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Hello Hala

by Sarah A. Freiseis
FashionLedge.com readers, you're in for a treat! This season T-Mobile is wishing a happy holidays to its customers with a special razzle dazzle performance based campaign. The kick-off took place in Chicago earlier this month when T-Mobile’s spokes-model, Carly Foulkes, unveiled her new, custom-made dress designed by Hala Bahmet. We were fortunate enough to get the behind the scenes style scoop via a recent phone interview with Hollywood costume designer and stylist Bahmet.

In speaking with Bahmet we learned that she had worked with RSA Films, the production company behind the campaign, on several previous occasions which paved the way for a relationship with T-Mobile and this particular project. She said, "of course I was aware of Carly and the dresses, because of just seeing billboards and television commercials and all that, so I knew who she was, and I knew what the campaign had been about, and the iconic pink dresses, and that made me more interested when they first called me about it." Bahmet said designing for Carly was exciting off the bat, but also daunting in the beginning, because she had done research on every dress she's [Carly] ever worn, "I thought wow, okay I have to come up with something that's really different from what she's worn before, but not so different that's it's out of this persona, and the character that she is. It had to be really beautiful, and fresh, and sparkly and lively and wonderful like Carly is, and it had to match her personality, and also be really appropriate for everything she's done before, and be different for holiday, and be really special in that way."

Bahmet said she started the process by going over her historical fashion books and period magazines. She said she has an extensive archive of books from working in the film industry and when she had a clothing line. She said she pulled inspirations from other designers and silhouettes she enjoys from other periods, in this instance the 20s through 50s. "Carly is super easy to dress, she has a great figure, she has long limbs, she just looks terrific in just about anything," Bahmet said. "So honing in, basically, I spoke with the director, I spoke with the agency, we had a preliminary meeting back in September, to talk about what we are trying to convey, what is the look of it going to be, what is the location going to be, all of these important things we have to factor in," she added.

The designer said she came up with about ten or eleven different variations, and then presented those sketches to T-Mobile and the agency, who then chose the dress that was also her favorite. Bahmet noted that the idea was to find a fabric that worked with the design of the dress that would also provide lots of movement without being too overpowering, especially considering Carly's slender physique. She said they chose a silk charmuese, one of her [Bahmet's] favorite fabrics to work with, despite the difficulty involved in using the slippery textile when it came to the technical aspects. She said the extra effort was worth it in the end.

"To make it special and make it holiday we wanted to give her a lot of sparkle, we experimented with all kinds of sequins and beading effects and things like that early in the process, and we landed with Swarovski crystals, and you know what they really are the best crystals, they really are the most sparkly and the best quality for us and so we splurged, and worked with Swarovski and they were very happy to work with us too," she said. "All the crystals are hand applied, which was very time consuming, but again [we were] trying to make something special, and fortunately the company and everybody was on board with spending the extra money and making a couture handmade dress for her, with hand applied crystals, the full circle skirt." Bahmet said she had the dressmakers make a mock-up dress for working out the kinks using a dress form built to Carly's exact measurements. She said it was practical considering Carly was in New York, meanwhile she was in LA, and both were super busy. "We made a mock-up dress, decided we loved it, made a few little changes, and then we went into the real fabric and made the first dress for Carly with just a little bit of crystallization on the bodice, the bodice from the front looks like a halter style, so there was a heavier encrusting around the neckline and then scattering out across the rest of the bodice," she said. "So I took that partially finished dress with me, flew to New York and fit Carly, which was amazing, and she loved it. We sat down at her place and we tried it on, looked at ten different pair of shoes, and kinda goofed around, had a cup of coffee and finessed the whole design, she had a lot of input and she and I seemed to like the same things so that was really great."

She said after the first fitting she went back to LA with notes from the fitting with Carly. She said the couture house they work with then made final dress, "I fit that on her again with another tailor, a few days before the shoot, just to make sure everything was just right, that the hem was just right, and it fit perfectly." Bahmet said that minus the hand crystallization, the design could become something for mass market sales, "this could be a dress that a lot of women could wear, and depending on the fabric used, could be reproduced at a more acceptable price point." She said although that isn't the case at this time, and there are no plans for turning this one-of-a-kind creation into an off the rack piece, she would be just the type to pick one up for herself if it were! I concurred, and we closed in talking about how women are influenced and inspired by the things we see and experience every day. How lovely - thanks Hala.