You might not know Elizabeth Kennedy by name, but you probably recognize her work: She dressed 2 key attendees at this year’s Golden Globes, Laverne Cox and Maura Tierney. While her namesake collection might be under-the-radar to the masses, she’s previously designed for major labels including Donna Karan, Isaac Mizrahi, J.Mendel and more. Here, we tapped the on-the-rise talent for the best advice she’s received, where she seeks inspiration and how to channel black-tie glamour even if you’re not on the red carpet.
What’s been the most valuable advice your mentors have given you throughout your career?
"I learned a tremendous amount from Isaac Mizrahi. Maybe the most impactful was his unwavering sense for design integrity. He was always just as concerned with the functionality of a garment as he was with the aesthetics. If a seam didn't serve a purpose, he would tell me to remove it. Functionality is an integral part of a design. If the design isn't functional, then it's bad design. It might be beautiful art, but that's not design."
What would you tell someone who aspires to be a designer?
"Being a successful designer requires an incredible amount of determination, hard work, interpersonal skills and of course, passion. Fashion is a business, and about 80% of your time is spent in meetings, fittings and so on. What may come as a surprise to many is that very little time is spent at a desk sketching. Fashion is incredibly competitive, but if you love what you do, it is extremely rewarding!"
What advice would you give a design graduate looking to break into the industry?
"Studying at Parsons was an incredible time in my life and I learned a great deal. However, there is also so much to learn in the real world, and the balance of school and professional experience is so important. Fashion school teaches you the craft and to develop your own aesthetic, but learning to design for another brand and learning the business is key to being a success in this industry."
Who is someone you’d love to dress for a red carpet and why?
"Cate Blanchett, because she is seriously the chicest woman alive. She knows how to take risks, but always looks timelessly elegant and effortless. She is always wearing the dress and not the other way around."
Where do you look for inspiration?
"Inspiration comes from everywhere—books, fine art, film, travel. My last trip to Paris, I became interested in Empress Josephine Bonaparte and the incredible silhouettes and textiles of the Napoleonic era. For my fall collection, I researched the elaborate textiles of that time, like paisley and point d'esprit, but interpreted them in a modern and more graphic way. I was drawn to the elegance of the empire style, particularly the narrow silhouettes with dramatic layered watteau trains in bold colors."
What should every woman consider when buying a black-tie dress?
"First, buy something that you feel beautiful and comfortable in. When you feel comfortable you radiate confidence, and that is the most attractive thing on a woman.
Second, shop with a good friend and try on a lot of different silhouettes, even things you might not initially consider—that way you can land on something that is right for your body type and has flattering proportions. The biggest mistake most women make is buying a dress that isn't right for their body type.
Finally, invest in a good tailor, and have the dress altered to your body. It makes a world of difference."
Give yourself the gift of glamour.