See pictures of celebs in b. michael’s designs »

A designer line we think is worthy of recognition is b. michael couture. Known in the industry as “New York’s best kept secret,” b. michael’s career in fashion spans over a decade. You may have seen his scene-stealing designs in “Madea’s Family Reunion” and “Ugly Betty.” This jet-setting designer has presented collections worldwide in such cities as New York, Beijing and London. When gala goers like Halle Berry, Beyoncé and Tamara Tunie need a dress that makes them look and feel confident, they turn to b. michael for a flawless design. The busy designer took a moment from his hectic schedule to sit down with at his New York City design studio to discuss his favorite silhouette on a woman, looking beautiful on a budget and being the only high-fashion Black male designer on the New York Fashion Week scene.

ESSENCE.COM: What is the secret to a woman dressing well?               

B. MICHAEL: From my point of view, it has to do with having a signature style that is natural and comfortable. Understanding one’s body and what works is also important. You always want to wear the dress and not have the dress wear you. Then, finally, the two words that separate well dressed from its opposite, “good taste.”

ESSENCE.COM: Looking back on the year of style, what three A-list African-American starlets would you pick as style divas for 2008 and why? What African-American movie star or TV star are you dying to work with?

B. MICHAEL: Sophie Okonedo, loved her in “Hotel Rwanda.”  Queen Latifah has presented herself with so many faces, proving her ability to appeal to a crossover audience…and she has great style. Kimberly Elise, she is a brilliant actress. Her range is amazing. I would have to say that I am dying to work with Kimberly Elise! My plan is to be on her back some day when she is getting an Oscar.

ESSENCE.COM: What is your favorite type of silhouette on a woman?

B. MICHAEL: My favorite is the silhouette I call the mermaid. Fitted and shows the body and its curves. 

ESSENCE.COM: If you had to dress one of our readers for a festive party this holiday season, in what would you style her and why? What types of party and cocktail dresses do you think are must-haves for the year-end celebrations?

B. MICHAEL: I think I would suggest something festive in a traditional red. The holiday season is about celebration. I think New Year’s is a time to do sexy glamour in either short or long depending on the party. In addition to the drama of black, other colors I like this year are sapphire blue, purple and winter-white.

ESEENCE.COM: When I think of top Black designers in the U.S., Tracy Reese, Kevan Hall and of course b. michael come to mind. As designers, what type of interaction or community do you share? Have you ever thought about collaborating with Reese or Hall, and what impact would such a high-profile collaboration have on the fashion industry, if any?   

B. MICHAEL: The truth is there is no real community that we presently share and I believe it’s in part because of our individual challenge to survive in an industry where we are still very much a minority. The most important point for me is that the industry sees us as American designers that dress a diverse mainstream market.

ESSENCE.COM: This past September, you were the only Black male to officially show a collection on the Mercedes-Benz IMG Fashion Week New York schedule. What do you attribute to your success in the fashion industry? What type of pressure do you feel being one of the very few notable Black men on the U.S. fashion scene?                                                

B. MICHAEL: My staying power is fueled by my passion. There have been days when it only made sense for me to continue, but I cannot stop. I am determined to be considered America’s premier Black lifestyle designer.   

ESSENCE.COM: What fashion advice can you offer to the professional woman who wants to update her wardrobe on a fixed budget? What are some essential accessories that you believe can keep a woman looking chic?

B. MICHAEL: I think a good black dress in a double-faced wool crepe. A woman also needs a well-tailored chic suit for power meetings, a good handbag and a good pair of classic pumps. My favorite jewelry item is a strand of pearls.