12 posts tagged "Arianne Phillips"
If celebrity status is conferred in red-carpet appearances, then no actress today can compete without the help of just the right stylist. As Kerry Washington once told Glamour after she noticeably upped the sartorial ante, “There were a couple of actresses whom I felt were having the upper hand careerwise—because they knew how to work that red carpet.” A carefully crafted collaboration between stylist and client, the perfect look can create an indelible impact on agents, casting directors, and those of us watching from the sidelines. Straight from the epicenter of all things celebrity, we’ve asked some of the industry’s top stylists to share their experiences and impressions from their perch above Tinseltown. With our Dressing for Fame series, we bring you an exclusive, insider look at everything it takes to create those iconic moments captured by a million photo flashes.
Andrea Lieberman is a rare breed of stylist. A success story at styling, no doubt (she put J.Lo on the map in that plunging Versace at the Grammys), Lieberman harnessed that success into A.L.C., her well-received contemporary collection that seems to set the standard of cool season after season. With one foot still delicately placed in the world of styling and one firmly planted in design, the stylist-slash-designer talks exclusively to Style.com about going through the Valentino archives, her friend Arianne Phillips, working with J.Lo, and more.
You’ve done a lot of work styling music artists. Is there anything about styling for music artists that you’ve found different from styling celebrities in general?
My background was always very much a music background. For me, I really enjoyed that collaborative effort and creating a whole image, like an art director. It was more about collaborating on their image and touring and costuming and just really creating a look to go along with the vibe of where the album was.
What compelled you to start designing?
I immersed myself at a young age growing up in New York in the world of fashion, whether it was internships to retail to helping out friends who were stylists. Arianne Phillips is a very dear friend and has always been a huge inspiration of mine. I remember when I met her when we were both young and hanging out in New York. She was one of the first people I knew who worked on music, so she was quite inspiring. In terms of when I made the decision, it was just organic for me, and it felt right at that time in my life. I had a great time styling for ten years, and it was time for me to start a family and shake things up.
Do you think your styling career has informed your design career and vice versa?
As a stylist, you understand women and their wardrobe needs. Whether it’s an artist or a more average person, how they take things from the runway and make it a reality is an interesting thing. That’s how people actually wear things, and I think that’s why there’s been so many street-style blogs. I understand the emotional connection of women getting dressed, what makes them feel good, and what they put on to say, “This makes me feel good, this is what makes me feel strong.” I think from dressing women who were not models, you understand this emotion.
You’re well known for certain looks that you dressed your clients in. Is there one that sticks out to you as your favorite red-carpet moment?
For me, there are quieter moments that might not have gotten attention like the other moments. I had access to the Valentino archives for the Oscars one year (when there was no red carpet) and dressed Jennifer Lopez in a beautiful mint green Valentino dress that [had been] worn by Jackie O. That was a majorly beautiful moment. And I worked with Fred Leighton, and we made these amazing maharaja-inspired earrings out of all platinum and diamonds.
Do you want to be remembered or regarded as a stylist or a designer? Or both?
I just want to be present. Obviously, both. Styling was a really important part of my journey, but maybe I’ll be remembered for the next thing that I do.
Broadway is no stranger to men in drag (think Kinky Boots, Cabaret, and, soon, Casa Valentina). But it has certainly never seen anything quite like the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The transgressive, transformative, transgender title character first stomped onto the underground scene in the late 1990s, the surly brainchild of John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask. Creating not only the singing, dancing, wisecracking East German ingenue, Mitchell played her in off-Broadway productions and in the cult-hit film of 2001. It was on the big screen that, along with her angry inch (so named, as she comically hisses in one song, for the proverbial chop she hastily underwent in an effort to flee East Berlin), the stubby star was born.
Ever plucky and resourceful, Hedwig has now made it to Broadway. Neil Patrick Harris dons the diva’s duds, reimagined by costume designer Arianne Phillips, who originally crafted them for the film version. In addition to Hedwig’s blond feathered mullet, the ultimate sight gag, her clothes—cobbled together from whatever she can salvage from her hardscrabble, socialist surroundings—are as unique, sympathetic, and fearless as she. Hedwig’s wardrobe goes a long way in telling her story, in all its gritty and triumphant reality, as Phillips explains backstage at the Belasco Theatre.
You did the costumes for the film version of Hedwig, which catapulted her to global notoriety. Did you look at this Broadway restaging as an update or starting from scratch?
It’s not starting from scratch because I know the material, but it’s a totally different experience designing for the stage than it is for film. I know the material intimately, but it’s been fourteen years since I designed the film. It’s been a real gift to revisit the material with Neil, who brings his own genius and personality to the character. The amazing thing about Neil is that he has all these skills as an actor. He’s studied circus techniques, he’s studied magic. Rumor has it—and I haven’t asked him—that he’s the president of The Magic Castle.
I don’t know that, but I do know he collects magic memorabilia.
