Celebrity Fashion Designer Warden Neil Spills the Beans about Life in Hollywood + Fashion Design Seminars!
If you are based outside of Los Angeles or So. California (or even if you are here), the name Warden Neil is well-known in Hollywood circles, but it might not be known to the general population- until now! Warden is an amazingly gifted designer who has worked with so many celebrities from Michael Jackson and his family to Carrie Underwood; from classic Hollywood names like Bob Hope, Liz Taylor and Phyllis Diller to Brooke Shields, Carmen Electra and Kirstie Alley and a slew more. He has worked with big name celebs on big screens and little screens as well as music videos, tours and tons of red carpet events!
About Warden Neil
Warden Neil is a world-renowned Hollywood Costume Designer. A world-class fashion designer he has worked in all aspects of the entertainment industry as a leading Costume/Fashion Designer and Celebrity Stylist for television film, beauty pageants, theatrical productions, music videos and commercials! This multi-talented artist has designed for a virtual who’s who of the Entertainment Industry including Michael Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kirstie Alley, Janet Jackson, Liz Taylor and well-over 100 other world-renowned entertainers. Warden also designed several clothing lines for fashion house Alta Moda, which sold in stores internationally.
Neil’s illustrious career began more than 40 years ago when this young designer– with big dreams of becoming a Hollywood costume designer– got a break and landed a job as a figure sketch-artist for CBS Television within weeks of arriving from New Zealand. He quickly progressed to designing for some of the world’s top stars such as Bob Hope (he designed over 90 Bob Hope Specials), Lucille Ball, Dick Clark and TV shows and movies that included The Jayne Mansfield Story with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Loni Anderson; WKRP in Cincinnati; The Osmonds with Donny & Marie, and The Jackson 5 Family Hour with Michael Jackson.
In addition to his Alta Moda fashion designs, Warden Neil has created fashions for Carrie Underwood, Carmen Electra, Brooke Shields and Heather Locklear. Warden Neil has also designed for A-list filmmakers like Robert Zemekis, Joel Silver, Richard Donner, Walter Hill, William Freidkin, John Frankenheimer and Tom Hanks.
Warden also was the first fashion designer for Dancing With The Stars and designed for America’s Got Talent, American Gladiators, and Tales From The Crypt. One of his most memorable stints would be Warden’s current position as Head Fashion Designer and Stylist for the annual Golden Globe Awards. In addition to his eight Emmy Nominations, Warden is also a recipient of the prestigious Drama-Logue Award for Costume Design. His fashion creations have been featured in numerous magazines and he’s been interviewed early morning and early evening network TV shows like Entertainment Tonight and The Today Show.
An Interview with Warden Neil!
1) SW: What got you started walking down the path of working in fashion?
Warden Neil: I was born in Auckland, New Zealand and I always wanted to be a designer. I designed a dress for my mom when I was in my mid-teens and she made it herself with her sewing machine and created her own pattern. I was very proud of it–but there was no fashion industry in the 1960s so I decided to come to America at the young age of 18- not knowing anyone.
2) From serious fashion that is worn by notable stars (actors and actresses) to consumer fashion like wedding dresses, you work covers an array of categories. ls there one segment you like better than another? Or is it just that you love the creativity of what you can do?
Warden Neil: I ACTUALLY enjoy designing for BRIDEZILLAS– LOL– and equally stars and celebrities! Most are nice but there are the odd difficult ones too:
KIRSTIE ALLEY is very difficult to work with and very hard to please.
CARRIE UNDERWOOD is very easy to please–and appreciates my work.
I have designed evening gowns for stars for red carpet and for of course a lot of variety shows and movies and videos. Depending on the situation, there can be unpredicted wardrobe malfunctions like I had the first one of the Michael Jackson family when Rebe’s (Janet and Michael’s sister) top came down on the show. I designed that dress and it was long before Janet’s wardrobe malfunction!
One bride who I worked with on creating a unique bridal gown for couldn’t get the dress on! Good thing I was there!
There are a ton more stories I could tell!
3) What was the largest project you have worked on?
Warden Neil: Dancing With The Stars! The male pro dancers were more difficult divas than the female stars and dancers!
4) What was the project that gave you the greatest creative latitude where you were able to really stretch your wings?
