Raven Kauffman is no stranger to designing fabulous pieces for Hollywood stars. She shares a recent challenging project with us, as she knows that few people outside the Sisterhood, would really know, nor understand, how it was fabricated.

Raven was commissioned by world renowned fashion designer Tom Ford to make a headpiece for the 2019 Met Gala. The brief was very simple; everything had to be clear and silver, and emulate the famous Elizabeth Taylor headpiece from 1968 movie Boom!

The time-frame was also brief, she had seven days initially, to fabricate the piece, without knowing which actress it was for. Eventually she was given more time, which stretched to 325 hours over 18 days, including several all-nighters. Without knowing who it was for, the structure had to be somewhat flexible. Raven couldn’t study a photo to see the actresses’ head size, hairline or ear placement. It had to be large and dramatic, but also lightweight, and a little adjustable, as there would only be one fitting, the day before the Gala.

Raven started with .5mm (26g) copper sheet, copper screening and hammered copper wires 1mm-2.7mm (12-18g). She used copper electrical crimping tubes soldered to hand punch copper discs, which were then themselves soldered to the copper screen. These then served as little cups to hold the “spikes” of flowers and crystals.

Elizabeth Taylor in Boom!

Copper discs and tubes, make the cups to hold the flower spikes

The base was hinged, a flexible fitting for an unknown actress

One of the two base plates, with copper cups attached

She created over fifty flowers in the .5mm metal sheet. Four types of flowers, dogwoods, magnolias and two types of orchids (cymbidium and phalaenopsis). She sawed them, and polished them to mirror finish. She then formed the petals on a sand bag, before electroplating them all in silver. The copper screening allowed Raven to wire the flowers to the front in an elevated pattern, as well as wire crystals around the sides.

The sparkling piece looks spectacular at every angle

Raven Kauffman - Silver plated Orchid

A single silver plated orchid, one of more than 50 flowers created.

The clever base plate, designed to keep all elements secure.

The headpiece design that Raven eventually came up with, was two pieces hooked together to cover the skull. The entire inside was lined in power mesh, and then a small piece of foam was laid on the actresses’ head to protect it. The final piece weighed 2.3kg (5lb) and required Raven plus four hair stylists to hold it steady as it was put on. The piece was adjusted to fit on the day, with a special system of elastic pulleys to customise the final fit. It ended up fitting perfectly, a testament to Raven’s careful initial design planning.

Raven, during construction. Still smiling despite little sleep!

The head piece needed five people to fit to Gemma Chan.

Gemma Chan in Raven’s breath-taking creation.

Raven met with Tom Ford for the fitting the day before the 2019 Met Gala. There she finally found out who would be wearing her dazzling headpiece, British actress Gemma Chan. Gemma was wearing head to toe silver, in a fabulous silver Tom Ford gown – of course! – embroidered with thousands of crystals, matching silver cape and silver shoes.

See Gemma on the red carpet at the Met Gala in the clip below (via Daily Mail UK) and read what she says about her experience in Vogue UK.

The final piece weighed 2.3kg (5lb) and required Raven plus four stylists to hold it as it was put on.

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