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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Legacy Of Bill Whitten - Is It Dead?

Some of you will have read a post I did many moons ago on Neil Diamond and the fact that his outfits were made by a chap called Bill Whitten in Hollywood. I asked the question as to whether anybody knew if his shop was still open. A couple of days ago I got a message on the blog from one of his employees' daughter who wrote to tell us about her family's involvement in Whitten's operation.

My name is Sarine Marie Berberian and my current business is Sarine Marie. Sarine Marie is a high-end women's contemporary line that's both designed and manufactured in our facility in Los Angeles. My family's relationship with Bill Whitten started in the early 80s. My dad, uncle, and grandmother all worked with Bill Whitten at the Melrose location. Bill would work closely with musicians and celebrities, designing one of a kind pieces for them. My family would bring his designs to life from beginning to end.
Where did Bill Whitten source a lot of his materials from? What inspired him? 
I don't know where he got his inspiration or where he sourced his materials from. I do know that a lot of the fabrics he used were European. In order to make quality clothing, you need quality materials.
How long would your uncle and father work on a commission piece for? Where did the actual work take place?
The actual work took place at the Melrose location. Everything was made there.
Which commission is a) the one they loved most working on b) the one the world reveres the most?
My dad and uncle would say that every project was different and that's what made it more exciting. The one that the world reveres the most is definitely Michael Jackson's glove and beaded jackets. The glove was my dad's idea! Bill Whitten was telling my dad that Michael Jackson wanted a signature piece, a piece of clothing that defines him. That's how the glove came about. My dad first created a white glove and later they came up with the idea of adding lights to the glove. I have attached a picture of one of the jackets. On the left, the jacket is hanging on the mannequin in the studio and on the right Michael Jackson is wearing it to the Grammys. We still have that mannequin!
What is Bill Whitten doing these days? Are you father and uncle still working?
Bill Whitten passed away a few years ago. My father and uncle are still working. They are both still in costuming. I want to try and get my father into costuming for movies or theme parks.
Does Hollywood still have a 'go to' place for commissions?
Hollywood has changed a lot within the last 20 years. Artists used to love to wear one of a kind, custom pieces. Now designers gift things to artists left and right. The custom, one of a kind pieces have died out (in my opinion).
Have you worked on wardrobe on any film sets? If yes, tell us a little about it.
I haven't directly worked on wardrobe on film sets but wardrobe stylists have pulled from my Sarine Marie collection to use for film. There are two films that have used my pieces and it's "Bullet" and "And Then There Was You".
Tell us about your own creations, where are you taking the next generation?
I'm following my family's footsteps but I'm transitioning their experiences and putting it in a modern perspective with the use of technology. The business mentality is "old school." I'm using the power of the internet and my education in marketing. My family started a menswear boutique after they stopped working for Bill Whitten. The menswear boutique was located at Bill's former studio on Melrose. My mom designed the menswear collection and my father and uncle produced it. Everything was done in-house. There was a boutique in the front and a small work shop in the back. I love that concept and I really think it gives the definition of "high-end". Everything was made to order and sizing was all custom. I would eventually want to open my own boutique with the same concept.

Bill Whitten's 1984 Michael Jackson Thriller outfit is a signature piece

1 comment:

  1. I own a PATCHWORK JACKET AND JEANS DESIGNED BY BILL WHITTEN ,I PURCHASED IT FROM ELTON JOHNS SALE IN LONDON (OUT OF THE CLOSET)WITH ALL SAES GOING TO HIS AIDS FOUNDATION .
    THE WORKMANSHIP ON THIS DENIM JACKET IS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING,THE SILVER DOMED ABRAHAM LINCOLN USA COIN BUTTONS AND THE TAPESTRY ON THE BACK OF THE JACKET AND THE SLEEVES IS MIND BLOWING. I COULD SEND YOU SOME PHOTOS AND I'M SURE YOUR DAD ! UNCLE, GRANDMOTHER, COULD HAVE MADE IT.
    Regards,terry.tanner@blueyonder.co.uk

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