When Bryan Hearns walked towards the Hearst building, the first thing I noticed was his black bomber jacket dazzling against the gloomy backdrop of an NYC spring afternoon. He casually took a drag from his cigarette as busybodies power-walked passed him, not knowing that he’s responsible for dressing pop music’s leading ladies in the sculptural sequin and crystal-encrusted bodices they likely see while scrolling through Instagram on any given day.
When we sat down to chat, I’ll admit that I expected a vibrant, quirky personality. After all, the 28 year old designer transformed Kylie Jenner into Christina Aguilera with a “Dirrty”-inspired Halloween costume. Hearns has whipped up custom showpieces for Ariana Grande’s world tours, and designed all of Cardi B’s risqué yeehaw looks. In short, he doesn’t design for the timid. But as it turns out, Hearns’ vibe is more laid back and relaxed—the opposite of the loud, striking glam leather pieces and barely-there bodysuits that have become his trademark. He lets the work speak for itself.
“I love a good theme,” he says with a chuckle. “My favorite fashion era is the 2000s—Paris Hilton, sequins, fishnet, sparkles. I don’t design to be ‘trendy,’ I design for those who love to be unique, for trendsetters. I want my looks to be memorable.”
So how does he do it? From waking up mid-sleep to draw sketches for Ariana Grande to designing a custom piece for Cardi B in one day (!), he tells ELLE.com more about his recent rise in fashion.
How did you get your start?
At Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in California, but really fashion has been my love since high school. I use to profile the “cool kids” in my school who were stylish as part of the fashion club. I don’t know how I found out about fashion shows, but I started watching the shows that were on the Dior website when John Galliano was designing, and that’s when I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in fashion. I was like, “What is this? This is crazy.” I was obsessed ever since. Then came FIDM where I met a whole bunch of people like Antonio Esteban, who founded Style PR and from there, connected with different stylists.
What was your first fashion gig?
I actually interned for a Lauren Conrad fashion show, helping to dress the models and making sure they were set to head out on the runway.
You went to FIDM and interned for a Lauren Conrad show. I can’t help but think of The Hills. Did you meet Lauren?
No, but I did meet Kelly Cutrone and she was great—complete opposite of her character.
Fast forward and you’ve landed a look on Kylie Jenner. How did that come about?
The first time I connected with her was for the AMAs when Monica [Rose] was styling her at the time. That was the first outfit that I did for her. It was all leather, chains—super my aesthetic. Kylie loved it, and we just kind of kept the relationship going from there.
You recently designed Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” outfit and you worked on her Dangerous Woman Tour. How did you build that relationship with Grande and her team?
I’ve been working with her since the “Problem” video, from the beginning of her career. I think, ultimately, I do make connections with the artist, because they do like my work but it’s mainly through the stylist. So I work a lot with Law Roach for Normani and Ariana. I’m pretty much game for anything so there have been times where I’ve jumped out of sleep to hop on a call or draw sketches for Ariana.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I kind of built my aesthetic from Home Depot hardware. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t live in downtown in L.A., I lived more on the outskirts, so I wasn’t able to come out to the city to get supplies. I went to Home Depot a lot, and I got a lot of screws and hardware, and I kind of used a lot of that. Then it just gradually changed to crystals and zippers and chains.
Who is the Bryan Hearns woman?
She’s definitely bold. She’s sexy, but she’s also like a feminist at the same time. I want them to stand out and look cool, and definitely be in a moment. When you’re walking down the street, I want people to say, “Whoa, that’s a really cool look. Who are they wearing?” I love a good theme. My favorite fashion era is the 2000s—Paris Hilton, sequins, fishnet, sparkles. I don’t design to be ‘trendy,’ I design for those who love to be unique, for trendsetters. I want my looks to be memorable.
Cardi B has become a Bryan Hearns regular. What has been your favorite look to create for her?
The green and black “Motorsport” outfit. I do really enjoy that one, because I had one day to design the entire thing and it literally came out perfect. Originally, they had asked for it prior to shooting, but then a scheduling conflict happened with the music video, and all of a sudden they needed it like the next morning. I literally had to do everything in my power to get that together as quick as possible. Because I had to design it so quick, I wasn’t able to do any fittings with her so the fact that it fit like a glove was a miracle. At that point, it was my first time working with her and the team. The piece was dope, the video was dope, so now when you think of that video that look kind of just lives on. Then she tagged me on Instagram, which usually never happens so that was awesome.
What’s it like working with Cardi? Does she have a lot of say in the design process?
Yeah, definitely. It depends on what it is. Like for the red bandana, they specifically wanted like red bandana, cowboy vibes. I sent some sketches, but then for the AVN Awards, they wanted something lingerie-inspired. But they definitely know what they want and when they have a vision, it’s my job to bring their vision to life.
Sounds like you prefer to work under pressure.
Oh, absolutely. I work better under pressure, and I work better when I need to do 20 things versus two things.
Who are you dying to get into one of your custom designs?
Rihanna. She’s definitely number one, for sure. She embodies exactly what the Bryan Hearns woman is.