Burr Ridge fashion designer Mac Duggal shocked the fashion world when he met with a struggling Miss USA pageant contestant on March 29 and gave her a free gown.
Duggal is an internationally-known designer who has been setting trends for 25 years. He sponsors dozens of pageants, including the Miss Illinois and Miss USA pageants, and said helping 23-year-old Blair Griffith was the least he could do to thank all those who created and sustain the industry.
Griffith had just won the Miss Colorado pageant when she lost her job and home. The financial troubles began when her father died of prostate cancer several months ago. Duggal flew Griffith and her mother, Bonita, to Chicago so they could visit the Burr Ridge shop and select a dress.
Throughout his 25 years, Duggal has dressed celebrities such as Vanna White, Ivana Trump, Jennifer Beal, Tina Turner, Sybil Shepherd and more. His designs have been used in recent films such as Titanic, Oceans 11 and Country Song.
Originally an engineering student in India, Duggal came to the United States to study fashion at North Central College, in Naperville, and started his company in 1985 by releasing an A-line ball gown with tulle on the outside and hand-painted stars in the lining. He called it his “wish upon a star gown.”
“As soon as we put that first dress out, the Home Shopping Network picked it up and it started selling like crazy,” Duggal said. “We didn’t know how to do production on it because we were still fumbling over the reality of it.”
He says the silhouette is still a bestselling classic, even to this day.
Duggal's dresses are also quite popular for special events and high school dances, and can be found in major retailers throughout North America, Europe and Asia ranging from $400 up to $1,600 in price.
“Today’s woman is a dynamic woman,” Duggal said. “Studies show that around 80 percent of women have spending powers, so I try to make gowns that touch the essence of what women have become.”
Though Duggal only sells to retailers, his sales staff is stacked with several former pageant winners who are experts on how the clothing is coveted and typically used by customers.
He credits his Indian roots for giving him trend setting creativity.
“I was born and raised in India and I’m very proud of my heritage because it’s very colorful and multicultural, just like the United States,” Duggal said. “Just like our foods are spicy, so are our gowns.”