Whitney Houston gave audiences her final moments of delight as an entertainer in the new film Sparkle, which was released last weekend to popular acclaim. Her last major work before her untimely death, Houston’s performance has been celebrated for its warmth and enraptured fans by preserving the pop diva’s elegant image. Designer b michael, who created the costumes worn by Houston in Sparkle, contributed to this presentation, empowering fans to enjoy Houston’s portrayal of Emma, the mother of Jordin Sparks’ leading character. His costumes helped viewers envision Whitney the way we want to remember her — at her very best.
b michael spoke to theGrio about this significant experience.
“It was wonderful,” he related over the phone on a break from promoting his latest collection, b michael AMERICA RED. The fashion veteran, who has dressed stars ranging from Beyoncé to Cicily Tyson, saw the chance to adorn another iconic singer as fate. “I always saw Whitney as someone that I wanted to dress,” b michael said.
The clothier remembered Houston’s work ethic and fashion acumen as they labored tirelessly on various pieces over just a few weeks. “It was a quick project,” b said of costuming the luminary. “We started in September and we were done by the end of October .”
What b michael was able to develop in such a short time flowed naturally from the setting of the story, leading to a feminine set of glamorous looks. “The film is a ’60s period piece — one of my favorite fashion eras,” he mused. “So the clothing had to be very ladylike, depicting that era. Because Whitney’s character owns a dress shop, her costumes could also be fashionable.”
b and Houston worked collaboratively, yet he appreciated her acceptance of his stewardship. “It was just great. Her wanting us to achieve that kind of goal in that regard, I found really wonderful,” michael elaborated of their ambitious goals and restrictive time constraints. “It was just a fabulous, wonderful experience and I am honored that she allowed me to do my thing.”
Of course, they didn’t know at the time that b michael’s costumes would be worn by Houston in some of her last appearances on screen. The fashion industry veteran is humbled by the profound impact of his work in this context.
“It’s really quite amazing that I have been bestowed that honor,” b said of working with Houston right before her death. “I believe that people will see — really see — Whitney. See how wonderful she is as a person, and what she really is as a woman. I responded as a designer to her that way. That’s what I believe people will walk away with.”
The head of the b michael America couture collection has been an established voice in fashion for decades, but the opportunity to bring Houston’s character to life through his frocks has further expanded michael’s influence. “We have another movie in the pipeline, which I can’t disclose at the moment, but we are excited about it. You’ll hear about it at some point soon,” b hinted.
“But our main focus at the moment is that we just launched a ready-to-wear collection, b michael AMERICA RED. That is what is taking our immediate attention. It is a collection of dresses we are launching through Macy’s.”
The project is exciting for many reasons. One of the most important? “It’s a collection that’s made in America, appealing to a modern woman who has a timeless classic, sensibility for style,” b enthused.
Before returning to his national tour to promote the line, the designer contemplated what it would be like to see Whitney Houston for the first time in his costumes on screen, forever captured in his couture. In anticipation of Sparkle‘s nationwide release when theGrio spoke to him last week, michael became quietly thoughtful.
“Well, I’m preparing myself. I’m sure it’s going to be a very exciting film,” he said. “It’s a piece of film that will be well done. I’m excited in that regard, but at the same time there will be something quite amazing about seeing Whitney in clothing that I created.
“Particularly when she does her solo — you know that’s going to be very bitter sweet, I’m sure.”
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb