• Fashion

Kevan Hall: Couturier to the Stars Honored by NAACP

Kevan Hall, haute couturier to the stars and former creative director of Halston, enters his salon – a haven of lush fabrics, classic cuts, and luxurious designer pieces above the bustle of Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles – with an elegant stride. Tall, with the wiry physique of the very fit, the designer is being honored at the 53rd NAACP’s Image Awards 2022, for a creation of another kind: the ‘Black Design Collective’, which champions black designers, giving them a spotlight and amplifying their talent and expertise.

Discrete racks with exquisite pieces from his Fall 2022 Collection hang like wearable art you want to stroke. “The collection is a celebration of the intersection of world cultures,” notes the Detroit native with a piercing gaze. “The fabric captures the softness of people respecting one another after a couple of years that have been really tough.” The NAACP Image Awards Luncheon and Fashion Show, attended by the cognoscenti and the Who’s Who of Black Entertainment, will showcase his collection and introduce four designers: Isaiah Hemmingway, Byron Lars, Epperson from Brooklyn, New York; and TJ Walker – one of the co-founders of the Black Design Collective and the catalyst for what we know today as streetwear.


This year, you’re being heralded by the NAACP’s Image Awards, for the Black Design Collective.

I’m the president of the Black Design Collective founded by myself, Oscar-winning Ruth Carter, TJ Walker of Cross Colors Fame, and Angela Dean, known for costumes and for doing incredible things for stage and theater. We want to spotlight Black designers, assist in their marketing and in everything they need to have sustainable businesses and impact in the world. Black designers have made an impact. We want to let the world know and speak that out.


In fashion, there hasn’t been any camera access. Not for the creatives, anyway. What you’re doing is so vital….

During 2020, when the pandemic hit, and certainly after the tragedy of George Floyd, many of us found ourselves having to shut down because of the virus. Designers were trying to figure out: How to stay open? How to survive? We started a workshop, finding funds to sustain. Over the course of that year, we got $1,700,000 for our designers to be able to stay in business. No one closed their businesses. Everyone was able to come out on the other side stronger than going into it. I’m very, very proud of that work.


Black culture has been at the forefront of fashion for so long. Talk about how, maybe, you’ve incorporated some of that into your collection.

Most Black designers have a certain style and swagger they bring, whether they’re working for another company or whether they’re working for their own brand. It’s an innate sense of style, excitement, and exuberance we have. I come from Detroit. So, we’re talking about Motown and the Sullivan Show, seeing the Supremes in a blaze of feathers and beads come on stage. These fabulous women of style influenced me. Going to church every Sunday. I come from a religious-believing family. I like to say my first runway was a church aisle because, on Saturday night, we would get ready for church. Everybody would take their bath. We’d lay the clothes out. Then, Sunday morning, we’d hit the church runway.


You were the Creative Director of Halston, brought in to reimagine the line. What kind of responsibility is that? How did you decide what to keep, what to lose?

Halston is a great American brand. As a young designer, I loved Halston. I watched his career, when he launched fragrances, did various collections. His spreads in Womenswear Daily and W. So, when I stepped into that prestigious post, it felt natural. I brought my own sense to it but I kept much of the DNA of the brand. It was a brilliant time to design. Many of the atelier people that had worked with Roy Halston returned. Frowick, Gino the tailor, and Marusia, who created the beautiful flow gowns and chiffon. I got to work with those people. It was a really brilliant time.


You stated you knew you wanted to be a designer from a very young age. What was the stimulus?

I’d sit in front of the television, look at old movies, and sketch, reimagining what I’d love to see the stars wearing. That was the inspiration. My mom was an incredible dresser. She loved clothes. She took us to the best stores in Michigan. There was a street called the Avenue of Fashion, at Seven Mile Road and Livernois. We would go to the Avenue of Fashion and she would have many of her clothes custom-made. My dad had his suits custom-made. I remember being a small kid,  looking at the volume in some of her skirts. I remember, specifically, the volume in the skirts and beautiful, beautiful shoes, crocodile shoes, and gorgeous bags and gloves – the whole thing. That’s probably why my collection is polished. Going to church, seeing mom and all those women really turned out in their Sunday best, which was a big influence.


