When Beyoncé stepped on stage in a bodysuit back in 2014, her entire was encrusted in jewels, complete with 3D nipples. This was Beyonce, a performer who was bold enough to expose her body in this way before thousands of fans and the internet. “Everybody just flipped out because it looked too real,”David Blond, designer, was both star-struck by the public response to his work and bewildered. “They literally thought she was out there buck naked.”Phillipe Blond, David’s partner, is used to such provocative attire.
The year 2000 was when they met and found solace in their mutual love of music, fashion, nightlife, and fashion. David, who had worked in visual merchandising for his entire career, was ready for a shift. Phillipe, a young man with a passion for fashion, was right there. The young designers were quick to find retail space for their work. Hotel Venus In 2006, back, Famous Sex and the City stylist Patricia Fields.
But it wasn’t until later that year, when Beyoncé’s team knocked on their door for the first time, that The Blonds knew they were on to something. “Beyoncé wearing the first corset that we ever made in her ‘Upgrade U’ video, that really is what set it off, for sure,”David says, recalling the opportunity. Dripping in gold, metallic fabric and oversized diamonds, it’s the first full look you see in the video, setting an opulent tone.
The Blonds will continue their legacy of custom performancewear, which they will document in their forthcoming book. The Blonds: Glamour Fashion Fantasy, and set to publish in September, we catch up with David, reflecting on the duo’s work with artists like Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, and Madonna, and project the future of performance style.
What was the process like when Phillipe first met you and you decided to create this brand together?
Well, it’s interesting because I had already developed a career in visual merchandising and interior design in the retail space. And then when I met Phillipe in 2000, it was something that he was already doing and it’s something I’d always had in the back of my mind. Philippe was still in college and was still making things for himself and his friends. I took a one-year leave to help him. Then, once we met, we started going out together and doing the same thing.
We were doing our hair bleach blonde and had this whole concept of. ‘Why can’Marilyn Monroe, can anyone be? Why can’t anyone be Marlene Dietrich?’ These goddesses in the old Hollywood movies that we love so much. We just wanted to give a touch of glamor to anybody and everybody that wanted to be involved in it and that’s kind of what the premise [of the brand]It was from the beginning.
You have worked a lot with musicians. Do you have a particular draw to working with them, or that’s where you find the most creativity happening when it comes to your clients?
It’s all those things. I believe music is the foundation from which we draw our inspiration. And then everything else is sort of… I don’t want to say sidebar, but there are other components to the DNA of the brand: old Hollywood, art, animation. But music is the heart of it.
This was the place where we felt most comfortable expressing ourselves. Nobody was doing what we were doing and musicians were the only ones who would wear such things. Now it’s sort of developed into this thing where I have clients that will call and want something stage-worthy for a luncheon that’s themed. It’s interesting to me to see how this is merged with the everyday. This was something that was oddly our goal from the beginning: to bring the idea of high-level glamour and costume to everyday people.
What is the difference between designing something for the runway versus when you’re working with an artist and they have to perform in it?
There are two ways to approach it. If it’s something that’s more wearable or costume for the day, let’s say, then we wouldn’t have to put in any of the tough construction. It could have delicate embroideries or embellishments. And if we were translating something from the stage to something that would be more wearable for a client, let’s say some sort of special occasion whether it’s prom or wedding, Bar Mitzva, we’ve run the gamut in terms of the special occasion dressing for various civilian clients. That’s what I call them.
But for performance, there’s a big conversation that happens around each individual performer’s wants needs and preferences in terms of how they want to look. And it’s usually very detailed and something that ends up being fleshed out during multiple fittings. It all depends on how complex the pieces are.
We were proud of how fast we could turn things around when we first started. That was why people started coming back to us on a regular base. Because things happen and people need something extraordinary. We would be crazy. Now we don’t have that luxury anymore so we need a little bit more time, typically four to six weeks on average.
If it’s something that’s meant to last throughout a tour or if there are duplicates or if we have to rework it, and if there’s a complex embroidery or beading involved, then that can take up to 12 weeks. In some cases, it can take up to six months.
Are there still artists who will ask for things like “Hey, we need this in a 24 hour turnaround?”
Yes, it did. They still come. I got 12 texts from one stylist today, including, “Babe, I need this now, I need it.” And I’m just like, “I hate to say it…” And I never like to turn anything down but sometimes that’s what you have to do.
Has a musician ever approached you that you just couldn’t turn down, even though you might have been thinking, “I don’t have the time for this. What the hell are we going to do?”
Yeah. I think we’ve gone through a few of those with her because she is a perfectionist and we sort of are the same way. But yeah, we’ve gotten a few last-minute calls that again, is something we could not turn down. She’s probably the only person, her and I’d say, Beyoncé or Jennifer Lopez. You get what I’m referring to? Those clients are the ones we can’t say no to.
We’ll start with Lady Gaga in the first. “Paparazzi”She was also able to make a music video, which was huge as an artist. It helped her reach a wider audience than her original audience. Your designs are in that. What was that like?
It’s interesting because she came up in New York and it’s been wonderful to watch her career blossom and explode as it has. Because we had a lot of friends in common and that’s how that relationship sort of started. It was great to be a part when she began to shift to a more fashion-oriented, high-octane and costume-driven world.
