From the age of four, Bunker Hill Bradley was obsessed with drawing cars. But after years of designing cars for the likes of GM and Nissan, Bradley traded in his macho roadster bonafides to navigate a new set of curves: women’s bodies. The Vegas fashion designer’s high-octane past shows through in the clingy poly-spandex dresses and swing coats of his Cobra Culture line, with their sleek lines, bright colors and patterns that recall a well-pinstriped low-rider.
Ranging in price from $250 to $450, the garments are made to measure and meant to flatter women of all shapes and sizes: During the line’s Vegas debut at Artifice this past January, a model who appeared to be over 50 shared the runway with the other leggy young women, drawing thunderous applause. Bradley and partner Roselyn Poon hope to expand to tops and leggings soon. They’ll show their latest collection Tuesday afternoon at Bagatelle as part of Las Vegas Fashion Week.
What was it like making the transition from designing cars to designing clothes?
Within car design a lot of artwork’s involved. We’d have to draw new concepts for the cars and I would always draw women next to the cars. Right in the studio we’d have to airbush-render a life-size likeness of the car. And it’s a competition because you’ve got five other artists in the room wanting to sell their design to management. That kind of design experience I believe lends itself to any product.
My background of creating 3-D shapes, I’ve actually put that into the dresses. We call them engineered fashion. There’s highlights and shading and areas where the design tapers off into nothing. The dresses are form-fitting but they’re made out of a slightly heavier fabric so they kind of hold you in, and the lumps and bumps disappear. Some of them emphasize the bust; all of them make you look slimmer.
Describe your style in three words.
Happy, colorful, positive.
What can fashionistas expect to see at your runway show on Tuesday?
We’ve created 30 new designs just for the show. We call the collection ‘Colors for All Seasons.’ We’ve got colorful pieces, some that are more corporate, and some little black dresses.
We feel the trend of the future is color, and a lot of [the dresses] fit in with current trends like bringing back the ‘60s. We give some of them a rock and roll flavor. We’ve got a new series out where we’ve taken faces of rock and roll stars and collaged them together.
Each dress is individually made right here in Vegas. I design all the graphics, and we print our own fabrics.
Some of the dresses with the faces remind me of Ed Hardy. Who are your style inspirations?
I don’t mind that comparison. I’ve got a few of his things at home.
I really like Roberto Cavalli because he does beautiful prints. I like some of the new Versace pieces out there. There’s a lot of influences as a designer—I look at new architecture, what’s happening with all the modular homes, or the new Ferraris and Lamborghinis. When you synthesize what they’re trying to do, that can be applied to dresses.
A few years ago I did an advanced concept interior for Mazda and learned about nanofabrics. You can weave fiberoptic threads into cotton and have a T-shirt you could plug into a light source and it could change colors. You could have seats that light up at night so you can see where you’re sitting. You could weave in conductive threads so your shirt could become your laptop, your shirtsleeve could be your cell phone or power a design and change the image on your shirt every five minutes. These new technologies are coming and I’d love to integrate them into our dresses when they become commercial.
You’re making these dresses to order. Besides your website, how do you get the word out?
We’re starting to hold private viewing parties with small groups of women together. That approach allows us to let the girls try on the dresses, let them experience it. We show them it’s not too scary wearing a stretchy dress, and how to accessorize them.
I love that your name is Bunker Hill, like the Revolutionary War monument in Boston. How did that come about?
It was my grandfather’s nickname. His real name was Rollins Hill and he was a captain in the Navy. I’ve heard he was a pretty stoic, stern commander, so his crew nicknamed him Bunker Hill after the battle. When I was born my father wasn’t around but my grandfather was, so his nickname became my real name.
I thought maybe you were conceived at the monument.
No, nothing like that! I’ve never been to Boston or New England.
Catch the Cobra Culture runway show Tuesday at 4:00 at Bagatelle in the Tropicana, as part of Las Vegas Fashion Week.