The first time I met him, he said to me, “I love costumes. I love illusion. I love magic. So bring it on. Let’s create magic.” And I just was dumbfounded because the first thing actors usually say is, “Please don’t give me too much to do!” So that was super-inspiring and exciting.
Besides Hedwig, you’re well-known for working with Madonna, creating many of her signature looks over the years.
My experience with doing live theater really is working with Madonna and designing her last five tours. Live theater is very different from film because there are different needs for the costumes. Neil as Hedwig never leaves the stage, so if there’s a costume change, we have to find a clever way to do it—quick changes and under-or-over-dressing. Basically it’s a one-person show, whereas the film had many more characters.
Did Neil bring any of his own ideas to the costumes?
He certainly brought a lot of physical ideas, in terms of how we were going to make costume changes and how he was going to wear them. He’s incredibly collaborative. He loves the process and he appreciates costumes. He understands them and how they’re an integral part of the character. Neil’s a physical actor. He’s like a triple threat: He’s a great actor, he can sing, and he can dance.
What about his drag?
The first thing was getting him in high heels, which takes a lot of bravery to wear. He has not once had an issue with it, and I didn’t have to make the heels lower. Of course, we custom-made the heels for him. Plus, working on Madonna’s tours, I have some experience dressing guys in high heels.
Did he buff up for the role? He looks more muscular than I’ve seen him.
Well, I don’t think we’ve seen him with so few clothes on. Doing [Broadway] is like being an athlete, and he never leaves the stage. On some nights, he has two shows. Luckily for me, he has the most beautiful body to dress. He looks incredible. He can create the female illusion, and yet there’s a masculinity as well. It’s reminiscent for me of Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where there’s a feminine and masculine duality. I think Neil physically embodies that sexual ambiguity. It’s provocative in its own way, and he moves beautifully.
Do any of the pieces draw from runway collections?
There are no designer clothes in this show, but I had inspiration. I spent this past year in London working on a film, and I went to see the Bowie exhibit at the V&A. I was really inspired by a lot of Kansai Yamamoto’s costumes for David Bowie. The material in Hedwig’s opening costume references Bowie, as well as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop—the “crypto-homo-rockers,” like they say in the show. On one side it’s real German camouflage and on the other side is American camo. There was a French guy who saw the show one night and he recognized the camo, which is really cool. I wanted to put a lot of story in the costumes for us, and if the audience gets it, great.
The denim patchwork ensemble is also quite fabulous.
In the film and the original Jane Street production, there’s a cape that Hedwig wears. It has a kind of graffiti effect resembling the Berlin Wall. I wanted to move on from the cape, to build from it, because that was really part of the original Hedwig. I wanted something fresh for Neil. The denim jumpsuit came from the idea that Hedwig would have made it herself to get over the wall, to blend in with it.
It almost looks like it is the Berlin Wall.
That’s exactly right. The Swarovski crystals make brick shapes, and this appliqué is the eye from [the song] “Origin of Love.” Over here is Adam and Eve. This graffiti was inspired directly from ACT UP graffiti in some pictures I took of the Berlin Wall when I was there a year and a half ago. It’s basically a collage that tells her story, how she was created. Here are more Swarovski beads and studs, and crystal fringe. It was really important to me to use different applications of Swarovski so that the costumes wouldn’t be just one big blob of sparkle onstage. They’re so artist-supportive and they really bent over backward to supply us. The costume is all about illusion, so what looks like a skirt is really a skort. Every costume has to feel like Hedwig made it herself.
Let’s talk about the faux fur extravaganza.
It’s our fantasy moment—Hedwig’s hairstyle revisited. And the homage to the famous Hedwig wig doesn’t end there. We capped the costume off with this gold helmet in the shape of the wig. It’s part of a collaboration with Desi Santiago, who’s an amazing performance artist and who’s also from the club scene. Desi collaborates a lot with me, working on Madonna’s tours. So this is a Hedwig helmet based on a German helmet, and because it’s chromed in gold, it’s also like an Oscar trophy. It’s a showstopper.
So much thought goes into every detail. Nothing is accidental.
There has to be a reason for everything. The costumes have to reflect the character and the story, and they’re the result of collaboration. I might come up with the inspiration, but I work closely with different artisans. Layers of thought go into each costume, based on the person I’m working with. I collaborated a lot with Eric Winterling’s studio. His shop, along with costume designer Eiko Ishioka, manufactured Grace Jones’ costumes for her last tour. One of his ideas was to use magnets for the rip-away. I wouldn’t have known that. And this crystal mesh bandanna is part of a collaboration with Michael Schmidt, one of the original creators of the club SqueezeBox, where John Cameron Mitchell workshopped Hedwig before Jane Street. Michael’s a friend of the show, so I wanted his fingerprints. I really wanted to keep the downtown integrity of the show. Hedwig was really spawned from clubs, so the costumes needed to feel downtown-worthy. That meant avoiding the kind of glitzy sleekness of a lot of Broadway shows. I felt I had to keep Hedwig‘s rock-and-roll roots.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is currently in previews and opens on April 22.
