Designer Randi Rahm Details Bachelorette Katie Thurston's 'Exquisite' Night 1 Look: 'It Was Made for Her'
Randi Rahm has been in business for decades.
Throughout her career, the renowned designer has dressed everyone from Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez to Mariah Carey and Billy Porter, the latter of whom began his modern ascent as a fashion icon in one of her creations at the 2019 Golden Globes.
But one of Randi’s favorite people to dream up designs for is the Bachelorette. For years, she has created couture looks for the franchise’s fierce female leads alongside Bachelor Nation stylist Cary Fetman — and Season 17 star Katie Thurston is no exception.
Making her “Bachelorette” debut tonight, the stunning Washington native shines brightly in a custom red number by Randi while meeting her men at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa located in the deserts of New Mexico.
“She looks like a desert gem. It was made for her,” the designer tells BachelorNation.com in an exclusive interview from her atelier on Madison Avenue in New York City. “It is one of the most spot-on representations of who the person is. She is a fiery girl, that’s for sure. And it is the first time we did this kind of color for night one on the show, so it was very exciting for me.”
Randi, famous for her intricate beading, elaborated, “And I’m proud to say there’s not one bead or bauble on this dress! It is so exquisite because of the material and the color and the fit. Katie is someone who doesn’t need the diamonds or embroidery or a plunging back. I loved designing this with her and Cary.”
Once Katie laid eyes on the trio’s completed collaboration, she couldn’t wait to wear it. “What I loved most about this dress is that we tweaked it to be unique to me. The outside layer was actually on the inside,” she tells BachelorNation.com. “We redesigned the dress to match what I wanted. It’s this one-of-a-kind look that’s bright and fiery. It’s different than what you typically see on the first night. I’m not a neutral girl. That’s not my personality. I can be a firecracker sometimes!”
Below, Randi chats more with BachelorNation.com about creating Katie’s distinctive gown, her relationship with the franchise, and her inclusive approach to design.
Tell us about how your relationship with “The Bachelorette” began. How did you become the go-to designer for the show?
It’s very much organic. I used to work with a gentleman called Cary Fetman. He started this new project called “The Bachelor.” And he always joked with me through the years, “Well, maybe you’ll put a dress on ‘The Bachelor.’” And then they spun it off to be “The Bachelorette.” It took me a moment and Cary was finally like, “Really, you just have the most beautiful things. If they pick it, they pick it. If they don’t, they don’t.” I didn’t know if I wanted to even get involved. But I loved the show and I loved Cary, so I just thought, “OK, I’ll give it a shot.”
I’m an artist who understands women. I want to make women look beautiful and that’s first and foremost. My dresses are quite beautiful, and they do stand out over other dresses — because couture is couture. The girls gravitated toward my dresses. One wore it and then another one wore it and then they all talk. My dresses stand out, and that’s why I think they continue to be picked. But the initial genesis of all this was my relationship that I had with my Cary Fetman.
How would you describe your collaboration process with Cary and how has it evolved over the years?
It definitely has evolved over the years. I respect Cary and Cary respects me. For instance, with Katie’s dress, Cary fell in love with it and she loved it, too. We tweaked the original look to be what’s perfect for the subject, for the person, and that’s Katie. He might tell me a certain design is beautiful and the Bachelorette falls in love with it — but they may ask for a lower neckline, a sleeve, for it to be backless, or anything. That’s my thing: making someone even more comfortable and happy in a beautiful design that I’ve created.
There is always so much anticipation to see what the Bachelorette will wear the first night. When you’re thinking of dresses for night one, how do you approach that process? Is there even more care and attention involved?
Absolutely. Usually, that and the finale are the most special looks. So, you try and put your best foot forward and pull the gowns that represent that above-and-beyond extra special look. And sometimes it’s very different for each person. With Katie, she’s very petite. You can’t overwhelm her in a dress. Whereas with Tayshia Adams, you could put a paper bag on her — she can carry it and wear it because she’s blessed with a certain height and stature. It’s not that one’s better than the other. It’s about being aware of what’s appropriate and correct for each girl.
Let’s talk about Katie’s night one dress. The color itself is incredible. How did this look come to be?
We call that color “flame.” But Katie’s dress is a great story. I have a famous design that’s called the Bridgette. It’s two dresses in one. Underneath is a gorgeous lace dress and there’s usually an overlay of chiffon. You sort of see through it and you see the lace. There’s a very high slit. It’s this super sexy two-in-one thing. Then you take off the top piece and you’re left with this gorgeous lace dress. This is one of those situations where we sent that dress and they loved it — but it turned out to be that it was too overwhelming with both pieces combined. And the underneath piece was totally unlined, so I kept the lace dress and then I took that gorgeous fabric, which is like a gauzy silk chiffon, and lined the lace with it, which intensified the red color. And that was enough for that petite and adorable little body of Katie’s.
Katie’s season was filmed just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Did this unique setting inform the dress that was selected for night one?
Cary’s eye, not only for the girls, but for the show itself, is incredible. He has that eye, and he knows if they’re shooting in a certain location, he knows what colors will pop. He knows what will work for the director. He knows what the Bachelorette will be comfortable in. It’s the brilliance of Cary. The consciousness of knowing what the place looks like. They’re filming in the desert of New Mexico and it’s red and rocky and that color, against that background, was insane. It was just perfect.
