Thursday, July 2, 2009

Designer Kevan Hall -Interview

There are few designers that start their first collection at age before they get to middle school. Well, perhaps not a full collection, but Kevan Hall, growing up in Detroit, already knew which celebrities he wanted to dress at age 8. Knowing that he was getting inspired and sketching at such a young age, it is no surprise that he went on to receive the Peacock award from the Fashion Institute for “Outstanding Fashion Design” and later was presented with the “Great American Designer” award by the NAACP. With ignorance for fads and passion for classic looks, Kevan is branching out to bigger things, leaving us at awe every season. I visited Mr. Hall at his beautiful studio to chat and perhaps try to get an inside look into the creative mind behind the modern glamour of Kevan Hall Designs .

VH: Thanks for meeting with me Kevan, I'm going to dive right in. How did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Kevan: Being a designer is something I've always wanted to do. Even though I didn't know there was such a thing as fashion designer. When I was a child, about 8 years old or so I would sketch and pretend I was dressing movie stars. I would look at old variety TV shows and redesign their costumes and watch old movies with Greta Garbo, Kate Hepburn while sketching their outfits. That is how I started to sketch and draw. My parents were very supportive and gave me art books and supplies everything I needed to follow that passion.

VH: If it wasn't fashion, what would have been your second choice for a profession?
K: Probably architecture. I love environments and beautiful buildings, the look of a beautiful city. .

VH: What would you say are you biggest inspirations?
K: My inspirations are beautiful women who love to look amazing. Women that enjoy fashion and enjoy being women. It must be great to be able to dress up, change your look, your hair, your make up. You can go with flat heel, high heel, I mean its got to be great! That is in sorts an inspiration as well as art books. As I travel I look for the next thing that jumps up and inspires me. That could be anywhere from scuba diving trip to an art museum. Perhaps an iconic designer or movies. All those things inspire my work. I'm always looking and open to inspiration.

VH: True artist always are. Do you have any favorite fabrics you like to work with?
K: I love working with drapey fabrics like chiffons, tulles, any time of silk crepe. Really luxurious fabrics.

VH: Do you have a favorite color?
K: No favorite colors per say. I like the classic combination of black and white. I think its always great, it looks good on everyone. Its just very graphic and I love that. I like interesting combinations and that is one of the things that people have color sense. I like to find colors that are unusual that you haven't seen and then I put them together. That way I really build a beautiful pallet and a beautiful story.

VH: What do you consider your biggest challenge as a designer?
K: Biggest challenge is probably the combination of managing and running a business and also keeping the creative side as well. As an owner of the company I have to balance creativity with commerce. That is to say what is going to give the kind of press I want that can propel the brand and make it exciting for fashion editors to look at and be interested in showing, but at the same time it has to be something that a client will want to actually wear and its useful, has an actual purpose. I think that is very challenging. To walk that fine like between something that is build with skills and still artistic and edgy.

VH: It seems like you are doing a great job balancing! Who would you say are you favorite designers?
K: Madeleine Vionnet, who was an incredible designer in the 1930's and developed the biased cut. I love things that are soft, fluid and slinky , and that is what she pioneered. I love Christian Dior, the 1947 look and the way he ushered the new glamour after the war.
VH: Speaking of legends, if you had a chance to speak to someone who is no longer alive, who would it be?
K: I would like to speak to Balenciaga. I would love to just talk about the craft and the technique, and skills that goes with making a beautiful, sculptural suit, dress or gown. I think I would choose him because I know that he actually used his hands and actually draped, as suppose to Dior. Even though I appreciate and love what he did he was more of a sketcher and more of an artist. Balenciaga on the other hand was more of a tailor and a craftsman.
VH: What would you tell an aspiring designer?
K: I think what is important is to learn as much as they possibly can. I would say go to a school and get an education. Then work as an apprentice with someone that is in the same field that you are interested in. Stick with that and really learn all that you can. Make yourself consumed with fashion. Read every magazine and book on history of fashion. Find great coffee books that might be filled with inspirations. Shop vintage stores to see how things were made when they were made well. And seek inspiration there as well.

VH: You are so right. I love vintage shops, that is when things were made with time and precision.
K: Yes, now most things are just thrown together.

VH: Because the society wants everything quick and easy! Do you have a favorite piece that you have created that you would want to be known for?
K: No, for me its about a body of work, being consistent every season. Creating a beautiful collection, so you continue to build the anticipation for people to see the collection as well as to build the brand.

VH: So what's next for Kevan Hall?
K: Right now I am doing a number of licenses. I just launched my secondary collection which is a less expensive line. Cocktail dresses that will be sold more to department stores and specialty boutiques. I also have a ready to wear collection that we are launching, sportswear and more day dresses. We just started carrying it in Bloomingdale's. We are also developing a collection of fine jewelry, another devision I am starting. Basically we are broadening the brand to include many other products that have that Kevan Hall aesthetic.

VH: That's great. People are shrinking down and you are branching out!
K: Well, you know, you cannot stay in one spot!

VH: When people think Kevan Hall what would you want to be popping into their heads?
K: Glamorous, incredibly well made. Beautiful to wear, comfortable with a sense of ease, uncomplicated.

