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Bert Keeter, celebrity guest of Tucson Fashion Week, rose to national fame on Season 9 of Project Runway. Here he discusses the power of understatement, and wearing (gasp!) sandals. By Samantha Cummings

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Early bird or night owl? “I was never an early bird growing up, as a kid and a young adult. I used to, especially in New York, stay up way too late. But in Los Angeles, I tend to get up early and my lifestyle has changed.

“I have a little dog that I take care of. I’ve done all that going out late at night stuff, so I’m very happy to be home and working at home. After 8, 9, or 10 o’clock at night I’m ready to hit the sack and get up early.”

Favorite accessory? “Probably shoes. Being that I live in LA right now, it’s pretty casual. I hate to say this, but I wear sandals most of the time. But if I do get dressed and put pants on, I like Pradas. I like very simple shoes without logos on them. I like wearing the Prada and Gucci loafers, but the very simple ones – nothing that’s too heavy and says Prada or Gucci on it and stuff like that. I like good quality shoes.”

 

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Part of Bert Keeter’s latest collection. Photo courtesy of Bert Keeter

Favorite faux pas? “Very early on at Parsons [The New School for Design], you get to present one look, and my model came out with my dress on backwards. It was interesting, but it looked good too. It was a high neck with a low wrap in the back. It was a red chiffon cocktail dress.

“We fit her with it the right way and the model knew it. Then, I was sitting there at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and she comes out with it on backwards. But it looked good backwards!”

 Who is your dream customer? “I think my designs attract a woman who is not looking to be identified by the brand that she’s wearing, but she wants the brand to be subtle. When I design, I look for a client where the focus is on the woman and not so much on what she is wearing, but enhances her look, her beauty, her personality.

“I want [people] to see her wearing the dress instead of the dress wearing her. I want them to say, “My God, she looks beautiful.” I guess [my dream customer] is a woman who is not a slave to names, to logos and designer trademarks. I want a woman customer who is confident that she doesn’t need that to make herself feel well-dressed.”

If I weren’t a fashion designer I would… “Before I decided on fashion design and went off to Parsons in New York City, I was very interested in architecture. Due to my terrible relationship with anything to do with math, I quickly gave that up. My other passion is European art, culture and history. I probably would have moved to Europe, most likely Italy.  And since I am always observing, looking, studying the most obscure things, photography would have been a good possibility.”

If I could change one thing I would… “Get rid of hatred.”

What was the inspiration behind your latest design, showing at TFW? “Everyone knows the James Bond movies over the last thirty or forty years. At the end of each movie there is a very powerful song, usually sung by a woman. And there are always one or two women who seem to be a  love interest of James Bond: a femme fatale, a beautiful, mysterious woman who is very glamorous, but also very powerful.

“So when I started designing my collection, I originally wanted the song (for the runway show) to be Skyfall by Adele. So that really helped me when finishing the collection and made me think of a beautiful woman walking into a casino in the French Riviera, or into a cocktail lounge in London, where men and women would turn around when she walks in because she’s so mysterious and appealing.”

* See Bert Keeter at Tucson Fashion Week’s Runway Wrap-up and fashion presentation awards party, October 19th at La Encantada. More on Bert at www.bertkeeter.com

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Photo courtesy of Bert Keeter

 

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