You could say that Fabrice has gotten a bead on what women want to wear at night. The Haitian-born, New York-based designer may be the single most important factor in the biggest boom for elaborately beaded evening dresses since flappers went bead-happy in the '20s.
Fabrice, however, doesn't rely on retro/Art Deco references for the designs he beads on his dresses. Rather he favors contemporary motifs such as squiggles, graffiti-like images and geometric forms. The results are sufficiently sexy, glittery and glamorous to have attracted a stellar clientele including Morgan Fairchild, Mary Tyler Moore, Dinah Shore, Cathy Lee Crosby, Cheryl Tiegs and Christie Brinkley.
At last year's Academy Awards, Best Actress nominees Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger both chose Fabrice designs as "acceptable" looks for Hollywood's most important night.
"There's sexiness and a lot of glamour in my dresses," says Fabrice, who will be showing his spring/summer collection at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills Monday through Wednesday. "There's also a sense of humor and youth in the patterns I create so that the dresses don't have too serious a look. If a woman feels good in something, she can go forward in many ways."
For spring/summer, the 33-year-old designer says that he's going forward with some new beaded motifs including an oversize-check pattern that he calls exploded houndstooth, and a black and white bold ink-spot design that came about when he accidentally spilled paint on his drawing board. New design details include such sleeve treatments as voluminous butterfly shapes, kimono styles and flanged shoulders. Silhouettes in silk or fancy silk crepe sometimes combined with lace are more fitted for spring/summer, Fabrice says, with emphasis at the waist and hips through shirring, tie fronts, oversize back bows and hip pockets.
The American woman's continuing obsession with glittery, glamorous gowns for evening may be the result of deprivation in the 1960s, Fabrice theorizes.
"In the '60s, everybody in their 20s rejected glamour and dressed down," says the designer, who won a special Coty Award for his beadwork in 1981. "So those women who are now in their 40s and 50s really never got to wear the kinds of designs I do. Now they're getting their chance. Today, parties are often black tie, and a woman needs glamorous gowns in her wardrobe."
Though Fabrice's designs retail for about $2,000 to $6,000, he says that they may be a bargain if you see beads as an alternative to baubles and bangles.
"It's a lot cheaper to wear a beaded dress than jewelry," he says, adding that a single gown can require two weeks of labor for the beading alone. "If you're going to wear a simple black dress, you need the jewels to enhance the look."
Fabrice says that the only woman who comes to mind who he would like to dress is Nancy Reagan.
"I don't know if she would think I was too much for her, but I think she easily could wear a lot of things I do," he says. "Maybe I'm a little too outrageous. Would I put her in beads? Oh, yes. She wears them all the time."
President Reagan will be able to wear Fabrice beads as well. The designer says that he's creating a men's evening line that he will inaugurate in the fall of 1985.
"I'll take the tuxedo a step further," says Fabrice, whose men's collection will include beaded shirts, vests and scarfs as well as trousers and an overcoat for evening.