By Patrick T. Cooper
Unorthodox, creative, daring, bold, colorful, sophisticated, opulence, and excellence are all terms to describe the prolific body of work by American designer Stephen Burrows. From star-studded evenings at Studio 54 to designing signature Barbie dolls, Burrow’s vision and eye for detail have carved a special place in the history of fashion. He is truly a living legend. We spoke with Burrows about his iconic brand and his experience dressing celebrities for the Oscars.
UPTOWN: We know you have worked with countless celebrities. However, did you have a muse and what artist did you have the most fun with and why?
Burrows: My muse is Pat Cleveland, who I met in 1970 at a shooting of my clothes for Vogue magazine. Before that my muse was an imaginary one, but when I met Pat it was as if my sketch walked off my sketch pad into reality. She has been my primary muse since then because she is so self-confident and outgoing and one of my closet friends. She has a daughter, Anna Cleveland, who is a model/actress, and an additional muse and inspiration for me now. So i am continuously inspired by both these wonderful invigorating women.
U: Do you channel any other iconic figures when developing your collection?
Burrows: Alva Chinn, Bethann Hardison, and Iman … all with their own strong personalities.
U: Have you ever designed a gown for the Oscars? Can you tell us about that experience?
Burrows: I dressed Farrah Fawcett for the 1977 Academy Awards. She called and wanted my chainmaille gold two-piece gown (top and long skirt). She came to my showroom on West 57th Street [in NYC] and tried it on. It fit her perfectly (size 6). She was lovely and very warm plus no “divadom” at all. She wore it that night as a presenter.
U: Where do you find inspiration for each collection?
Burrows: I just sketch what I am feeling at that moment usually without a theme beyond imagining my muses in the clothes.
U: Celebrity capital has become such an impacting resource in the fashion industry. What celebrity personality would you choose to be your brand ambassador today and why?
Burrows: Anna Cleveland, as she epitomizes today’s attitude and life choices. Plus, [she has] a strong confident sensual attitude and personality for my brand — just what my clothes are all about.
U: How important is working capital for minority designers?
Burrows: Working capital is needed by all designers. You are doing two things at once: producing the last collection and developing the next collection. And you have to fund each one at the same time. Plus, the overhead costs for doing the day-to-day business necessities. This becomes a major concern when you are not strongly supported fund-wise, as in any small company.
U: As an African-American designer and entrepreneur, what words of advice would you give to some one following in your footsteps?
Burrows: Three words — FOLLOW YOUR DREAM!
U: What’s next for your brand? Why should we stay tuned?
Burrows: Some free-standing retail stores and e-commerce and a feature-film project on the Battle of Versailles ’73.
For more than 15 years Patrick T. Cooper has consistently influenced fashion, art, and entertainment. With an innate creative ability, Cooper curates visual imagery that sets trends. Cooper mindfully manipulates color, texture, and layering to create a lifestyle and his mantra “Live in color,” which is an exercise to be and live freely. This attitude is evident in each uniquely designed piece of the Patrick T Cooper Resort Collection. For more information go to PatrickTCooper.com or follow him on social media @patricktcooper.