Magazine Feature

See Designer Zuhair Murad's Sketches for Jennifer Lopez's Vegas Residency: Exclusive

Jennifer Lopez
GoldenEye/London Entertainment

Murad had to get the stage dimensions and movement blocking before finishing the design of the flowing skirt for the ballads portion of All I Have.

When it comes to glamour, Jennifer Lopez is probably the last person to need a hand. Long before Kim Kardashian, Lopez was tapping Old Hollywood silhouettes -- waist-accentuating draping, daring necklines, high slits -- to showcase her curves. No surprise, then, that Zuhair Murad, known for his nearly naked bodycon dresses (i.e., skin-colored tulle with a strategic smattering of Swarovski crystals or beading), has become one of her go-to red carpet designers. He was tapped to create three key looks for her Las Vegas residency, All I Have, at the Axis at Planet Hollywood, which began in January. (Other designers featured in the show include Atelier Versace and Michael Costello.) “I know her silhouette,” says Murad, who splits his time between his native Beirut and Paris. “The Lebanese woman has a figure with a bust and waist and hips -- curves are something I really appreciate. Jennifer has the body and the shape for my styles.”

Jennifer Lopez's Style Evolution

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Lopez opens her show in Murad’s Swarovski-encrusted tulle body suit. “I have my own technique of dyeing the tulle — we have  different shades,” says the designer. “For Jennifer, we did a custom color test to find the best one. This way you could really show off both the body and the details.”

Lopez first wore one of Murad’s dresses for the 2010 Met Gala, a premier red-carpet-viewing spectacle. “Earlier that year she had seen a runway show of mine on television while traveling in Russia and told her stylist at the time to ‘find Zuhair Murad,’ ” recalls the designer. Or, according to Lopez, what struck her about his style was the “balance of classic aesthetic intelligence and innovation.”

Denise Truscello/WireImage
The 3-in-1 burlesque look goes from robe to corset to sheer bodysuit.

By then Murad’s star was already well-established with the music set. Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus and Shakira had started wearing his looks on the red carpet. Actresses soon followed; Kerry Washington and Emily Blunt were early champions. But Murad likes that Lopez straddles the acting and music worlds. Musicians tend to take more risks with their clothing than actresses, says the designer, which means that a classic look may be out of their oeuvre. Lopez can carry off both, he says, “so her style is always unpredictable.”

 Ronin 47/Splash News

For the singer’s three Vegas outfits, Murad began working on the looks in fall 2015 after meeting with Lopez and her stylist duo, Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn, in New York. Murad followed up with sketches and finalized the creations in video calls. “His use of fabrics and beading is one of the best out there,” says Haenn of the stylists’ desire to work with him. And though Lopez is far from wearing sweatpants onstage, the star stresses part of Murad’s talent is his ability to make pieces that are “glamorous and extravagant yet surprisingly comfortable at the same time.” It’s because he “always keeps a woman’s shape in mind,” adds Lopez. “It takes a skilled designer to create something so memorable and exciting for the stage that’s also easy to move in.”

See Murad's sketches below:

 Courtesy of Zuhair Murad
“All his designs are so original and sexy yet exude Old Hollywood timeless sophistication,” says Lopez of Murad’s work. The original sketches of the singer’s show looks, from left: the opening number, the burlesque 3-in-1 ensemble and the ballads bodysuit, which she wears under a star-accented skirt.

That’s certainly the case for the dramatic opening look she debuted earlier this year: a fully Swarovski-encrusted tulle bodysuit that creates an illusion of sleeves with swinging strands of crystal to catch the light as Lopez dances along to her 1999 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “If You Had My Love.” For the ballads portion of the show, Murad’s design is showy yet angelic. “He understands sexy yet sophisticated -- romantic with just enough edge,” says Haenn. In the scene, Lopez dons a sparkling star-bedecked bodysuit with a dramatic white feather skirt. “In French we call it le grandeur, or something grand and huge,” says Murad.

The final Murad look, which the singer wears during the performance’s burlesque act, recalls the strip-tease sensibility of Sin City. Lopez starts out with a teal silk robe (which in Murad’s hands turns out to be a plunging, thigh-baring design that Norma Desmond would approve of), then segues to a glittering corset and finally, a barely there bodysuit. “This was the most complicated look,” says Murad. “It was step by step. But in the end, it was so good with the performance. It was worth it.”

 

Jennifer Lopez in Zuhair Murad on the Red Carpet: 'He Knows How to Make a Woman Feel Beautiful'

For awards shows and galas, Lopez chooses Murad's more demure -- but no less eye-catching -- ultra-feminine looks

Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Met Gala, 2010“She had the gown as an option for the Academy Awards but decided to hold it for the Met Gala — the Oscars of fashion — and the press went wild for it,” says Murad.

Met Gala, 2010

"She had the gown as an option for the Academy Awards but decided to hold it for the Met Gala -- the Oscars of fashion -- and the press went wild for it," says Murad.

 

George Pimentel/WireImage
Golden Globes, 2011A sheer capelet complemented a sweetheart neckline silk gown. “[Murad] has perfected modern elegance and knows how  to make a woman feel her  most beautiful,” says Lopez of Murad’s designs.

Golden Globes, 2011

A sheer capelet complemented a sweetheart neckline silk gown. "[Murad] has perfected modern elegance and knows how to make a woman feel her most beautiful," says Lopez of Murad's designs.

 

Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Academy Awards, 2012“The intricately beaded panels and cut-outs made her look beautiful and dramatic, while still accentuating her famous figure,” says Murad of his favorite red carpet look on Lopez.

Academy Awards, 2012

"The intricately beaded panels and cut-outs made her look beautiful and dramatic, while still accentuating her famous figure," says Murad of his favorite red carpet look on Lopez.

 

Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
Vanity Fair  Oscar Party, 2015After wearing an Elie Saab ball gown to the main event, Lopez was ready to party in a barely there Murad couture dress. “Beading  on nude tulle is what you  might call my secret — it’s what defines my brand  and is the thing I love to do,” says Murad.

After wearing an Elie Saab ball gown to the main event, Lopez was ready to party in a barely there Murad couture dress. "Beading on nude tulle is what you might call my secret -- it's what defines my brand and is the thing I love to do," says Murad.

 

Alexander Tamargo/WireImage
Billboard Latin Music  Awards, 2015It’s not all gowns for Lopez; she knows how to wear the pants too. This jumpsuit and cape ensemble from Murad’s 2014 couture collection wowed with its balance of peekaboo lace and menswear tailoring.    

It's not all gowns for Lopez; she knows how to wear the pants too. This jumpsuit and cape ensemble from Murad's 2014 couture collection wowed with its balance of peekaboo lace and menswear tailoring

 

This article was originally featured in the June 4 issue of Billboard.