Over the course of nearly 50 years, Bob Mackie has designed costumes for Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Chita Rivera. Called the sultan of sequins, the prince of glamour and the raja of rhinestones, his outfits have been worn on every major stage from New York to Hong Kong and have inspired virtually every drag queen who's ever struck a pose. But no one screams Bob Mackie quite like Cher, whose show at Caesars Palace opens Tuesday. Here, the designer speaks to WWD about how he got his start, why he hated the fashion world and what inspired the most infamous Oscar getup of all time.
WWD: Tell me a little about the show.
Bob Mackie: It's huge. She has 17 costume changes.
WWD: In how many numbers?
B.M.: More than 17. But that's what her audience wants. She's had a record in the top 10 in every decade since the Sixties. So she has grannies and children and drag queens. People are fascinated by her. And we're having a retrospective of her clothes in the lobby, from the Sixties on.
WWD: Of everything you've designed for Cher, the most famous outfit might be the black headdress thing she wore to the Oscars in 1986. Was it intended ironically?
B.M.: Well, she was a little pissed off they didn't nominate her for "Mask." And she said, "I'd like to wear something that looks like my old days, with the Indian things." I sat there drawing it, and I was like, "You can't wear this to the Academy Awards. You're giving an award — you're going to upstage whoever you give it to." She said, "Oh, they won't mind, it'll be OK." I said, "Oh, God." And this outfit has been hanging over my head for the rest of my life.
WWD: Some people believe it was the greatest moment in Oscar fashion history, because it was so out there.B.M.: In a way it was. It was fun. It lifted the audience. You know how boring it gets.
WWD: But you worry that it'll be on your tombstone, like Diane von Furstenberg's wrap dress or Christian Louboutin's red soles.
B.M.: No, I think that'll be Carol Burnett's Scarlett O'Hara curtain rod dress. It's just one joke after another with me. But I guess it's better to be known for something rather than nothing.
WWD: What was your first job?
B.M.: Well, I worked for Paramount for about a week. That's how I met [costume designer] Edith Head. But the first big one was the last Marilyn Monroe movie that was never finished. I wasn't designing for her. I was just a sketch artist. I did that for about three years before I started getting my own shows.
WWD: And you worked with Judy Garland, right?
B.M.: Yes. I was the assistant designer on the "The Judy Garland Show." I worked with the guest stars and the dancers, because Judy was such a handful. Ray Aghayan, the designer, did just her and nothing else. The fittings were often canceled; you had to go out to her house. That was my first television show.
WWD: When did you meet Cher?
B.M.: On "The Carol Burnett Show." I was the costume designer and she was a guest star. I remember seeing pictures of Sonny and Cher and she had all this dark heavy Sixties eye makeup and long hair. She was tall, he was little. It was kind of a novelty act that got a lot of attention because of the way they looked. And I thought, "What am I going to do? I have to put her into a Southern showboat finale." But she walked in and she was adorable. She was the cutest little thing and we became fast friends. When "The Sonny and Cher Show" came on, she tried to get me to do her costumes and I did. And it's been a long time. Too long.WWD: Was there a moment when you said, "I've made it"?
B.M.: Well, the Seventies were crazy. I had some of the best ladies — Liza, Diana, Bernadette Peters. I never wanted to be a fashion designer.
WWD: What led you to it then?
B.M.: People were offering me things, so I thought, "Why not try that?" When you're 40 years old, you still think you're 29. You think, "I haven't done that. I really ought to give that a go." But I'm not sure I would do it again.
WWD: What didn't you like about it?
B.M.: Doing a fashion show that's on for 20 minutes and then it's over and everybody runs to the next one. Nobody sings, nobody dances, nobody tells jokes. I found it quite unsatisfying.
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)