LaQuan Smith Designs "Black Iris" Costume for The Joffrey Ballet

The designer talks about the months-long process to create the edgy black dress.

Posted: 03/13/2013 12:41 PM EDT
LaQuan Smith, ballerina

Fashion designer LaQuan Smith has been tapped by Chicago's The Joffrey Ballet to design the lead's costume for Jeremy McQueen's "Black Iris," a dance inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe's painting by the same name. Smith recently spoke with Huffington Post Black Voices to talk about the process and how he was able to bring his edgy vision to the modern ballet company.

"The dance was inspired by the 'Black Iris' painting by Georgia O'Keeffe. I did some research on the piece, and it's a beautiful portrait of a flower that was so dark, edgy and romantic — all in one," Smith said. "The colors are black, eggplant and a stormy gray. So it's not a bright flower, which made it a challenge as well, because I didn't want it to look like a typical black dress. So it was a very cool challenge."

Smith explained that he took three months to dream up the concept for the costume, two weeks to make the dress with three to four days spent constructing the flower petals that adorn the dress' hem and shoulder strap.

"We got these beautiful black silk petals shipped in from Milan, and we also got some eggplant-hued roses. We have to deconstruct the flowers to make them Iris[es], which have three petals. We literally tacked them on by hand — there have to be over a thousand petals on that dress!"


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(Photos from left:  Fernando Leon/BET, The Joffrey Ballet)

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