Cutting a Figure

Pamella DeVos’ sophisticated designs garner star attraction among Hollywood celebrities

Cutting a FigureWhether she’s in her office on Seventh Avenue in New York, on a plane to Dubai, where she’s promoting her latest collection, or at home with family in Grand Rapids, Pamella DeVos, president and designer of Pamella Roland, seems to be in perpetual motion.

For her, being busy provides a welcoming window into the active lifestyle of the customer she serves. “Women today don’t have a lot of time for fuss,” says DeVos, a fashion designer who has garnered a high-profile clientele. “Most of the time they’re throwing a dress on and running out the door.”

Intrigued by fashion since her youth, DeVos (Roland was derived from her first design collaboration) immersed herself in art, business, and philanthropy while a student at Michigan State University. Married to Daniel DeVos, the son of Amway founder Rich DeVos, and mother to three children, she believes that her education — a mix of the practical and creative — helped propel her into a dream career at an age when many women are firmly settled.

Her signature suits, gowns, and coats, which were picked up by Neiman Marcus during her first season, have become synonymous with sensible sophistication. DeVos has gone on to create numerous influential collections, and now counts Queen Latifah, Eva Longoria, and Carrie Underwood among her loyal fans. Hour Detroit recently chatted with the designer about red-carpet fashion and looks for the upcoming season.

For spring 2009, your ready-to-wear show included bold, feminine, and bright colors. Are you foreseeing a primary-colored season?

This season, I was particularly inspired by the artist Ellsworth Kelly. He’s known for these bold, block colors. So, at the start of my show, we had three girls walk out in bright green, blue, and red. These looks were inspired by a painting of his that’s hanging at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

With the changes right now in fashion and the economy, what are you seeing as important?

I think the day-to-evening look is fantastic. Today, people are going to buy a dress that they can wear from the day into night. So we’re doing quite a bit of that and a less formal black-tie.

What was it like working on your first full collection during fall 2002 with no formal training, and how have you evolved since then?

When I first started, it was right after 9/11, so it was a scary and unsettling time. I didn’t even look to the future and I didn’t expect anything, either. Today, I’ve seen my collection grow to become more mature. I know how to communicate with the pattern makers, my design team, the production manager, and our [sewing staff], and am much more confident.

With spring ’09, you include a lot of flattering shapes such as pleating, nipped waists, and swing skirts. Where did this direction come from?

It’s a very feminine collection in a lot of ways. These shapes flatter the woman’s body. I really wanted to concentrate on making sure that my fit was really great because that’s so important. Women need to stick to what fits and works for them, and I work very hard to achieve that.

It’s award-show season, and with that comes the need for red-carpet allure. What are key points when you design for celebrities?

The one thing you really have to pay attention to is the cut. Stars have worked really hard for their bodies, and while they want to show it off, they also don’t want to be too revealing. The favorite shape is the V-neck, because they can wear their jewelry with it. You can do a little beading but, again, they want the jewelry to shine, so that’s always minimal.

If you could design a collection based around anything, what would it be?

I love coats, jackets, and sweater coats. I can get very creative with different lengths, styles, and by adding fur and different embellishments.

What do you think is timeless?

Chiffon dresses. You saw those in the 1920s, and they’re still popular today. A great little black dress in a lightweight cashmere, satin, or cotton is also essential.