Sir Keith Holman and Mary Wilson Present Four Decades of Hollywood Design
A new trend is flourishing in Hollywood to celebrate and preserve its design. At the forefront of the glamorous movement is Sir Keith Holman, celebrity designer to artists Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and more. The Four Decades in Hollywood event which he debuted in partnership with musician Mary Wilson of The Supremes vocal group brought to life some of Hollywood’s most unique fashion designs. The Edwards Lowell fur design house in Beverly Hills that closed after 87 years in business, opened its doors one more time to a list of exclusive stars. The Pointer Sisters, Marvin Gaye III, Claudette Rogers Robinson of The Miracles, designer Kathrine Baumann, and LaToya “LaJa” Jackson were among the guests.
The Designs of Sir Keith Holman
Sir Keith Holman had selected legendary gowns, costumes, accessories and artifacts to present as part of this special evening. Behind the red velvet rope in a glass case gleamed one of Michael Jackson’s white gloves. It was at the epicenter of the event, a magical extension of the man in the mirror. Originally designed by Bill Whitten, Sir Holman and artistic beader Stella Ruata, today Sir Holman keeps the glove as part of his personal collection. The pattern of the Egyptian skirt from ‘Remember the Time’ music video, Jackson’s favorite Kathrine Baumann jeweled Coca Cola handbag and his 2001 calendar were also in the display. All pieces looked as if embedded in gold, including the Warren R. Caton prototype of the belt Jackson had worn during the Superbowl. A prototype is usually the first version of the design an artist sees, tries on and approves.
The fedora that Michael wore when he became the first inductee into the Black Entertainment Television Awards Hall of Fame in 1995 sat above a Leon James painting of him. A Marilyn Monroe sketch of the white dress she wore in The Seven Year Itch besides it. What looked like a large rolled canvas was the completed pattern of the dress. It was one of a kind.
Sir Holman had designed a silk turban that he planned to gift to Zsa Zsa Gabor’s on her one hundredth birthday. While she never had the opportunity to see it, today he shares her husband’s admiration for the piece. “Prince Frederick loves it!” says Sir Holman.
Two broaches which turn into earrings frame Elizabeth Taylor’s multipurpose golden silk turban. Also designed by Sir Holman, it is a timeless concept of beauty. “When people have something so spectacular like that, it should be able to be used for more than just one occasion. A multipurpose, a multi-design. That is what I like to do,” says Sir Holman.
The Costumes of Michael Jackson, Neil Diamond, Juan Gabriel and Lionel Richie
A Burma selly style jacket in purple gabardine and Iris bugle beads highlighted with measle beads in a string line and loch rosens, a copy of Jackson’s jacket, was made for the musician Juan Gabriel. It sparkled like burgundy diamonds. Neil Diamond’s more indie chemise had Sir Holman’s guitar at its feet. In a candy lane beaded pattern was a more contemporary Lionel Richie sweater.
The last of Jackson’s live series jackets during the 1980’s perfectly mirrored artist’s Leon Jones portrait of him. This contrast between fashion design and fine art highlighted even more the importance of preserving the legendary designs. Sir Holman has made it part of his mission to curate these pieces and the names of the creative stars that belonged to that generation. Among them were designers Stella Ruata, Bill Whitten, Ted Schell, Warren R. Caton, Kathrine Baumann and the unforgettable Bob Mackie. Each piece with a heartbeat of its own took the guests to a different time.
“I'm honored just to be a small part of that. To do my first preservation is what I'm trying to do. If I don't do it, it really won't get done because pretty much nobody's left,” says Sir Holman.
The Re-Fur-Bished Vintage Collection with Mary Wilson
To debut the event and add a new generation twist to the evening’s exhibit, the Re-Fur-Bished Vintage Collection was launched. Designed by Fabrizio Pasquale of the Q by Pasquale design house in partnership with Sir Holman and Wilson, the collection repurposed the musician’s fur coats into various accessories like handbags and shoes. The idea behind it is to educate a new generation to preserve in different ways items that have become a lifetime investment. “How can we utilize our own furs that you can’t wear any longer, especially in California? They took one of my old things, used inside lining and put it outside the purse,” says Wilson. “You can utilize designs that you can’t wear often. Nobody is killing animals to do this. You don’t want to give away something that you payed $12,000 for. We made some use out of it.”
