Living and designing in Beverly Hills, Mark Zunino has seen the extremes celebrities rely on for red-carpet dressing and he wants consumers to avoid them.
With Mark Zunino Atelier, a new red-carpet inspired bridal and eveningwear collection, the designer wants women to have figure-flattering looks by choosing a well-constructed gown. Architecture was his course of study at Pepperdine, but accepting an undergrad job at Nolan Miller’s assistant altered his career plans. At that time in the Eighties, Miller designed costumes for the glitzy hit show “Dynasty.” Catering to clients like Sophia Loren, Bette Davis, Ann-Margret and Lana Turner (whom Miller was engaged to at one point), “we were so Hollywood engulfed. We were flying around globally,” Zunino said, during a preview of his wedding gowns at Bridal Reflections’ Fifth Avenue flagship. A one-year commitment led to a decades-long one, with Zunino eventually buying the rights to Emmy-winning Miller’s company. Miller died in 2012.
Traces of his designs for such celebrity clients as Jennifer Lopez can be seen in such unexpected bridal styles as a beaded open-back jumpsuit. With eveningwear retailing for upward of $6,000 and wedding dresses starting at $8,000, the collection is being sold exclusively through Bridal Reflections, a three-store operation in New York. Unlike the collection that he sold via Kleinfeld and later through specialty stores, this new assortment is more eveningwear and red-carpet-inspired. Prior to this debut, Zunino has been designing wedding gowns for private clients, many of whom travel extensively and are fashion-forward. From his perspective, brides aren’t that different depending where they live. Contrary to the misperception that his designs are “heavily beaded, bling and Hollywood,” Zunino said, “My private clients are more understated with simple sophistication. They are wow in a different way. I really see our brides going in that direction.”
Lopez, Arianna Grande, Katy Perry and Beyoncé are among the notables he has dressed. During this past awards season, Zunino dressed Audrey Hilfiger, Katharine Ross and “Entertainment Tonight” commentator Nischelle Turner. The designer dressed Turner for both this year’s Oscars and SAG awards. He has also suited up her “ET” colleague Nancy O’Dell for the red carpet. Zunino said he is in talks with the show’s producer Sharon Hoffman about creating an online segment about “what the girls really do to get ready for the red carpet.” he said. “It’s not a makeover show. When you see women on the red carpet, half of them have surgical tape wrapped around their bodies. They’ve done so many things to look this way. The big thing during the last awards were diuretics. Everybody was releasing the water weight the day-of to un-bloat. Literally, an actress can lose two inches with diuretics.”
A CBS spokesman said Tuesday that during this past award season, Zunino spoke with Hoffman about possibly doing a segment on ETonline focusing on a “true look behind the scenes of a red carpet. She was open to that and that’s where the conversation ended.”
Zunino said the segment would address the importance of being healthy and achieving flattering looks by choosing the right garments. Spotlighting a variety of women, not just famous ones, the premise for the show would be to empower women by accepting who they are, rather than aspire to unrealistic beauty ideals. Hoffman (a former CBS News producer) is intent on building ET’s mobile audience, especially among young women, but with true-to-life portrayals, Zunino said.
The designer, who is developing “comfortable, breathable and sexy” shapewear, said women of all shapes and sizes can achieve a look by choosing a well-made garment. “I can do it through construction or boning. One thing that is great is that more and more girls are embracing their curves. That’s how it should be,” he said.
Bridal Reflections fashion director Cristina DeMarco said Zunino’s designs are well-matched for her store’s international and informed shoppers. She said, “In Mark’s gowns, if you’re a size 6, you look like a size zero.”
“I work out every day. Mind, body and soul is an allover package,” Zunino said. “The focus of our 40-person company is service-oriented. The bride I love the most is the girl, who doesn’t have confidence, and we can give her that. With PhotoShop and everything else, the realness needs to get out there. And the producers at ‘Entertainment Tonight’ feel the same way.”