What are some of your favorite red-carpet moments?



One of my favorites is when I dressed Vanessa Williams for her Emmy nomination for Ugly Betty. The concept had to look back to Christian Berard and the Theater de la Mode. That was the inspiration. I called and said, “I’ve got this dress. It’s feathers. I’m not sure if you’re going to love it or hate it. But if you go with me on it, I think we can create a moment on the carpet.” When she hit that carpet the lightbulbs went on. It was spectacular. We got a full page in the New York and in the Los Angeles Times. It was a pistachio (feather) colored gown with a gorgeous empire line. She was radiant and beautiful. Since that moment we’ve seen lots of feathers. It was the first time, as I recall, that we saw feathers on the red carpet. Now you see feathers coming out of the bust, on the ears, on the hair. They’re everywhere. But she kind of went with me on it took a risk and created that wonderful moment.

You have clothed some of the most beautiful stars – Charlize Theron, Salma Hayek, Sharon Stone, and Gabourey Sidibe, to name just a few. When you create for a celebrity, what do you focus on? Their personality, their body?


A little of both. Their personality, body, looking at what they’ve worn before, trying to move them forward and in a new direction, trying to push them a little bit. What’s going to make them look amazing? What’s going to make those flashbulbs go off? Maybe something she hasn’t considered or hasn’t worn before? I look at all of that.


How do you balance your line?

You want creativity and commerce. You want the collection to resonate, so they say ‘I would love to have that,’ or ‘I can see myself in that.’ But it has to be press-worthy because the press is what helps drive the brand. It’s a very fine line. My clothes are exciting. When I do a runway show, I look to what my friend Constance White (former fashion editor at the New York Times) said while I was doing Halston: “If you could only show one piece, what would that be? Now, do that 42 times. That’s a show.”


One of the great things you’re doing, and that the Image Awards does, is showcase talent. What does the Image Awards mean to you?

The Image Awards are so important because they showcase and spotlight Black talent: film, writing, music, and now, fashion. I’m very excited about their thought process to really begin to highlight fashion in a bigger way, including costume design. It’s very important.


I recently interviewed a Black hairdresser who explained that not having people represented in tertiary positions – doing hair, makeup, designers having a chance to showcase on an international stage – limits the way people see potential. How did you break that glass ceiling?

That’s very true. There’s often limited access. I have friends working in some of the largest brands in the world. Nobody knows they are back there, designing in the design rooms. The lack of access – lack of being promoted properly, the lack of headhunters considering them for positions that they are more than qualified for, and putting someone else in that position just because they’re friends, family, neighbors – is something we are hoping to get beyond. I’ve been fortunate. I can’t explain why, except that I design clothes that people love. It resonates with people’s tastes. We do a great fit. We do a great product. II just knock down doors and don’t take no for an answer.


Tell us a little bit about your Fall ’22 collection.

It’s called Trading Post, inspired by a time in antiquity when people from Mali, Morocco, from that part of the world would converge in one area. You’d see incredible textiles and spices, beautiful gold, wonderful artifacts being traded. I also think about Tarshish, which is another location in antiquity where it is said that Solomon brought all the gold and ivory to build his temple. There were these beautiful riches and convergence of cultures, sharing of information. In Mali, there was the most important library of all time back in the 1300s and 1400s. This inspired the collection. You’ll see beautiful embroideries. We had tapestry fabrics and beautiful woolens developed. It’s an eclectic mixture of fabric, texture, and excitement. A feast for the eyes.


Do you also have an affordable line for those who don’t have a couture budget?

We do a collection for Saks OFF 5TH that is really exciting because we were able to take some of the existing styles that are on my signature collection and re-fabricate them in beautiful fabrics but at a better price. We’ve got great day dresses, beautiful tops. It’s a concise collection but we are building it out. People can access it on the Saks OFF 5TH site. It’s also available on Saks OFF 5TH stores.