[do you know where you're going to Diana? Do you like the things that Bob Mackie is showing you? Diana Ross in a Bob Mackie dress from "Mahogany."]
I had a story in today's Style section about designer Bob Mackie and his furniture line. Unfortunately, there wasn't room in print for the entire interview. But there is here. Check the extended entry to read Bob's resposes in all their glory.. here's a tease:
Do you feel like the nickname Sultan of Sequins was unfair?
Mackie: Oh, you had to bring that up! I had all these funny titles in the 1970's. Someone gave me a T-shirt with all of them listed down the front one time. They were so silly. I was doing all those variety shows and all those nightclub acts. Dressing Diana Ross and big personalities. It wasn't about fashion, it was about enhancing their image on the stage. It's what the audience wanted to see when they walk on stage. It's not always about what I like, but I thought that it works for the performer, then I'll do it. It's really like working as a costume designer, and you're designing a character in a play. If they see Carol Channing, they want to see her covered in diamonds.
Some of the announcements that come out of the mammoth International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, N.C., such as Martha Stewart or Todd Oldham creating new lines of home furnishings, make perfect sense. Others, such as Donald Trump or the Olsen Twins dabbling in furniture design, do not. One of the surprise celebrity furniture designer success stories to emerge from the market is Bob Mackie. Yes, the same Bob Mackie who designed Cher's most outrageous ensembles. This week, he introduces his third collection of furniture for American Drew at High Point. - CHRISTOPHER MUTHER
Before this collaboration, had you ever attempted to design furniture?
Not really. I had a lot of opinions and that's about it. But design is design. It's all about form, shape, and scale. Before you know it, you're talking about the same things. Whether it's a gown or a bed.
When you first approached designing furniture, did you sit down and sketch a bit like it was fashion?
In fashion that's exactly the way that I do it. But with furniture, we have these long meetings about what we want the furniture to look like, and we start drawing, and then draw some more. During the last meeting, the designers came here, and we went through all of my embroideries. All of our inlays in the furniture came directly off of the couture clothes, which was just amazing to me. We have one table that I'm just crazy about. It's all inlaid pheasant feathers coming out of a circle of black granite in the center.
It's funny you mention the feather inlay, because I was going to ask if there was ever a temptation for you to design furniture with feathers and rhinestones.
Rhinestones, no! And the feathers, I was showing [American Drew designers] some things of mine, and that particular feather just wanted to be inlaid because of the different shades.
Do you look at the furniture hardware like jewelry?
All the hardware, and all the pulls, we definitely treat them like they are jewelry. It’s like designing the finest pieces to accompany the clothes. That is such an important thing. When you have a dresser with 18 knobs on it, they had better be good.
How does furniture compare to couture when it comes to satisfying your desire to create?
It's a whole different thing. Like when you're designing for the stage, or for couture. You usually know who's going to wear it when it becomes that price level. This is for someone's home, and chances are I don't know who's going to be using it and living with it. You just hope the right person will be putting it in the right setting.
I guess there's only so much of that you can control.
And they can only watch so much HGTV. Hopefully they'll get some of the messages. Not that they're all that great sometimes.
I think maybe it's time for a Bob Mackie show on HGTV.
I'd rather eat glass than do one of those. Are you kidding? Do someone's house? The only thing worse would be to do makeovers on women. like Tim Gunn is doing. I can't think of anything I'd rather not do in life than one of those.
Your designs are most often associated with Cher and Carol Burnett. What were some of your favorite pieces that you designed for them?
That's so hard. I did 300 shows with Carol. How can you have a favorite? With Carol, I'd dress her pretty in the beginning of the show so she'd look like the lovely lady who was coming into your house. From there, she could be in one grotesque outfit after another depending on the character. I thought 'That poor woman.' If she doesn't come out looking nice in the beginning, she might never get a chance to look like the lovely lady she is. As far as Cher goes, it was one sight spectacle after another. That's what they were watching for. Unfortunately, people began to think that I only designed dresses with
That must have been challenging to be stereotyped that way as a designer.
It was frustrating., because everybody puts you into a niche. Later on down the line I started doing collector Barbie dolls. And I had younger people come up to me and say "I didn't know you did clothes. I thought you just did Barbie dolls."
Do you feel like the nickname Sultan of Sequins was unfair?
Oh, you had to bring that up! I had all these funny titles in the 1970's. Someone gave me a T-shirt with all of them listed down the front one time. They were so silly. I was doing all those variety shows and all those nightclub acts. Dressing Diana Ross and all those personalities. It wasn't about fashion, it was about enhancing their image on the stage. It's what that audience wanted to see when they walk on stage. It's not always about what I like, but I thought that it works for the performer, I’ll do it. It's really like working as a costume designer, and you're designing a character in a play. If they see Carol Channing, they want to see her covered in diamonds.
Is there one woman you can say who you enjoy designing for most?
There are so many different ones. It was crazy fun because we did so much work in such a sort amount of time. I loved doing Carol Burnett because we did things that made people laugh. It's all about visual entertainment value.
My sister and I used to fall over laughing when it Carol Burnett played Nora Desmond, or the aged Snow White.
Wow, you remember the aged Snow White, 10 years later. They almost didn't do that sketch. It was such a terrible sketch. I said 'Please, don't throw it out' You're going to get laughs.’ And today people still remember it.