SUMPTUOUS & SPARKLING
Oscars Cher Fashion, Los Angeles, USA
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Lennox McLendon/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6569270c) Cher Cher shows off both her Oscar and Bob Mackie black-sequined gown after winning the award for best actress for her role as the superstitious young widow of "Moonstruck" at the 60th Annual Academy Awards, in Los Angeles Oscars Cher Fashion, Los Angeles, USA
Legendary designer Bob Mackie is on top like never before. From designing costumes for the new Broadway musical, The Cher Show, to a glittering fine jewelry collection debut, he joins our cultural avatar Lance Avery Morgan as they explore some of the highlights and memorable career moments in Mackie’s rarified world.
Bob Mackie, whose creations came into the living rooms weekly with The Carol Burnett Show, The Sonny & Cher Show, Mitzi Gaynor’s specials, and many others is a living legend. Now he is having fun with renewed acclaim as the designer for The Cher Show which recently debuted on Broadway. He’s even a character in the show itself— that’s how integral he is to the pop icon’s life story that ranges from the 1960s to present day.
Mackie has sketched and created thousands of gowns, costumes and clothing for the biggest names in show business history in his five decade-long career as a fashion visionary… the perfect prelude for debuting his new fine jewelry collection partnership with NIGAAM Jewels. From lustrous diamonds to luminous sapphires, emeralds, rubies, turquoise and a host of other faceted precious stones, Mackie’s designs are both classic and fashion-forward. Dallasite event empresario Jan Strimple, a former top runway model who modeled for Mackie, reveals, “Before Bob grew to be a friend, walking for him was a pure theatrical pleasure because his shows were amazing. He booked models who had a sensuality about them, could feel the power of his designs and convey their beauty with each step. As our relationship grew to a mentorship and then a friendship, each of those steps was a step taken with love. Bob loved self-assured beauties on his runway and appreciated a wide variety of exotic looks.”
To no one’s surprise, Mackie is also an accomplished artist and even his design sketches are coveted by collectors. Astoundingly, Mackie has kept most of the sketches he has drawn over the past 50 years. “I’d better save these,” Mackie says. “Once in a while I gave them away, but basically I’ve kept most of them.” In 2005 he let go of a limited number of sketches as part Christie’s auction of Mackie’s couture and costumes. Now the designing dynamo has decided to go directly to his fans, the consumers. “It’s what’s going on these days,” says Mackie. “I’m an old dinosaur, but even with my QVC business, about 25 percent of the business is online. That’s a lot.”
Strimple agrees with Mackie’s point of contemporary view toward commerce. “One of the many reasons Bob is successful in his varied design endeavors is that he trusts himself and does not follow the pack of general thought. In 1992, he went against the grain with QVC’s outreach to high-end designers and agreed to create products at price points and in sizes for their growing television audience. Other designers quaked in fear at the very thought of selling to a mass market via television. He has always understood the impact of both the big screen and the small one, and Bob also surrounds himself with people who are loyal to him and speak his creative language. He has long term relationships with friends and associates and does not throw people away as is quite common in this biz.”
We love the sparkling, glittering world of Mackie. Where more is more is more. And then some, which inspires his new fine jewelry collection. “A woman who wears my clothes is not afraid to be noticed,” says the Sultan of Sequins Bob Mackie. The prolific designer should know. He’s won nine Emmy Awards (and has been nominated for 31) and has also been nominated for three Academy Awards. In fact, he’ll likely recieve a Tony award nomination for his most recent work on The Cher Show. But it’s not just the accolades that matter to Mackie. It’s about the creative process. Mackie remains a much sought-after designer for made to order clientele beyond helming successful products with his QVC network appearances. At 80 years young, he’s very much in the design game with his inimitable dynamic touch.
CHER & CHER ALIKE
Cameron Silver, fashion director at Halston Style and author of Decades, remarks about Mackie’s talents, “Just look at the last Dior Haute Couture shows Galliano had done and you see Mackie’s influence. When Cher was overheard saying it was her favorite show and she would wear all the clothing, it’s a great validation that costume and fashion have fused at the highest echelon of style.”
