B. Michael premieres new line at South Coast Plaza

B. Michael, a New York fashion designer and costumer for Whitney Houston in the upcoming film"Sparkle," premiered his new collection, b michael America Red, atMacy's South Coast Plaza this week.

Fashion enthusiasts gathered in the dresses department Wednesday evening to preview the informally modeled collection. Those in attendance were given a chance to meet the designer and peruse the new designs.

Oscar-nominated Cicely Tyson ("The Help") bought a brown dress in support of the line.

Macy's partnered with B. Michael for the launch of the new collection, which is now carried exclusively at 10 Macy's locations across the country.

"Macy's is the quintessential American department store, and so we are happy that they responded as such, because we think it's a great fit," B. Michael said before the event. "We are creating an American lifestyle brand ... red of course being a part of American colors: red, white and blue. And one of the things you will see is that all of the linings, for instance, in the collection are red.

"And, we're making the collection in America — in New York, to be exact — so we are representing something that we believe in."

The new collection was inspired by the designer's flagship collection, b michael America.

"We're excited, because it's an opportunity as a couture designer, which is our flagship, for us to present our point of view to a broader audience and still maintain the kind of sensibility we bring to the couture collection, as well," B. Michael said.

The new line features easy-to-wear dresses and sleek jacket ensembles priced between $155 and $400. Dresses come in neutral tones, solids and select bold prints. Stylistically, the selections offer a modern take on the designer's signature use of clean lines, dramatic sleeves, retro-inspired feminine silhouettes and striking necklines.

"We are targeting a woman who is professional, or certainly a woman that has an agenda," B. Michael said. "She's sophisticated. Whether it's that she's working during the day as a professional and has to go to a gallery opening or a dinner meeting or for fun after work. So she can wear the dress and take the jacket off and be ready for what happens after work."

B. Michael began developing the line two years ago.

"Designing this was more research in terms of finding great fabrics and finding ways to take the kind of silhouetting that I do, which typically is lots of seams and construction work, and finding a way to translate that for ready to wear and to create it in America," he said.

B. Michael got his start years ago as a millenary designer for Oscar de la Renta, Louis Feraud and Nolan Miller on the TV series "Dynasty."

"I love to say that Chanel started as a millenary designer and Hassen started as a millenary designer, so I'm a humble member of their club," B. Michael said with a laugh.

He debuted his first couture line in fall 1999, under the guidance of Eleanor Lambert.

Since then, the designer has shown his collections in the United States and Asia and has designed for sports stars and high-profile actresses.

In fact, his newest collection was influenced by the dramatic looks he designed for Houston in "Sparkle."

The New York resident wasn't in town for just the Macy's launch, but also for the "Sparkle" premiere in Los Angeles on Thursday.

"I have not seen any of the screenings, my design," he said. "I will attend the premiere and see it for the first time, so I am very excited. Aside from all of everything attached to it, I'm looking forward to seeing it as a film and following the storyline, because I think it's well done."

B. Michael collaborated with the film's costume designer, Ruth Carter, who commissioned him to create most of Houston's wardrobe for the film.

He began working on the project after fashion week last September and finished about the first week of November.

"[It was] amazing, at the same time very professional, but I will say very warm and very personable," the designer said of working with the late Houston. "I enjoyed her responding to the fit of the dresses and saying, 'Oh wow, B. This is wonderful, oh lord. Wow, I love the sleeve. Make it even grander and do this.' You know, it was that kind of interaction that I particularly enjoyed."

"Sparkle" will be released nationwide Friday.

In the meantime, B. Michael is in the process of developing his next line, b michael America Blue, set for release next year.

"But you know, I learned a long time ago to focus on what today's agenda is," he said. "Today it's all about red. I am looking forward to — as a brand — that we leave a mark in terms of American fashion history."


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