Performance Artists : Entertainers Turn to Creative Team for Costumes That Stand Out


The creative team of menswear designer Henry Duarte and stylist Dana Allyson is one to watch.

Together they have cornered a small but significant slice of the pop music fashion market. In their collaboration of less than a year they have wrapped artists as popular and diverse as New Kids on the Block and Vanilla Ice in creative clothes for tours, music videos and television commercials.

On his own, Duarte, 26, is known for his ready-to-wear Sqwear label. He is working on a signature men’s collection that he hopes to unveil next fall and has been designing for singer Natalie Cole and the dancers on the television show “In Living Color.”

Allyson, 28, has styled videos and costumes for artists including Billy Idol and Tiffany, and is now costuming the film “Motorama.”


Together they have a clear-cut business relationship; she works with the artists to determine their needs, desires and tastes, then takes the ideas to Duarte, who creates custom designs that blend those ideas with forward fashion.

The Allyson-Duarte look relies on exaggerated details such as oversize embroidery and bright colors. “Black doesn’t work as a stage color,” explains Allyson. “We tend to use color, and things that are shiny.”

Duarte promises his celebrity clients that he will not repeat the designs he creates for them in his ready-to-wear collections. “These clothes should only be worn by stars,” he says. “The clothes help the performers live up to their star image, and inspire fantasies in the minds of the fans.”

In their brief time together, the duo has been prolific. They created the motocross-type clothing for the New Kids on the Block’s Coca-Cola commercials, then went on to do 75 outfits for the group’s 1990-91 tours.


Vanilla Ice is wearing Duarte-Allyson’s sequin-and-rhinestone “Liberace gone rap” suit, among others. He ordered a half-dozen for his solo tour this month.

Actress Jasmine Guy recently appeared on the Arsenio Hall show wearing one of the duo’s signature jackets, a curvy fuchsia number.

For the new Jellybean Benitez and Niki Harris video, “What’s It Gonna Be,” he wears a classic suit, but she has four costume changes, including one in which she wears an Afro wig, lime-green feather chubby, silver sequin hot pants and silver stockings.

How did Allyson and Duarte together? She had been working with the New Kids and was looking for something unique for the band to wear. “I saw Henry’s stuff and I asked around about him and tracked him down,” she says.

They strive to avoid the MTV fashion rut where all the outfits look the same and Duarte looks for Muses in odd and unusual areas.

His vests, for example, are inspired by airline safety vests, big-game fishing styles and orthopedic designs. For the New Kids’ tour, he created a baseball catcher’s vest in quilted leather and studded with crosses.