When confirmation came through for me to interview fashion designer Kevan Hall in Rome, my first thought was “amazing”, closely followed by a panicked “but what can I wear”? Within a very short period of time chatting with Kevan in the lobby of his hotel, I was very soon calmed by his thoughtful and relaxed manner.
If you’ve watch the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes or SAG Awards anytime in the past decade, then chances are you’ve seen some of Kevan’s stunning creations. With an incredible ability to drape and shape fabric into sleek, sensuous, contemporary haute couture, Kevan has dressed some of the world’s A-list celebrities and entertainers including Celine Dion, Sharon Stone, Charlize Theron and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
I was keen to learn if Kevan had been a creative child and when did he know he wanted to be a fashion designer.
Kevan: I was creative from a very early age. My whole family is creative and for me it really started as a young child, sketching, and re-imagining what I saw celebrities wearing. I would watch old movies, television variety shows, pen and pad in hand, and just sketch. I mean, I didn’t really know what I was doing, I didn’t know I was designing, I was only young, maybe six or seven, but I was re-imagining what I thought they should be wearing!
Born in Detroit, Kevan explains that his mother was a big influence on his interest as she loved fashion and would shop at the best stores; she would also have many of his sisters’ dresses custom-made, which became a fascination for Kevan.
Kevan: When we would go to church every Sunday, as this was our culture and faith; we would dress beautifully!
I’m keen to understand how Kevan works creatively, knowing what’s going to be on trend often several seasons in advance.
Kevan: For me I’m almost not trying to follow the trends, it’s almost intuitive. Often I’ll have an idea and the trend will just come, it’s the zeitgeist in the air. As I’m looking at fabrics and trimmings, you start to see the same colours in the marketplace, or you start to see trends, or a little bit of “something” in the periphery. I travel a lot and I’m constantly scanning the world for inspiration; is it a beautiful woman walking down the street, is it in a museum, is it a shape, is it a beautiful garden I may visit, I’m just constantly looking for inspiration. And then it becomes a matter of putting it down on paper either as a note, or as a series of sketches, and then eventually going into execution.
Being an Australian, I’m particularly fascinated by one of Kevan’s collections that was inspired by one of my country’s natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef.
Kevan: As I said earlier, it starts with an inspiration; once I consolidate that idea, then I start to find the materials and all the details that are going to bring it into fruition. I began my research for the Great Barrier Reef collection, looking at beautiful fish, the sea anemones, the coral and all these wonderful things that are part of the Reef, and that set the tone for the colour story. As I’m developing this, I’m looking for fabrics that evoke that, so fabrics with a lot of fluidity, satin-faced organza, or chiffon, and the embroidery on some of the jackets looked like sea anemones, some would be erect with little pearls and stuff like that. And then there were gowns that just moved like jelly fish, just so fluid and really divine. The creativity also extends to when you’re showing that collection on the catwalk, what’s the music, what’s the model going to look like, right down to hair and makeup.
As Kevan and I say our goodbyes we chat about what the rest of the day has install for him, we are in the Eternal City after all. No doubt there will be lots of opportunity for Kevan to be inspired by the art, architecture, fashion and flavours of Rome.