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Friday, October 7, 2011

Chris March Part 2: Advocate interview

Is it important for you to challenge your clients’ comfort zones? Or is that just a by-product of what you do?
I think that’s a good way to put it — it is a by-product of what I do because most people aren’t quite as outrageous or have quite as outrageous as a sensibility as I do. But I also don’t want to make people feel ridiculous, so I try to get a good sense of ... what they’re comfortable with and maybe what they’re comfortable with but they’re not exactly telling you. So that you can kind of give them the right outfit that makes them have this tremendous experience that they never even thought of. It’s easy to be safe, but it’s more fun to be outrageous. So I try to work within those lines.

You designed a Mardi Gras float ensemble for Jennifer Coolidge. Is that one of the episodes?
Yes, that is one of our episodes. I don’t know how much I’m supposed to say. We got a call from Jennifer Coolidge. She lives part-time in New Orleans. She has this fabulous, huge mansion there, and she was chosen to be the celebrity queen of the Orpheus parade, which is one of the biggest parades there during Mardi Gras. And she called us on a Thursday and she needed the outfit by Monday afternoon.

Oh, my gosh.
So I’ll just leave it at that. It was a very, very fun episode. And Jennifer Coolidge was incredibly fun to work with. It’s probably my favorite episode.

She’s hilarious, so I can imagine how fun it is between the two of you.
Oh, my gosh, you can’t imagine how funny she is in person. I was unprepared. I haven’t seen the episode — I’ve only seen the first episode. So I don’t know what stuff is on and what doesn’t [make it], but she’s so funny, and she’s so tall and beautiful, and she just has this great imposing kind of comical presence. She was very nice.

Speaking of tall and imposing beautiful women, you’ve designed for some really big names in recent years, including Madonna, Prince, Beyoncé. Do you have a favorite?
Meryl Streep.

Your Meryl Streep dress was relatively understated by Chris March standards.
Well, see, that’s the thing: I have many different gears for designing, and when Meryl Streep calls you up and says she wants a kind of updated Hollywood glamour gown for the Academy Awards, you don’t make her a sequined drag queen outfit [Laughs]. You make her what she wants. I definitely have a huge interest in that kind of fashion as well; it’s just that people often don’t give me the opportunity to do that. She had seen my collection at Bryant Park when I was on Project Runway, and she thought that I could make her something that she would look really great in, and she trusted me to do it. Luckily it turned out really well, because she was fantastic to work with and it was such an exciting experience.

Meryl made all the best-dressed lists that night.
Yeah, that was the best part, because boy, you’d hate to crash and burn. I think a lot of people were shocked when they heard her say my name on the red carpet. I ran into Michael Kors and he said that he was watching and he was like, “Who designed that dress?” and he said that when he heard my name he literally screamed out loud. He was so happy that I’d made this beautiful dress, because it is a tough thing to do. The entire world has their eyes on their work, and if they don’t like it you’re in big trouble.

You came of age as a designer doing these really outrageous costumes for Bleach Blanket Babylon, which you did for a decade, right?
Yeah, I worked there for 10 years. We actually do make something for Beach Blanket on the show.

Does your experience there continue to influence your work?
Boy, it’s definitely where I learned a lot of the crazy skills that I have: Where I learned about making giant head pieces, where I learned a lot about different materials, how to use them and everything. So I always feel like it’s always in the back of my mind like a foundation of everything that I do. But that was a long time ago, and I have grown and learned and worked with a lot of different people since then, and I think that is one of the fun things about the show, is that we make some more legitimate things, but we give them this crazy spin or edge like we’re going to make someone this glamorous cocktail dress but make it out of something that nobody would ever imagine we would make something out of. And you can’t tell what it is until you get up close to it or until somebody tells you. And that’s one of the fun things that’s different about our show than just some other plain old fashion shows. We’re a little crazy.

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