By Taryn Bickley
After years of creating sweeping gowns and separates for a clientele that includes some of Hollywood’s most elite, Kevan Hall has a formula that seems less about the precision of components and more about the inspiration behind them.
A native Detroiter, Hall has become a household name in international fashion circles, having designed in New York and L.A. for more than 20 years. After attending Detroit’s Cass Tech, he went on to study at the L.A. Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and became head designer for the Halston label.
THE EARLY YEARS
Growing up in an age of custom suits and coordinated ensembles meant weekly trips to the Avenue of Fashion, the string of upscale clothiers, milliners, and specialty stores that once lined Livernois near Seven Mile Road in Detroit. He cites his mother’s elegant hats as a memorable look and includes both her and his father as strong influences. “Both my parents were really supportive, supplying me with all sorts of tools, magazines, and art books,” Hall says. “Just from drawing, watching, and observing, I was really able to learn to sketch.”
In his youth, Hall followed the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, and other Motown greats. Rarely without pen and paper, he would scrutinize performers, taking stock of their clothing, the materials, cuts, and finishes. “I was definitely taken with the Motown energy that was happening at the time,” he says. “I’d study these women, and then I’d sketch out how I’d love to see them dressed.” Today, Hall’s creations are worn by some of his early style muses, including Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, and Whitney Houston.
Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and French designer Madeleine Vionnet all figure in Hall’s aesthetic. “These were the really incredible screen sirens of the time, and I loved creating costumes and sketching for them.” In addition to his appreciation for all eras of fashion, Hall is also passionate about architecture. In fact, Hall’s love of lines and construction plays a significant role in his technique. “I love the extravagant shapes, structure, and flourish of clothing,” he says.
Hall says he relishes the time he spent at Cass Tech. “I had a phenomenal instructor named Miss Taylor who was not only an incredible influence in terms of helping come up with new ideas and concepts, but also with our discipline in studying history and the great masters.”
WEST COAST CONVERSION
After winning a scholarship to the L.A. Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Hall moved to Los Angeles, which he says suited his affinity for all things glamorous. Following graduation, he started his company with his wife, Deborah, and very quickly began selling his collections to Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. “I really enjoy dressing everyday women who just want to wear beautiful clothes,” Hall says. “But one of the important parts of our business has been working with celebrities, so that’s why being in L.A. is essential.”
When Felicity Huffman won an Emmy for Desperate Housewives, she accepted her award in a Kevan Hall red satin dress. Drew Barrymore, Katherine Heigl, Vanessa Williams, and Geena Davis have all stepped out in his evening-wear. “Working with celebrities is so enjoyable,” Hall says. “They’re [given] boxes and boxes of clothing from designers all over the world, so for them to pick a Kevan Hall design … well it’s quite exciting.” At this year’s Oscars, he designed Ruby Dee’s dress. “He can stretch me,” the 5-foot-tall actress told The New York Times.
And what of spring? Hall created a collection he calls Africa: A Safari, which includes a series of looks that pay homage to the various tribes throughout that continent. “For me, it’s never a problem to come up with a new idea or something creative. The challenge is in the execution … in bringing the collection to the level I want to see it.”
In metro Detroit, Hall’s designs are carried exclusively at Roma Sposa, Birmingham.