For more than a decade, David Meister’s elegant dresses and gowns have been flattering women’s figures. The Los Angeles-based designer has created red-carpet showstoppers for Tina Fey, Jennifer Hudson, Sharon Stone, Felicity Huffman, Fergie and scores of other celebrities. But he also designs sophisticated, figure-flattering clothes for the rest of us. His day and evening wear is available locally at Neiman Marcus, and he recently expanded his ready-to-wear line to include women’s sizes 14W to 24W (available online). He presented his latest collection last week at Neiman Marcus—and stayed around afterward to give fashion tips and dish about celebs.
Q: How did you become a designer?
A: Even when I was a kid in Cincinnati, I was creative and opinionated and loved clothes. I majored in fashion design and moved to New York, the best place for any young designer, right after college. I went to Los Angeles 17 years ago to design for Laundry by Shelli Segal, who was looking to start an eveningwear division. A few years ago, I hooked up with Kellwood Co. and started my own line. I’m about to launch a bridal collection, and I just started the women’s line.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake most women make when it comes to fashion?
A: They don’t realize they need to take many of their garments to a tailor. It’s well worth the money. A $10 dollar dress can look like a million bucks if it fits right. A good fit is the difference between ‘OK’ and ‘spectacular.’
Q: Why are your clothes so popular?
A: They’re simple, modern and sexy. I respect women’s bodies with flattering, easy silhouettes. I use wonderful fabrics like matte jersey, clipped velvet and stretch satin. About 90 percent of my collection is stretch or knit. These fabrics are comfortable, fit beautifully, don’t wrinkle and travel well. And the price is affordable: The line I’m showing at Neiman Marcus ranges from $300 to $700.
Q: Most fashion designers act like women over size 4 don’t even exist. What inspired you to start designing for sizes 14W-plus?
A: They deserve beautiful clothes as much as anyone else. About 67 percent of women in this country wear a 14 or bigger. They have money to spend, they want to be well-dressed and they want to feel glamorous.
Q: How would you advise a woman who wants to look a few pounds thinner?
A: You can drop 10 pounds instantly by wearing the same color head-to-toe and keeping the lines sleek and vertical. Keep it simple—that’s the best philosophy for everyone.
Q: Could you tell us about your design process? Do you work from sketches?
A: It varies. Sometimes it starts with a sketch; other times, I’ll hold an amazing piece of fabric and start wondering what I can do with it. It’s an organic, evolving process. You can’t stuff it into a mold. You’ve got to let it do what it wants.
Q: Are Tina Fey and Felicity Huffman as nice as they seem?
A: Absolutely. Most celebrities are lovely. We don’t dwell on the ones who aren’t! I recently designed gowns for Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver for the movie You Again. You know the scene where they show up at a big event wearing the same gown? That was one of mine. I also designed the look-alike gowns they wore to the movie’s recent premiere. These women couldn’t have been sweeter, smarter or funnier. I had so much fun working with them.
Q: What’s your advice for young designers?
A: Major in fashion design. Learn your craft. Go to New York and take any job in fashion you can find. Don’t stop. Keep moving.