Bradon McDonald's Fashion Style Reflects His Time on Stage

Project Runway finalist will showcase at Sunnylands Chic

Bradon McDonald has taken his roots in dancing and projected them into his fashion design.

Photo Courtesy of Bradon McDonald


Whether as a professional dancer or watching others strut down the runway wearing his clothing creations, designer Bradon McDonald has never drifted too far from the stage.

While running a burlesque show from 2005-2010, McDonald taught himself how to make garments.

“I started creating garments from raw textiles,” McDonald says. “Some of the costumes were, obviously, very small but some were large like the 10-foot butterfly wings or a Ferris Wheel that, actually, spun while on my back.  I combined all forms, creative, musical (live music), costume, set design, and fashion elements to create very present as well as glamorous pieces.”

McDonald’s life before fashion design included graduating from The Juilliard School, dancing with the Mark Morris Dance Group, the Limón Dance Company and also choreographing opera for more than 20 years.

A Season 12 finalist on Project Runway, McDonald will be one of several designers showcasing a piece inspired by Sunnylands Center & Gardens March 11. Sunnylands Chic, a fashion show and luncheon, starts at 11 a.m. at the Rancho Mirage complex. The event showcases the work of select designers, who will present their inspired interpretations derived from the famed art and architecture of Sunnylands, known as the Annenberg Estate and West Coast Presidential retreat.

McDonald also has been busy preparing to showcase his latest collection at Fashion Week El Paseo, which runs March 16-23 just off El Paseo in Palm Desert. He will appear March 17 with the latest graduating class from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise (FIDM).

Palm Springs Life caught up with McDonald before his trip west.

Impressions of the desert…
 “I love it- it is really amazing. I wish I could stay for an extended period of time and paint. The views are spectacular and the lights are different every hour, the colors of desert changing through the day. This landscape change is not imagined…it’s warmth and coolness and wild colors come out.”

How would you define your style?
“I think that my experience in dance and opera comes through in my fashion design aesthetic. Opening nights and galas where people dress up is more than a special night out…it’s a lifestyle. I’m used to being at parties where people dress up, they love to wear fresh fashion and they are bold in choices. I love that.”

You were an accomplished dancer and understand the way the body moves. How has dance translated into your designs?
“You know it’s more ingrained in me. Because I do understand how the body moves, I don’t think about it at all – it’s automatic. I want something to be comfortable, look fabulous and feel right on the skin. Those kinds of tactile things come from dance and favorite pieces I wore on stage as costumes.”

When I’m designing…

  • “Isaac Mizrahi is a big inspiration (he designed many of my costumes).
  • I think about rhythm, texture and the line of garments.
  • I approach fashion design as a fine art.
  • It’s about aesthetic and motion and a lot of handwork embellishments.
  • I rarely use one color.
  • I squint all the time.”

What was the ”inspiration” you took away from Sunnylands to create your event fashion showpiece?
“I took everything in and chose two small crystal figurines of giraffes. They have clear crystal and gold leaf patterns. Very elegant and beautiful and understated. I’m using embellishments in certain areas of the dress to sort of reflect patterns on the giraffe. It has a clean fresh approach and possibly will feature metallic. Ideally, I would love to put the model in a clear gown but that’s not gonna happen!” 

Was choosing one “theme” a difficult assignment?
“There is so much to choose from and walking around Sunnylands you look at midcentury modern sculpture, 20th Century crystal, Chinese ceramic, the structure itself. Trying to pick a direction and find just one item was not easy at first, so I just had fun and went with what I liked. I let it settle and it revealed itself.”

What do you believe is hot and trending for spring and into fall?
“Digital prints are going to increase in all different markets, I think. It’s an exciting and fresh way to do prints and it has a certain nostalgia but is severely modern.”

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