And I feel like she is one of the best people in terms of bringing about all this change in fashion, she’s definitely had her own hand in it. She also helped other artists improve their costumes. This was a huge benefit for us.
What were those conversations like then versus now? You’re right, she has stepped up the costume game tremendously.
I believe that any artist starts with a mood board. They can give us many descriptors, color and hardware, as well as any other information. The music. Whatever they can inspire us with. We’ll take that into consideration and try to add all of that in there and weave it into the piece in one way or another, whether it’s subtle or whether it’s literal. For example, Gaga’s moment in Paparazzi, she was in chains because she was getting locked up.
Did you generate a lot of buzz from that? This was also a year after your brand had been established, or maybe two years after Beyonce.́ ‘Upgrade U’music video in which you had your debut.
It’s hard to say because I don’t ever really feel like you’re established in this industry. Going into this, you always have to understand that it’s a roller coaster and you have high points and you’re going to have low points. And that’s what I try to tell people: there really is never security when you’re working in a field like this, where there is intense competition. Larger brands are also getting involved in this area. So when they do it, it’s a different story because typically they just do everything for the artist and there’s a trade-off there, as opposed to being a paid gig.
The next artist I’d like you to talk about is Nicki Minaj, specifically her “Moment 4 Life”music video. Nicki changed from being a tough, hardworking woman to a more gentle, flowing teal gown that you designed. How was that piece created and how was it working with her, especially during the shift in her music?
It was the song, what it was all about, and how she softened everything that was so beautiful. She wanted to be Cinderella and look like a princess for the video. She then made it funny by putting her spin on the situation. She was the Fairy Godmother. She’s got an amazing sense of humor. All of this came together so beautifully at the end.
Circling back to Beyoncé, what was your reaction after getting that call saying, “Beyoncé is interested in doing something with you.”How does a collaboration with someone at this level work? Because this was also your first work for a major artist.
It works in many different ways for different artists. In this instance, her stylist went to a showroom we were in and saw one the pieces we had done. Then she relayed to them the creative idea for the video. It was obvious that we were thrilled to learn about it. We were ecstatic to see it once we got there. It was an incredible experience that was very significant. We worked with Ty Hunter who was her stylist at the moment and have worked together for many, many decades.
Get it now The Carter World Tour she’s wearing this bodysuit that is all rhinestone. How did you get that idea?
This particular moment occurred after a long discussion. We started with this concept. We wanted to give the illusion of her nakedness underneath the feathers, which would make her look elegant and elevated. We did something soft, with lots of pinks and just shading. It was all feathers and nudes, and then all the feather dancers did a number around her.
But it was a little too subtle. She wanted to make a bigger impact. She wanted to give the illusion that she was completely nude but didn’t exactly know how to execute it. We came up with the idea of having the dancers peek-a-boo and then having her almost fully nude. However, this time, it was completely covered from the neck up to the wrist.
As the conversation progressed, it became clear that this was going to be super-realistic. But, how do you do that in an artistic manner? So we began looking at [the work of painter] Tamara de Lempicka. We took it and then sketched it up. Phillipe actually painted on Phillipe’s body while she was wearing it so that everything was perfect.
He painted the entire suit while she was wearing it so that we could have a guide for the embroidery and beading. The moment she wore it was her first, and it stunned everyone.
They thought she was out there naked. After that, we did duplicates and toned down the colors quite a bit. It still had the nipple details. It still had all the shading. I believe the sleeves were ripped off at one point. Then a keyhole was added. They still have the pieces from that archive, despite it going through a lot of chaos.
Phillipe and you have shaped fashion’s visual legacy for the past decade and a quarter. What is the future of your work and the future of musician’s style look like for you?
I’m really happy and inspired thinking about the future because I feel like there are so many people out there and so many artists in so many markets. It’s one thing that people always forget because predominantly they pay attention to two U.S. artists when we work with artists all over the world.
And I think it’s amazing that everyone has someone that they can look up to right now. I’m happy to see that we’ve gotten to a point where any child can look up and have a role model, can have that same thing that I had when I was a kid in front of the television watching Wonder Woman.
It’s interesting, a lot of people don’t know that Linda Carter’s Mexican, so she’s a Latina. Those types of things to me, resonate and I feel like it’s amazing to finally see that coming to fruition and happening.
And again, I think there are artists that aren’t going to want to wear our stuff. There are many artists, especially men, out there. I think that’s super exciting, that the guys are getting in on it. We originally worked with Adam Lambert a lot because he’s Glam-bert.
He’s a great example of male performance wear. Do you have artists that you’re excited to work with in the future?
Yeah. We love what Lil Nas X does. We’re currently working on a project with Janet Jackson, who’s been someone we’ve idolized forever. This is another reason why Janet Jackson was someone we wanted from the beginning.
It’s interesting to see men dip their toes into more of that world of being over the top. What about other men? Is there another man you think about? “We’re going to get them and it’s going to be major?”
Harry Styles seems to be getting there. As you mentioned before, I think he is really great with his experimentation, and the way that he’s developing as an artist, I think is really amazing. So I believe that our paths will one day cross.
This interview was edited for clarity and length.