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Hearth & Home April 2018

Top L to R: Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, Edgar Degas.
Bottom L to R: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Parting Shot: Sunbrella Everywhere!

Photos Courtesy: ©2018 North Carolina Arts Council.
Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

William Ivey Long.

In honor of the North Carolina Arts Council’s 50th anniversary, 50 renowned artists celebrated by sharing their North Carolina arts story, and reflecting why public funding for the arts matters.

Among the participants was William Ivey Long, a prolific costume designer and six-time Tony Award winner. He has worked on Broadway, in film television, and with operas. But he’s known primarily for his work on “The Producers,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Hairspray,” “Nine,” “Grey Gardens” and “Cinderella.” In the Tar Heel State, Long is celebrated for his 45-year relationship with America’s longest-running outdoor symphonic drama, “The Lost Colony.”

This fall, North Carolina-based Glen Raven/Sunbrella commissioned Long to design four costumes inspired by famous French paintings for a special French edition of Elle Decor magazine. The assignment was simple: Long would choose the paintings and design the costumes, and Sunbrella would provide the fabric.

Long was immediately drawn to the challenge of creating costumes with upholstery fabric. “I was reminded that I once saw in a magazine an evening gown that was designed by Vivienne Westwood out of wall-to-wall carpeting,” says Long. “I thought that is the perfect goal!”

Long selected paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Edgar Degas. He poured through dozens of fabric samples to find combinations that would capture the depth, color, and complexity of each painting.

Everything down to the buttons and shoes on each mannequin was made from Sunbrella fabric. The costumes premiered during Fashion Week this past September in New York City, at a launch party for the French edition of Elle Decor hosted by the French Consulate.

The assignment became even better when Long realized Sunbrella is a North Carolina-based company. “Totally a coincidence,” says Long. “But my theory is that all things lead to home. Everything leads to North Carolina.”

— (Mainly) by Sandra Davidson

North Carolina Arts Council, Department of Natural & Cultural Resources, 4632 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-4632. Phone: (919) 807-6500. Website:

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