David Meister is a magician with a dress, which is why his red-carpet creations are worn by everyone from gorgeous curvy singing/acting sensation Jennifer Hudson to petite TV comedy queen Tina Fey. In the first part of our exclusive interview, Meister shares with us how he started out (in shapewear!) and how that experience with stretch and fit translates into the stunning dresses he creates today. And come back tomorrow as we recap our first-ever Inside the Designer's Studio, where we'll visit David Meister's showroom to get the scoop on dressing for the red carpet.
When did you begin designing your line?
I’ve been in the fashion business for 20 years, but I started my label about 10 years ago. After graduating college, I moved to New York City, and my first job was in shapewear with Danskin. I am a big believer in stretch, and so many of my clothes are knit or have stretch in them. What I love about stretch is that it fits more people, travels well and is more modern. I then designed a day-to-night line for Macy’s, but I always wanted to do eveningwear. Laundry by Shelli Segal picked me to do a new evening line for them, and that is how I moved to L.A. Eventually I started my own line.
How did you become involved in red carpet and dressing stars for the red carpet?
I have a great PR partner in Film Fashion. One of the first relationships we ever developed was with Sharon Stone. She saw the lookbook and loved it and we ended up doing some custom dresses with her. And sometimes I work with an up-and-comer who becomes a big star. I dressed Jennifer Hudson for her first movie premiere and still work with her for the red carpet.
How do you go about designing a red carpet dress for a particular celebrity?
It happens many different ways. Usually, I will do a couple of special dresses in each collection, and the stylists and celebs will get the lookbook. Sometimes they will choose right from the book, or we can collaborate and then I do sketches. We talk about what we can do to make a dress in the collection more special. We start with the dress but will change the color or add beading details. Or, sometimes we start from a sketch only and create something new just for the star.
Which comes first, the dress or the actress?
It depends. When you know someone, you can get a feel for what they like. Sharon Stone knows fashion inside out; she knows clothes and know what she wants. So, a look definitely begins with her sense of style.
With Valerie Bertinelli, I’ve worked with her a lot, and one of the first times I met her she needed a cocktail dress and a gown and needed both in a day, but said she didn’t like white or strapless dresses. I had a white strapless dress and insisted she try it on. It looked amazing on her! So, in that case, it was the dress that determined the red-carpet look.
Looking back at who’s worn your designs over the years, are there any surprises?
With Tina Fey at the Emmys, we didn’t know until that morning if she would wear my dress. Most stars will narrow their look down to two choices and make a decision based on how they are feeling just hours before the event. You never know if your dress will end up on the red carpet until you see the hem coming out of the car.
If you could dress any celebrity whom you haven’t worked with yet, who would it be, and why?
Angelina Jolie. She is so beautiful but in a way that is out of this world. I met her once, and she has the most magnetic energy about her, and that is what really makes her beautiful. Also, Gwyneth Paltrow. She has a great sense of style and also a certain energy about her that makes the room stop when she walks in.
OK, here’s our lightning round of questions. Ready?
Favorite color? Red
Favorite fabric? Jersey
Favorite midnight snack? Ice cream: Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia
Person you’d most like to meet — past or present? Gandhi
Guilty pleasure? Sleeping in
Qualities you most admire in a person? Honesty and compassion
Favorite getaway? My Palm Springs house
Oscars or Grammys? Oscars
Most surprising thing on your current inspiration board? A ball gown
Item or trend we’ll never see in your collections? Ruffles, bows and roses
— Interview by Kim Martin Check out David Meister's favorite red-carpet looks.