Warden Neil: Tales from the Crypt, the horror TV series (in reruns now). There was a lot of blood and gore to deal with. I became an excellent slasher of fabric and splashing blood onto costumes. The fake red blood would dye my hand and it would take days to get it off.
5) What or who was the most interesting to work with in that they wanted you to push the limits on what could be done?
What was it and how did you do it?
Warden Neil: Great question! I would say it was designing for America’s Got Talent. I designed costumes for the performing acts. One of them Barbra Padilla , the opera singer. She stood on a very high platform on stage and I had to have yards and yards(maybe 60 yards or more) of gold chiffon that had look like it was part of her very elegant opera evening gown but also cover the whole platform to the floor of the stage! Visually, it was AWESOME!
6) You have worked with a slew of celebrities including The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson.
What was it like to work with the Jackson family?
Warden Neil: Michael Jackson was one of my FAVORITE stars to design for! We hit it off right away as we were on the same creative wave length-always!I got to design and create his very first military style jacket in 1977 before he went solo and took the look with him.
We both had nick names for each other. Mine was” BUGLE BEADS” and his was “RHINESTONES”! Years later when I was with him on “Ghosts” video we laughed about it a lot!
7) Your client list reads like a who’s who of celebrities! Who have you worked with that you were able to transform them into something magical?
Warden Neil: CARMEN ELECTRA!! I was designer for MTVs ROCK “N” JOCK TV SPECIAL and Carmen was the star host. The theme was 1970’s and I got to transform her into a glittery disco queen with a bare midriff and very sexy hot-pink glitter fabric and floor-length hot pink fringe! The paparazzi went crazy over her costume when she walked out onto the red carpet!
8) You have worked in several films and shows: can you describe what were the most challenging?
Warden Neil: YES, SPLASH, a big show in Las Vegas! I had to design sexy mermaid costumes that required breakaway tops so the mermaids became topless in the second half of the performance. This was the midnight adult show that also required the dancers to be in the water with special fabrics for the costumes to show up with black light!
9) You have spent a great deal of time as the fashion designer for the Golden Globes. Can you share a bit about that?
Warden Neil: I am the head designer and stylist for the Golden Globes for the past 20 years–I never know from one year to another who I will get to style for the show. Much of the time it is last minute fashion magic if a stars stylist has had a nervous breakdown (just kidding!) or they didn’t get a stylist. Sometimes I will step into the mix if a dress or outfit doesn’t work out at the last minute too. I work with the celebrity as their stylist to select the best outfit for them . I really enjoy it! I have designer gowns in showrooms I use close by.
10) What trends in fashion have really changed the tenor of the fashion world?
Warden Neil: Fashion goes around in circles!! I know stiletto heels have been a top fashion favorite in and out of fashion for the past 60 years. Mini skirts rotate from decade to decade; if a woman has great legs, a mini-skirt works no matter what size they are!
11) You were nominated for 8 emmys in the costume design category. How diverse were your projects?
Yes, I have been nominated for eight different Emmys! The projects were very diverse. A couple were for horror genre shows like Tales from the Crypt. I got to design for Tom Hanks who is one of the nicest stars I have ever worked for. He gave me a big hug after we wrapped.
Period films were also very detailed in costuming. For The Jayne Mansfield Story, I designed costumes for Arnold Schwarzenegger. For his role, he had over 24 wardrobe changes dating from the 1940’s, 1950’s and the 1960’s time periods. I became his stylist after that movie wrapped. He was naughty and a lot of fun.
The Bob Hope Specials were on my plate as well. These specials involved many of the top stars at that time and I was designing for the worlds hottest celebrities for the shoots. I did most probably close to a hundred specials!
I am the recipient of the Dramalogue Award for Best Costume Design for Theater!
12) You have just finished a movie. Tell us about this movie!
Warden Neil:: The movie is called Film Noir. It is a 1930’s period drama. I needed to do lots of research- like watching the old movies from the 1930s ( which is really fun). I was able to sift through the Warner Brothers Costume Department for some of the costume. It was amazing to see authentic clothing from the 1930! Some of the clothes the fabrics were so fragile!
13) Are there any current clients you might be able to talk about?
