Designing for Alex Newell - Critics Choice Awards 2021


When I got the call from my publicist and Alex Newell's stylist to dress him for the 26th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards, I was beyond thrilled. I have personally been a fan of Alex Newell since his first audition on the Glee Project and it has been an incredible pleasure to watch such a budding star’s career blossom so beautifully. I knew I would be the perfect designer for the task of creating a custom look for such a special occasion where he was not just a guest but a nominee, too!

Over countless emails, texts and zoom calls between Paris, Los Angeles and Vancouver with stylist Christina Pacelli, we were on a mission to dress Alex to the nine’s! Within one week from finalizing the design’s concept, color and fabrication my wonderful team of couturiers in Paris came together to complete this look so perfectly in just 5 days! What made this task most challenging was the amount of Covid-19 restrictions in Paris not permitting an unlimited supply of preferred design resources and an implemented international travel ban making travel to fit the suit properly in person with me and my team, impossible. To make a custom couture structured, very styled pant suit that fits almost 100% perfectly from the start is a miracle and one we so happily achieved! It takes a village and I am lucky to have mine.

When I got the call from my atelier that Alex’s look was ready I arrived with excitement only to be ambushed with fear. I found a small ink stain on the back of the jacket. I went into complete silent panic mode and asked if my couturier could redo this one back panel. After hemming & hawing over it and trying to remove the stain manually for 30 minutes they decided to re make it. Now, mind you, I needed to be to fedex in two hours and remaking the panel from scratch takes about 4 hours, normally. So, with my team knowing how important it was for me to arrive at Fedex before they close and before the 6:00 PM curfew they worked with lightning speed fo make sure it would be ready as fast as possible! In just 1.5 hours, the jacket was perfect, we packaged it up and off I went in an uber to Fedex in severe rush hour traffic!

If you all saw me trying to strongly express to my uber driver who was more concerned with fighting with people on scooters cutting him off (actually putting the car in park and getting out of the car to fight with them, while I am trying not to loose my mind in the back seat) in broken French that I needed him to get me to FedEx with 20mins to’d be laughing so hard! Hahaha! It was really a scene out of a comedy movie!

I got to FedEx with 15 minutes to spare before they closed and I called who I needed to at NBC to confirm shipping and other important details for the package. This also was another scene out of a movie but I’ll spare the details of how the first agent I worked with told me the account information I was provided was incorrect then without any regard for my deadline which I had explained was very important put on his coat and just left for the day without telling me he was doing so. Thank goodness the manager saw the scene and took over and corrected the issue within 5 seconds. Normally, customs forms on site are filled out via an iPad to make it a much faster process. But, because of Covid-19 everything is now being filled out by hand like it used to be before iPads were invented. By hand, this a process that can take 10-15 minutes. My agent was very helpful and helped me fill out all of the customs forms where I needed verification, which were 100% in French. He then made sure the box would be sent express and ensured me he would put it on the truck to be sent out himself. He knew this was very precious cargo! Thank you FedEx!

Once the look arrived from Paris to Vancouver in just two days a virtual fitting over zoom was had with Alex’s costume coordinator from ZEP and stylist Christina where minimal adjustments were made to perfect the fit of the jacket and pants. I attended the final fitting just a few short hours before award show time and I am confident in saying that the amount of work and effort that went into making sure Alex felt and looked his best was well done & our goals were achieved! For me, when my client feels great and confident in what I have designed for them, that is the best kind of reward and success!


 Despite all of the crazy rushes and deadline, I had an incredible time doing this. It was a dream come true and I am so thrilled to know I am able to make the unimaginable happen along with my wonderful pattern maker and sewers. For an emerging designer and entrepreneur, this really means everything!


As an emerging designer who celebrates all curves it has been an honor to work so closely with Alex Newell, stylist Christina Pacelli and my team in Paris to design a beautiful custom couture suit for the 2021 Critics' Choice Awards. Creating Alex’s pink satin peplum power suit remotely between three countries, in less than one week from start to finish, with limited resources and very strict work guidelines in Paris due to Covid-19, without the ability to fit Alex in person have all been very interesting tasks. Yet, an incredible experience, overall! When creative minds come together everything is possible. For this grand occasion I am beyond thrilled to have been selected to design for Alex Newell; a pioneering star and powerhouse of a talent. Now more than ever it is imperative that emerging talent and businesses are supported and presented on big world stages. Together with Alex, I hope to express how fashion in every way imaginable is and should always be inclusive.

Dara Senders, Founder & Creative Director

"Working with the team to create this look for the Critics Choice Awards was a whole new experience given the pandemic. I am in Vancouver filming, the designer in Paris, the stylist in LA, my publicist in New York— and we all had to come together to make this happen without ever being in the same place! We literally created the look together on zooms and emails which in a way was like online shopping but having it fit custom to your body across the world. You don’t get to see it before so you just pray it all fits and that you like the color and then it arrives and fits like a glove. That’s what getting ready for an awards ceremony in the middle of a pandemic is like! And in the end I had a beautiful garment that made me feel just as beautiful as it is."
— Alex Newell, Actor/Singer



Giving a big merci beaucoup to Alex Newell, Christina Pacelli, Emily Bungert and Emily Taylor for affording me the privilege of designing an ensemble for such a remarkable occasion! We make a great team and I look forward to the next fashion moment together, sincerely!



Love Always,

Dara Senders

The Critics’ Choice Awards aired live on The CW - Sunday, March 7th 2021.


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