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Michael Kors Dresses ‘West Side Story’ Star Ariana DeBose for Met Gala (Exclusive)

The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter
 2021-09-14
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It only seems natural that Michael Kors would include Ariana DeBose among his guests at his Met Gala table on Monday night, not only because DeBose surprised attendees at his Friday runway show with a live performance, but also because she’s starring as Anita in the Steven Spielberg-directed West Side Story (set for release in theaters Dec. 10), and Kors is nothing if not a lover of all things Broadway.

“Having her perform live at my Spring/Summer 2022 fashion show in Central Park was perfect for the collection and so special to me,” Kors told The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday. “Besides Ariana’s remarkable talent, she’s warm, funny and smart. And she delivers extraordinary performances on stage and screen, both large and small.”

“When I got the call, I thought I was being punked,” DeBose told THR . “I have always admired Michael Kors — in fact, one of the first luxury pieces I ever bought was from his label. Michael is so firmly ingrained in the foundation of American fashion and has found an impressive longevity in this industry. But I think what draws me even more to him is his philanthropic work with God’s Love We Deliver and the way that he gives back to the communities he loves.”

DeBose’s star turn at the Kors show on Friday indeed resulted in an instant invitation to Monday night’s Met Gala, leaving just one question: What would she wear? The actress’s stylists, Zadrian Smith and Sarah Edmiston, quickly confabbed with the Kors team, and four red carpet-worthy looks by the designer found their way to the fitting room over the weekend. The winner: A silver beaded gown from the just-debuted spring 2022 collection.

“As they say, what could be better than getting something hot off the presses?” Kors said. “Ariana will be wearing one of my favorite looks from the Spring/Summer 2022 collection, which hit the runway just days before the Met Ball. The combination of streamlined simplicity and glamorous opulence is very much a hallmark of American style.”

While the dress is in keeping with the theme of the Costume Institute’s latest exhibition, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” (opening to the public on Saturday, Sept. 18), the design also finds its way to the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art via a bit of European handcraft. “The dress is crafted from metallic lace from Calais, France, and is hand-embroidered in a silver metallic floral motif,” Kors explained. “The handwork took 285 man hours, and seven different-sized paillettes were used to create the look.”

From the moment DeBose tried on the dress, there really was no other choice, her stylists noted. “Everyone in the room gasped when Ariana tried on this dress,” Smith said. “There was one other gown, blue with cutouts; it was the second dress she tried on, and it was just as gorgeous.”

“They were both stunning dresses in their own right, but the silver felt like the better fit,” Edmiston added. “The lead time is short for sure, but when you work with amazing collaborative brands like Michael Kors — and of course Ariana looks good in everything — everybody has the right focus, and there’s a lot less panic.”

“Michael’s also always really funny — he said, ‘You just like this because it’s fresh off the runway,’” Smith noted with a laugh. “He was a little right in that respect, because on the hanger it wasn’t my first choice. But once I saw it on Ariana, I had to agree.”

Kors and DeBose’s styling team also had to take the actress’s own feelings into consideration. “I think this dress is a combination of dazzling and sleek,” Kors pointed out. “Ariana is a woman who wants to be able to move freely, and I thought it was important for her first Met Ball for her to dazzle, but also be comfortable at the same time.”

Adds DeBose, “Michael Kors has been at the forefront of not only accepting, but celebrating women’s bodies. I knew I wanted a look that would celebrate all the things that represent America now — and in a way, I am a physical manifestation of American possibility, so I hoped for a look that would let that light shine.”

Kors, meanwhile, is wearing a custom-crafted tuxedo from Savile Row tailor Kilgour, a look that Kors has owned for almost 20 years, he said. “I like to keep things sleek and classic for myself,” he added, noting that he would be accessorizing the look with a pair of his now-signature aviator sunglasses. He also dressed Regina King and Kate Hudson for the event.

The New York-based designer also noted that this particular Met Gala, a comeback for the event after a 2020 cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was sure to feel special. “As someone who relishes travel, live performance, and a sense of community, being able to safely gather in person to celebrate the diversity and creativity of American fashion makes this the most special of any of the Met Galas that I’ve attended during my career,” he said. “I’m excited for the world to see American fashion highlighted in such an important way.”

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