Warden Neil:. Of course. My current clients are those celebrities and those in the film industry that I am here for if they need me. I have designed for Brooke Shields since she was 15 years old. I am always available to work with her if she needs me. Marie Osmond and I have a similar relationship. I designed a set of new gowns for her and I am anxious to see which ones she likes best. have been working with Marie since she was a teenager.
14) What’s it like to work on DANCING WITH THE STARS?
Warden Neil: Dancing With the Stars is a very hard show to for fashion designers! I always had to have extra gowns made in case one star was going to become the winner and the not knowing who it was going to be required that just about everyone has a dress or outfit made. It is filmed LIVE and it’s stressful to be hoping that no one splits their costume on camera! It is a great show for giving designers a creative opportunity particularly those like me who love the glitz, ruffles and beading.
15) You created the PHIDO cell phone leash. What prompted that invention?
Warden Neil: I lost four cell phones and dropped one in the toilet. Plus I lost another a phone when I ran over it with my car. It had fallen off out of the car! I figured that if I did this, others did too and they could use this PHIDO. PHIDO makes it so you don’t lose your phone or drop it EVER!
16) You are doing something new at the end of January. You are teaching a series of classes on fashion design. Tell us more!
Warden Neil: Yes!! I am super-excited about these classes! Over the past several years I have been teaching figure sketching for both Fashion Design and Costume Design. I also cover wardrobe-styling with lots of one-to-one time with many students. I am now ready for my own Online Fashionista Fashion Design Courses which will cover all of the above.
Anyone interested can get more information on my website: www.fashionistaclasses.com
My goal is that I can mentor new students to be very versatile in their skills and be able to be flexible in their job options! The flexibility will allow them to work anywhere in the industry and hopefully achieve a variety of work experiences like I have been blessed with in my own career working in the entertainment industry and the fashion industry too. While not everyone might be able to get nominated for an Emmy 8 times or get a Dramalogue Award, they would be able to work in a variety of positions like:
FIGURE SKETCH ARTIST
Since these classes will be online, I will be able to connect with each student in a very close mentoring relationship and still be efficient in my teaching of easy, step-by-step techniques!
Get more information on this class series at www.fashionistaclasses.com
New students will be amazed at what they will learn quickly in a very short time frame.
I will show sketch designs of past projects with the presentation sketch and pictures of the finished garment on the star.
My classes will cost considerably less than what other design schools charge and I give quality teaching with close follow-up.
I have many letters from former students thanking me for my superior teaching techniques.
17)Also anything interesting for 2014 in terms of projects?
Warden Neil: I am definitely ready for 2014! I have a new project to do the costume design for a huge new theme park overseas. The costumes will be very exotic and the costumes will cover several centuries of “period costume design”. I love it! The designs have already been submitted, so I am just waiting on feedback!
18) For this red carpet award season, what fashion and color trends can we expect to see? What would you like to see?
Warden Neil: I THINK we will see bright jewel colors for evening wear and daywear. Ralph Lauren has already got it going in that direction.
I like softer colors for more romantic lingerie and intimate apparel.
I would like to see less black
19) What would you like to NOT SEE on the red carpet?
Warden Neil: NO MORE TRASHY FLASH like Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry and now Miley Cyrus! Yuck! They give fashion a bad name. It’s OK to be different–but you can do it in good taste
Is there a trend towards more glamour and less about being risque and outlandish?
Warden Neil:Unfortunately this year I think we will still see outlandish because the best way to get attention is through outlandish wardrobe choices. HOWEVER I think by the end of the year, the public will be bored with”publicity stunt” wardrobe choices and look for good taste again in a modern way.
We would like to thank Warden Neil and his staff for all their help in putting this together! If this interview sounds honest and more forthright, it’s because Warden Neil is just that kind of person. Warden made himself very available to talk about the questions and what direction I wanted to take this. Typically I let the people I interview free rein to talk about what they want- there is nothing different here.
You do not have to be in California to take this class! If you are anywhere where you have a good connection to the web and a great skype or some sort of live video connection, you can participate in this program! Students should have an interest in learning about costume design and fashion design and a desire to learn new skill sets from a master of his craft! This series of two day courses shown on the banner below are for you! Please check back on Friday 1/10 for a contest to WIN a free course of your own.
Connect with Warden Neil on these social media platforms:
Don’t forget to check out the Fashionistas Fashion Design Classes too at www.fashionistaclasses.com
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