With Cher, it’s about designing with less fabric and more razzle dazzle. When Cher and Mackie first met, her look was more fringe vests and bellbottoms. Cher herself admits she’d be a peacock without feathers without Mackie.
Mackie has been able to mix his profound talent as a costume designer with his couturier ability to create some of the most memorable fashion images of the 20th century. He wowed audiences every week on The Carol Burnett Show with an outrageous array of imaginative colors, luxury fabrics, beading, feathers, fur and just about any other sort of adornment that could create an instant impression. He created a body of work that’s lasted to this day, decades later. And, he has plenty of fans in the Lone Star State.
“I’ve been to Texas many times. I loved doing trunk shows at Neiman’s when I had a clothing line there. Austin’s great, too. It’s very hip,” says Mackie of his Lone Star State ties. He goes on to say, “With us doing jewelry parties in Texas soon, with more to come, I enjoy meeting Texas’ very modern women.”
I ask Mackie about how his designing career these days differs from when he created clothing for just about every star including Cher (while simultaneously doing Burnett’s show), Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Lucille Ball, Elton John, Diana Ross, Sharon Stone, and so many more. “It’s all about shopping now,” he says. “The way the designers—or personal stylists, really—bring in a rack so the star and director can choose what will be worn. It’s just different. I did Carol’s show for 11 years and I never once had her wear a pair of jeans.”
Since Burnett put him on the pop cultural map early on in his career, he told me that there were some challenging aspects of The Carol Burnett Show. “I did everyone’s clothes, including the guest stars’, which was like running a race each week,” confides Mackie. “It was exciting to find out what the script would be like on a Friday for the next week’s show. There never seemed to be enough time. I made it work. You could say it was an adrenaline rush.”
When I tell him that Carol Burnett herself told me he designed almost 50 costumes a week for the show, I wondered if he had a large team to implement the costumes at the time. “Not really,” he states. “I had a male assistant who would help with the men’s clothes. If there were uniforms, we would just rent those. I had a female assistant to help with the women’s costumes. Although I designed so much, for some of Carol’s characters, like a housewife part, we’d just go buy a simple dress.”
His favorite costume for a Carol character? “Gosh, we did over 200 shows and the one that got the most attention was the Gone with the Wind outfit,” says Mackie. But mostly, it was just another week, another show.” Mackie also designed for the classic film homage skits, too. “Those were really fun,” he recounts about designing for the take-offs of movies such as From Here to Eternity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Mildred Pierce, among many others vintage flicks. “Remember, that was back in the days before DVD and Netflix.”
When designing so robustly, Mackie didn’t have to depend on his memory, or airings of The Late, Late Show as a resource. “I have a collection of fashion books that I could reference, plus I’d seen all those old movies and loved them,” Mackie recalls fondly. “Sometimes, though, it was tough. For instance, in the books, they might not have a photo of the bottom of the skirt… the hemline. So, I just made do. Looking back, and having access to those movies now, I was pretty close. I just had a feeling of the film and its period.”
He also designed Carol’s opening segment where she would answer questions from the audience. The gowns were gorgeous, many with his signature beads and sparkles. His inspiration for the costumes was practical, too. “With her opening gowns I wanted Carol to wake up the audience, and to have her not only look attractive, but also for her to look like their friend,” states Mackie. “I knew that later she’d be in one crazy costume after another, so I wanted her to be seen as more real in the opening outfits. When I see a group of those show openers now, I think ‘wow, she could wear those today.’”
When asked about his favorite aspect about working with Carol over the years, Mackie is succinct. “It was a gift because I loved the movie musicals growing up. It was the first weekly variety show with a lady star. Also, to do comedy, dance, singing and the musical numbers. It was all a dream for me.”
The public continues to clamor for a piece of Mackie’s fashion heritage today and we agree anything Bob Mackie creates is collectible and certainly his new collection of chic baubles, bangles and beads. For information on his jewelry visit BobMackie.com