As you mentioned, we’ve never seen this beautiful “flame” color on a Bachelorette for night one. What was your intention when designing this gown?
I always try to make it different. I don’t want people to think, “This looks like this one,” or, “That looks like that one.” I’m known for my beading and every beaded dress looks so different, which is unusual. But Katie’s not a beaded, over-the-top kind of girl. That style would wear her instead of her wearing it and I think that was a good call on Cary’s part. The color was more important than maintaining the original Bridgette fit. We had to adapt to Katie.
When you’re thinking of dresses for the Bachelorette, how do you get a sense of their personal style?
It’s been mostly though Cary and him sending me pictures. But the great thing about the Bachelorette is that she’s typically been on “The Bachelor” before, so you get to know her that way. I know who that person is because I’ve watched her live. Once I see somebody interacting on camera, I can get a sense of who they are and what they might pick to wear on the show. Also, it’s most important to put the correct type of dress on her body shape. Katie is the first Bachelorette in a really long time to be so petite.
After working on this season, how would you describe Katie’s style? It must be so fun to teach each Bachelorette about fashion and, in turn, elevate their style.
That’s exactly it. Each Bachelorette’s personal style goes through an evolution with the show. Katie definitely has her own opinion and her own style. And she wants to make sure that came across. It was very important to her. In the past, girls have been like, “I want to look like a princess or a doll. I just want to look gorgeous.” But she has a very strong sense of what makes her feel comfortable. Sure, she might look like a princess on the show — but what’s most important is that she always feels authentically herself.
You also designed the beautiful lavender gown in Katie’s “Bachelorette” promo. Tell us about that look.
The commercial usually has a mood board. The producer and director have an idea of how they want the girl to look. And then Cary goes out and searches for the look. This one was a fast turnaround, but they wanted a tulle dress and they talked about it being lavender. I said, “Cary, my whole Love and Passion collection was that color. I have the perfect dress for what you’re describing!” And that’s exactly what happened. They put it on and went, “Oh my God, this is exactly it.” It was a shoo-in. She looked like a little doll on the swing with all the tulle. I loved how that turned out.
Because you have worked with the Bachelor franchise for so long, do you think the show has impacted the way you approach your designs at all?
When I design a gown, I do think to myself, “Oh, I’ve got to give this one to Cary because he’s going to love it for one of those girls. I know this will make it on the show.” I’m a fantasy person. I love fantasy and beauty and elegance and all that kind of stuff. And that’s what the premiere and finale of “The Bachelorette” is always about. It’s a great synergy and marriage that I have with the show. I fit in so well to the authenticity of what “The Bachelorette” is.
Katie’s night one dress isn’t the only custom look you’ve created for a Bachelorette. What are some others that you are responsible for?
Many times, I have designed custom looks for the commercials. For instance, I designed that Cinderella-inspired pantsuit for Hannah Brown’s promo, which I loved. I did Rachel Lindsay’s dress for her commercial that I loved as well. Cary will tell me the franchise’s ideas. For example, Tayshia’s dress with all the newspaper and magazine clippings, that was a really fun project too. Those are all created especially for the show.
How would you describe your relationships with the Bachelorettes who’ve worn your gowns — especially during a milestone moment such as a proposal?
I’m lucky that I’ve developed close relationships with a lot of these girls because it does become such an intimate thing afterward. When they meet me, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, you made the dress that I got engaged in!” It’s lovely. It’s so nice that the girls select me a lot. It’s a nice feeling that they actually can see the difference and that they love my gowns.
Do you remember the very first dress you deigned that made it onto the show?
One of the firsts was Ashley Hebert’s finale gown on “The Bachelorette” Season 7. But she made me almost fall on the floor! In the end, she’s in my dress and jumps into the water with J.P. [Rosenbaum] — in a gown that has pink ostrich feathers all around the bottom! I can’t tell you what happens to ostrich feathers when they’re submerged in water. It was like my heart almost came out of my body! (Laughs) But it was so cute. It was actually really sweet — even if the dress didn’t survive.
In the decades since your career began, how have you evolved as a designer?
Great question. As I got older and wiser and the more I was entrenched in the industry, I learned to be authentic in myself and do what I thought was correct. I believe so much that there isn’t one look and there isn’t one body type. I’ve always been inclusive my whole career and my whole life. I have been overlooked many times because I’m not doing these crazy fabulous pieces that only work on six-foot-tall nymphets. Who is really going to buy that? I had to make a living. So, every single dress of mine is magnificent because some lady somewhere is going to relate to it and want to purchase it — not just be in awe of it but actually purchase it.
My designs haven’t evolved so much as I have as a person. I’ve evolved to be way more comfortable with myself in the industry. I’ve always been — and I continue to be — compared to old world couture. Some of my clients have been with me for 30 years and they’ll being me a dress that I made for them 20 years ago and they tell me, “I love it. I don’t want to give it up. Can you fix it?” Even though some of my designs can be over the top and they can be very elaborate, they’re timeless.
What fashion advice can you share with Bachelor Nation?
You shouldn’t be told what fashion is. Sure, you can be told what is fashionable. There are trends, of course. But a lot of people can’t wear certain trends. Instead of it being a yellow mink coat, you can go buy a yellow pocketbook or a yellow pair of shoes so you can be trendy that year. Just follow your instincts, stay true to yourself, and wear what makes you feel comfortable. Be a Katie!
“The Bachelorette” Season 17 premieres tonight on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.