Gold, French skaters sparkle in Griffies' designsDesigner creates U.S. ladies champion's popular free skate dress
This was the fourth Olympic Winter Games in which skaters have worn designs by Brad Griffies, but this was the first time his work has garnered so much global attention. Worn by French skater Maé Bérénice Méité and pair Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès, and by American Gracie Gold (free skate dress), Griffies' creations were praised for their bold sparkle and style.
Amazingly, his work with the French skaters was all done long distance. Although he's been designing for James since she lived and trained in the U.S., these costumes were all made based on telephone and email conversations. Griffies shipped the costumes to France to check fittings before he did the beadwork.
Both James and Méité made adventurous choices, particularly Méité, whose free skate costume did not have a skirt. Although Griffies initially hesitated to make the pants she and her coach requested, he was very proud of the final product.
"We did a dress and we did the unitard, which I kind of designed off of something Beyoncé would wear," Griffies said. "When I saw her in the pants, I thought she looked amazing. Not everyone can pull off the pants look."
Méité asked Griffies to design for her because she liked James' costumes so much. Her English isn't perfect, so, at times, James served as translator.
Although it's not uncommon for Griffies to work with clients on custom-made costumes without an in-person fitting, the pressure with international clients is that much more intense.
"You've got to get it right the first time and cross your fingers that if there are any alterations, that they are correct," he said. "Next season, I think I may go to France to do the fittings."
The elaborate beadwork on the costumes is a combination of hand-sewn beading and crystals/sequins glued on one at a time. He said the French skaters have placed complete trust in him, and at times, after hearing details of their programs and music, he submits only one sketch, which they quickly approve.
"That's when I find things really turn out the best," he said. "When I have a complete vision for somebody and they go with my first vision."
In the short program, James wore purple and Ciprès white and black with purple beading. For James' angel (to Ciprès' devil) free skate dress, she told Griffies to create a fully beaded sleeve over nude meshing, even though it was heavy.
"I thought it turned out amazing," he said. "It was nude mesh. All the color you see are crystals that are hand-applied."
Griffies had designed for Gold in the past -- both her short and free program dresses for the 2012-13 season -- but didn't work with her early this season. Not long before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Gold's mother contacted him.
Gold's beautiful blue free skate dress was originally envisioned in white, until Griffies convinced her otherwise. He created a white dress and also included a blue dip dye one in the package to check for size before he beaded it. Gold chose the blue, but the initial beading didn't get a thumbs-up, so he made another dress in the same color and brought it to the U.S. championships in Boston. Just to be safe, he even whipped up another dress in purple.
"I made two options for her in a week," Griffies said. "We did the fitting in the hotel room. Gold wore both in practice and then decided on the blue for the free skate.
"As is now history, Gold skated to victory in Boston and wore the dress twice in Sochi -- for the team event and the ladies free skate."