beautiful group of what’s called ponti dresses. They’re cotton ponte which is a wonderful, luxurious stretch fabrication that we’ve been selling tons and tons of this dress and it looks good on small women, medium-sized women, our larger-sized women. I once had three women in the fitting room at the same time, and they all came out of each of their fitting room doors. They looked at each other and said “My goodness, this dress looks good on everybody!” It’s one of those hits that we were able to do.

What is the Kevan Hall woman like?

I think this woman is one that is a woman that likes beautiful fabrics. She enjoys wearing exciting color. She’s not afraid to wear color. I think she is very aware of fashion. She knows what’s going on in the world of fashion but she doesn’t succumb to all of the trends and all the fads. She’s looking for something that’s classic, and something that’s going to really stand the test of time.

Tell me one of your favorite design stories.
Ruby Dee arrives at the 80th Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 24, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

One of them would be when I dressed Ruby Dee for the Oscars. She’s like a legend and she’s an iconic actress, really beloved by America. And she basically said “I just want you to make me look young and tall and thin.”

And we put together some incredible sketches for her and she picked a dress. And we called up a friend of mine, Stuart Weitzman, to do the shoes for the occasion. And I was concerned about what kind of shoe to put her in. We put her in a platform shoe and when she put the shoe on in the fitting, she took off across the room like she was Naomi Campbell. So it was kind of just great to see her - that spark and that youth and that spontaneity in her and just how wonderful she did finally look in ruby red on the red carpet. It was really great.

You’ve lived several renaissance lives. You started your private line in 2002, have been a creative director for Halston...How is it to have grown into a go-to designer?

It’s really great because these girls, they get courted by designers from all over the world. The stylists are flown in or the girls are flown in and they would pick dresses and trunks and trunks and trunks come in and they try these dresses. So when I feel like an actress requests [a] Kevan Hall gown or when she turns up on the red carpet in a Kevan Hall gown, I’m really honored and it really speaks volumes. I think it says a lot about how the girls sometimes are very loyal and how they return time and time again.

They become comfortable and there’s a certain trust level. They know that I’m not gonna let them go out of the atelier looking wrong. They’re gonna look beautiful.

Hall will be at honored at The Washington Club as they celebrate their 120th anniversary Nov. 11, at 6:30 p.m. at 15 Dupont Circle. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online.

The designer will also be present at a trunk show at Soliloquy Bridal Couture in Herndon Va. Nov. 12. The shop is located at 754 Elden St. Ste 103. To request an appointment, visit soliloquybridal.com.

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