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Nothing good ever comes from a layover flight—unless you’re Sergio Hudson. The LA-based celebrity designer was wheeling his carry-on through the Philadelphia airport when he glanced at one of the terminal TVs. A beaming crowd had stopped in their tracks to watch footage of Michelle Obama arriving at the Presidential Inauguration. “And she was wearing my look!” Hudson laughs. “People are looking for a moment of beauty and hope right now,” he continues, “and, well, I guess we gave it to them!”
In fact, he made it a double. Six hours after President Joe Biden was sworn into office, Vice President Kamala Harris emerged in her own Sergio Hudson look—a liquid sequin cocktail dress with a floor-length silk tuxedo overcoat, both in inky black—and Irene Neuwirth earrings. “We want to be uplifted right now,” says the 36-year-old, who made several custom suits for Harris on the campaign trail. “So I said, what if we make her something sparkly?”
The dress went through several iterations, including a full-on Inaugural Ball gown, before evolving into a riff on Hudson’s signature silhouette—“a pencil dress, long sleeves, with a strong shoulder”—to reflect the new administration’s unfussy, forward-moving tone.
“We kept the silhouette very structured and tailored, because that’s who the Vice President is,” Hudson says. “But the liquid sequins give her glamour and shine, because her influence and the way she’s broken barriers is a light for so many of us. She shines so we can all shine.”
No stranger to the spotlight himself, Hudson, who founded his custom business in 2005, and introduced ready-to-wear in 2014, has dressed Amal Clooney, Issa Rae, and Tracee Ellis Ross. He was even crowned the winner of Bravo’s 2014 show Styled to Rock by Rihanna herself.
And although Hudson was born in the “very small, very Southern” town of Ridgeway, South Carolina, he says it might as well have been the Garment District. “I didn’t care where I was, all I ever knew was clothes,” he admits. “I was 4 when I decided to be a fashion designer. I was 5 when I started trying to make my own outfits.”
Hudson was mentored by Bob Mackie’s right hand woman Cassandra Harrison while in design school at Bauder College in Atlanta, and counts his LA tailor Adolfo as a collaborator. “When we lose the technical skills of fashion, we lose the innovation and inspiration we bring to the rest of the world,” he says. “I grew up worshipping Alaia, Versace, and Thierry Mugler. I see Donna Karan as an absolute icon.”
“But I haven’t seen an African American designer who’s built a legacy brand,” he continues. “And I’m not ashamed to say that’s who I want to be. That’s what I’m aiming to do.”
In the meantime, Hudson might just become an Instagram influencer. Over the course of this interview, his followers went from 50k to nearly 100k, which he’ll likely break by morning.
“I’m grateful, obviously,” he says, “But it’s crazy, right? It means maybe kids can look at me, a Black designer from the South, and say, ‘Oh, Sergio built an American sportswear brand. He loved something, so he studied it until he could do it. If he can make his dreams work, I’ll do it, too.’”
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