All That Glitters

Both the ballet and fashion worlds are still abuzz about the costumes Valentino Garavani designed for New York City Ballet's gala last week. Jewelry designer Robert Sorrell, of Sorrell Originals, added extra sparkle to the glamorous ensembles with his elegant headpieces. Pointe talked to Sorrell about his creations.

How did you get involved with this project?
I had a really good connection: Marc Happel, the costume director of New York City Ballet. He’s an old friend, and every once in a while he’ll ring me up for a project. In this case, Mr. Valentino wanted headpieces that were more like real jewelry than the embroidered pieces the company normally uses.

Talk about the pieces you made. How did you complement Valentino's vision?
Most of the pieces were based on sketches done by an artist who works for Valentino. Sometimes they submitted fairly detailed references for me to work from, and in those cases I really didn’t design much of anything. With Mr. Valentino, sometimes you just do as you’re told! On the other hand, there were a couple of pieces that didn't have sketches at all. At one point, Mr. Valentino and I were discussing the feeling he wanted for one of those pieces, and he said he wanted something romantic. I said, "When I think romantic, I think motifs like bows"—and he said, "Yes, bows, I like bows!" So I made him rhinestone bows with red stones in the center, a design based on a single word. And then when he saw the bows, he reinterpreted them into a shape that looked like a feather.

You've done a lot of designs for stage productions. What special considerations do you have to make for dancers in particular?
You have to make sure things look delicate but are actually very strong. You assume that a production will remain in the repertory for many years, so you don't want people running back to you all the time for repairs. And of course everything has to be lightweight and have plenty of places for hairpins, so that nothing goes flying off during turns. Let's face it: Ballerinas are athletes. They move around a lot!

Which of the Valentino pieces were you especially pleased with?
There's one emerald-cut crystal headband, which is almost like a little tiara. According to the drawing it was supposed to receive little white feathers, so I left a place behind it where they could be attached. And it really carried onstage—you could see it beautifully from a distance.