Pop powerhouse Ariana Grande kicked off her "Dangerous Woman" tour earlier this month in Phoenix, and while her vocal chops are nothing to gloss over, we can't help but fawn over all of the fierce lewks that have emerged from the tour as well. Fashionista chatted with the designer behind three of the show's costumes, Bryan Hearns, who's worked on custom show pieces for Lady Gaga and Halsey in the past, in addition to creating bespoke red carpet looks for celebrities, like the one Laverne Cox wore to last weekend's Grammy awards. Read on for our interview with Los Angeles-based Hearns to get the scoop on what it's like to work with Grande and how streetwear emerged as a major source of design inspiration.
How did you begin working with Ariana? I heard she's a fan of yours.
I started working with her a couple of years ago with one of her old stylists — I think it was right after "Problem." Then I started doing stuff with her sporadically throughout her career, and then we finally reconnected for this.
What was the design process like? Were there any specific silhouettes you were instantly drawn to?
I worked with her stylist, Law [Roach], and he reached out to me and went over what she wanted, what she was looking for. She had a mood board with these really cool images, and the vibe was really streetwear, oversize and really edgy — like what's happening in fashion right now. The show has really cool projections, the entire stage is one giant projection — so the clothes and the color palette complement the projections. Everything is monochromatic, including the dancers' costumes; that way everything just flows and looks really dope. Nothing shiny, everything is pretty matte, and there's lot of texture with straps and zippers and hardware.
But it still feels feminine and very "Ariana."
Yeah, we still definitely wanted to keep her personal style in mind.
Can you share a short overview of each look?
She wore [the white look] in Las Vegas. Every look has two versions, so she's not bored during the tour — other designers have other versions. I know that she wore the designer Michael Ngo in the white look with the white jacket and pants, and I did the skirt version with the crop top. The opening look is the black one and is almost a nod to her original style. A little more polished, a little Audrey Hepburn, and it went perfectly with the first number, which is a vogue-ing number, so it's all very chic and black-and-white. That went to the all-white look, which was very streetwear-inspired, and all the dancers were kinda similar with the straps and hardware. The third look was the grey look, which is worn for "Side to Side," so it's very sporty, like they're at the gym. It totally works with that song.
Can you tell us about some of the fabrics you worked with?
The black one is a spandex and the grey one is leather, jersey and hardware. The white one is actually a white waxed denim, and it has leather, too.
How involved was Ariana in the design process?
When I talked to Law [Roach], we went over the silhouettes that she wanted, and I know that one of the things she likes is a bodysuit with high-waisted shorts and a skirt that goes over it. So we reworked that idea with the grey look that I did with the zippers on the side, so it still covers her, but it's a different version of that idea. She was pretty involved because when I sent the sketches, she had notes and things that she wanted to change and things that she loved.
You've done a lot of custom pieces for amazing actresses and performers in the past. What was your favorite thing about working with Ariana?
I love to work with people who are passionate about what they do, and her love for music really does show. She really cares about putting on a good show, and she's one of the few people who actually sing live, so I was really excited to work with her. I appreciate that true passion.
What would you say is the biggest difference between designing costumes and ready-to-wear?
I think the biggest difference is you have to keep in mind that people will be performing in these outfits, so you have to be practical, in a sense. Like, even though [the costumes] have a million straps and look like they have a million belts on, it's all engineered through one zipper in the back. It's all actually one piece, super-easy to get in and out of — nothing too complicated. The design [process] is typically the same both ways, but you have to think about making it performable.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.