VH: Sounds very appealing! You definitely have a lot going on right now. What is your main goal for the brand?
K: To brand Kevan Hall Company to household name. To encompass the ready to wear collection and the couture collection. I want to start doing beautiful things with home- pillows, linens and eventually perfume. To have a whole brand and then build a store that will have all the different products in the store. Where people could just come in and buy everything that I like and everything that I love.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Leanna Lewis- Creator of Downtown Los Angeles Fashion Week

We will be unstoppable and we will rule Fashion Week”. Some strong words, but nothing Leanna Lewis, the founder of Down Town LA Fashion Week, would joke about. After throwing an amazing event that is still talked about by most of Los Angeles on March 19, Leanna and her team are ready to conquer the fashion world one fantastic show at a time. Originally from Los Angeles, Leanna lived in New York and thrived for 6 years working for one of the leading fashion houses in the city. She had many shows under her belt, including Chanel, Hugo Boss and Donna Karan when certain circumstances (and perhaps a bit of nostalgia!) drew her back to Los Angeles. “ I love New York and think its a wonderful place but LA is my home and to do LA Fashion Week, we just need to make it LA style”. By focusing on what our city is all about, she believes will be the road to her success. Sure, throwing events isn't cheap, she admits she had to dab into her own pocket to throw Evening of 20th Century Glamour. Her two assistants, Maggie Hawkins and Lara Gallagher have to agree. “It was definitely worth it though, to hear all those people say how amazing the event was, we worked hard and got the recognition”, says Lara. “Our biggest challenge was aligning ourselves with the right people. We met amazing people who at the end of the day gave us everything and didn't expect anything back” , adds Maggie. It can't hurt that working with Leanna is very drama-less. “She is always so happy, she'll just start singing and dancing!”. Her urge to dance might be a result of being married to one of Los Angeles' hippiest DJs who runs an entertainment DJ company called Mixology Inc. Having two children under 2 years old and keeping up with her job is not easy, but it can be done, she admits. “I give mothers so much credit because we are the ultimate multi-taskers”.
One of Leanna's biggest passions is Vintage, which is why she chose to show Cameron Silver of Decades at the Evening of 20th Century Glamour. It had a great turn out with attendees like Nicole Richie, Nicky Hilton and Marisa Tomei among many others. It was no surprise that many starlets made an appearance. After all, the one of a kind vintage pieces from Decades including Chanel and Christian Dior were ravishing and timeless- no one could afford to miss this show. “I'm not here to promote everyone that wants to do a fashion show, I'm here to promote those that are passionate and love what they do”, stresses the show producer. With the event benefiting MOCA, Leanna really appealed to the charitable. Its no surprise that she loves doing charity events. It has been something she has gotten a chance to do many times before. Once, while doing an event in Boston for Chanel, she even had to employ some homeless men, after realizing the set up crew was not reserved and she had no labor. “They did such a great job and the event ended up being very successful”.
I can see that Leanna is confident and believes she handles her job very well. “I think I'm an amazing producer, I thought this is going to be my goal, to bring Fashion Week Downtown”. No one can argue after attending her last event, that she will accomplish this goal in no time. With the October Fashion Week already planned out its hard to doubt that we will be disappointed. Anything from eco-sustainable collections to vintage we are in for some great shows. Of course, when someone is so passionate about what they do, it is easy to put their best energy and work into the project and have it succeed. “When I see the models walking down the runway, and the music begins, it just gives me this burst of energy that fills me with so much joy”, says the creator of DLAFW. Though it was Leanna's dream and her goals, she insists she could not do any of it without her team. “Lara and Maggie have really stepped up and have contributed to this enormously”.There are still many things to focus on to make sure LA Fashion Week puts our city on that colorful style map.” My inspiration and passion for it was just to get fashion week where the garment industry lives and breathes”. Indeed, it is a place for our local designers to shine. “. There is lots of talent and they go to NY to do show so why not stay here in their own back yard, where you have amazing weather, venues, celebrities and media.”Still one cant help but to wonder why this talented blonde would go through so much trouble, even financing an event from her own pocket to make sure LA is one of the style mavens of the world. “We are here to do a good job and make the designers shine and rise above. Working with them and seeing their amazing collections and the amazing things they put together is my favorite part.” I can tell she is a fashionista just by looking at her perfectly intact bob haircut and no roots showing, which I couldn't say about my own hair. Add such great experience and you would think Diane Von Furstenberg which Leanna would love to ad to her client list, would be crazy not to want to work with her.
When I ask the ladies what they would tell someone who has the same high dreams, their answers don't surprise me. “You just have to not be afraid .You just have to be a leader, and make a stand. Make it happen , where there is a will there is a way” says Leanna with a firm tone. Maggie agrees and adds that you have to make a decision to whether to believe in yourself or not, “fear and faith don't exist in the same place”. Leanna didn't always get the support she wished for. “There will always be people that will try to bring you down because they are down. You just have to look within yourself and focus and follow through with your dream. People were not supportive when I started with my production, but sometimes you just have to ignore those people, and be determined. I kept moving forward and I did it. Don't sell yourself short.” Well said.
I can tell Maggie is antsy to jet, and soon enough Leanna politely informs me that she has to be going as well. Even though my notepad has a few more questions I put my pen down and realize we have been chatting for a good hour, way over our scheduled 20 minutes. I thank them for their precious time and make sure that I let them know that LA definitely could be the next NY. Leanna doesn't hesitate to assure me. “It could be and it should be and it will be. And that is why we are doing this.”