Q by Pasquale is among Hollywood’s leading design houses in shoe craftsmanship. Throughout the decades it created limited edition luxury products for stars such Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Celine Dion and Madonna. Today their mission also reaches to preserve collectible designs. “What you have here it is a lot of legends. This is our legacy for all of us to witness and be part of. The day comes when we are all gone. We all want to grab on to something. While they are here and all of us are still here and able to create, these are canvases painted that are encrypted in time,” says Pasquale.
LaToya “LaJa” Jackson
Among the thrill of the crowd a tall Jackson figure glances at the musician’s legendary designs. For her Michael is family. LaToya Jackson also nicknamed “LaJa” is Michael’s second cousin, the daughter of Marie Jackson. Marie’s father was Luther Jackson, one of Joseph Jackson’s brothers and LaJa is named LaToya after Michael’s sister. Tonight, she remembers the humor behind the glamour and the diamond in a heart that will inspire many generations to come. “Everything that I see, I have seen as a child,” says LaJa. “When I see all the positive things that are happening, I love it because his legacy is still going on and it’s not dying. That’s very important. He’s a lovely person and I make sure that I live that way with that type of positive attitude, treating everyone with love and respect.”
Her own legacy, still close to the artistic family heirloom, is beautifying people such as cancer patients through hair design. She also owns a hair salon in Arizona, LaJa’s Studio Boutique, and is planning to develop a wig kit for entertainers, a much-needed tool in the industry. Tonight, she is an honoree guest and the most surreal reflection of the beloved King of Pop.
In each corner you could find somebody that has worked with Jackson. Actress Ola Ray from the music video Thriller who played his wide eyed girlfriend autographs a large poster of the production. Scorpio Michael Jackson mingles among the crowd with the stars. He is one of the primary Michael Jackson impersonators and was among the first in the movement that influenced his famous dance styles such as the popping and locking style. Scorpio’s ability to impersonate the musician and to dedicate a lifelong career to his art is incredible. “I was born to perform, sing and dance. God gave me a special gift to do what Michael Jackson was doing when he lived on Earth. To heal the world though his music,” says Scorpio.
The Supremes and The Pointer Sisters Gowns
A large portrait of The Supremes with Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and Mary Wilson introduced one of the legendary gowns Sir Holman had designed for the musicians. Wilson, also an entrepreneur, is the host and force behind tonight’s initiative. Sir Holman’s white bateau neck wing sleeve gown stood as a diamond within the display. The white and satin crystal bugle beads spurred memories of Hollywood’s Motown.
Designer Bob Mackie’s “Black Butterfly” velvet gown with gold embroidered thread and jewels in the paisley was a treasure of its own. The gown is one of the three he had designed for the group. It was worn by The Supremes during the 1969 G.I.T. on Broadway (Gettin’ It Together) television special. A red fringe gown also by Mackie but for The Pointer Sisters empowered the trio display even more. One can only imagine the legacy that each vocal group carries. A legacy of design that today can only be honored but never worn again.
In May in the United Kingdom and September in the United States, Wilson will release a book titled Supreme Glamour based on The Supreme gown designs. The Supremes are the premier and most successful Motown female vocal group in history with 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
Looking forward this fall some of Sir Holman’s designs will also be displayed as part of an exhibit featured at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures set to open later in the year. He shares the museum’s mission to preserve Hollywood’s legacy. Woven the Documentary, also a Sir Holman initiative which is now under production, will also chronicle the stories of the many backstage legends that have tailored the image of Hollywood’s greatest artists. Through the decades he passes on the torch to a new generation and honors the diamonds in the shadow as his mentors.
Photography by William Kidston