You’d think that, after working with Madonna for 15 years, Arianne Phillips would have seen it all. But Phillips, the stylist and costume designer behind a decade and a half of Madonna videos and performances, as well as films like Walk the Line and W.E., says that the pop star’s 2012 MDNA world tour was like nothing she had ever experienced. “There were an epic amount, a tsunami, of costumes,” Phillips told Style.com of the show’s wardrobe, which included an updated iteration of Madonna’s iconic cone bra by Jean Paul Gaultier. “And we aren’t talking tennis shoes and sneakers—it’s costume and fashion.” Prior to the premiere of Madonna: The MDNA Tour, a documentary that airs on Epix tonight at 8 p.m., Phillips, who’s currently in London working on a new film, talked to Style.com about the MDNA costumes, Madonna’s collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier, and what it takes to put on an unforgettable show.
Where do you begin when designing costumes for Madonna?
Well, it always starts with the music, of course, and usually Madonna crafts a set list that’s part of a narrative. It’s a story with a beginning, middle, and end. This show was really about transformation. Each act had a different theme and costume had a purpose. This tour with her was definitely the biggest undertaking I have been a part of—on the technical side and on the conceptual side. It’s one thing to just design a costume for Madonna herself, but if you think about it, we had 23 dancers, five band members, and two background singers. And everyone requires multiple costume changes.
How do the costumes help express the show’s narrative?
We think of it as characters, and [Madonna] is playing a part. That character requires development and visuals in addition to the songs she’s singing. In the beginning of the show, she comes out dressed like a queen in a crown with a machine gun. She takes that off to reveal this super-vixen character that we kind of debuted in the “Girl Gone Wild” video. The next act is all about expression and having a message, and it opens up with “Express Yourself.” She’s wearing this homage to a forties majorette. The third act is “Vogue,” and it’s all about identity and gender-bending—iconic Madonna. She’s trying to figure out who she is again. And in the end, it’s a celebration, and she transforms into this powerful Joan of Arc character. Everyone is wearing mesh T-shirts, and it’s just like a really fun party. The tour gave her an opportunity to take classic songs like “Papa Don’t Preach” and give them a new twist. She has been performing these same songs forever, but she’s the queen of reinvention, and she creates an entertaining concept for the shows that keeps it interesting and relevant. The costumes have to underscore that, and they have to provoke and entertain.
How many costume changes did Madonna do throughout the course of the show?
The costumes are part of the choreography, so we have a lot of quick changes, and people are literally changing clothes under the stage. Madonna changes full costumes about four times. But then, for instance, for the “Vogue” act, she comes out in the Gaultier corset and then she disrobes. So by the end of the act, when she sings “Like a Virgin,” she is in a corset and a bra, and she has done different songs in different deconstructions of the outfit. So her costumes change for almost every song.
Madonna kicked off the North American portion of her worldwide MDNA tour last night in Philadelphia and brings it to NYC next Thursday (September 6), just as fashion week gets under way. It’s fitting timing, given that her extravagant show might as well be a runway show in itself. Her longtime stylist and collaborator Arianne Phillips helped curate custom costumes by everyone from Alexander Wang to Jeremy Scott to Fausto Puglisi, totaling up to eight outfit changes per show (her dancers reportedly switch 10 to 15 times). And since Madge is never one to go light on shine, many of the costumes are decadently embellished with Swarovski Crystal elements (over 315,000 of them used on the tour). Here, get an exclusive backstage look at how the sparkle all happens.
“The other people in the exhibit, like Ed Harris, Todd Haynes, and Vittorio Storaro, these are heroes of mine and they are people who have informed my work. To think that I could even be considered in the same context as them is like winning ten Oscars, seriously,” says acclaimed costume designer Arianne Phillips, whose Oscar-nominated creations for Madonna’s film W.E. are included in the second series (out of three total) of the Persol Magnificent Obsessions: 30 Stories of Craftsmanship in Film exhibition at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, along with various notes, rare sketches, video interviews, and materials from films such as Amélie, Far From Heaven, The Last Emperor, and Million Dollar Baby. “It’s both awesome and daunting—it feels a bit like we aren’t in Kansas anymore,” she says of being included in the project. Modest as she might be, the frequent Madonna collaborator and two-time Oscar nominee has earned her spot in the museum next to the nine other filmmaker greats, like special effects guru Douglas Trumbull and composer Ennio Morricone. Binding the elite group together is a story highlighting the obsessive workmanship behind some of film’s most iconic moments. In the case of Phillips, it’s her deep obsession with the transformative power of costume. Before heading to the museum last night, where Persol hosted a party to unveil the exhibition and honor Phillips, Patricia Clarkson, and Todd Haynes, the costume designer talked with Style.com yesterday afternoon about the W.E. artifacts that are now on display, working on Madonna’s MDNA tour, and her own obsessions.
You created more than 60 different outfits just for Andrea Riseborough (who plays the legendary Wallis Simpson in the film). Tell me about some of the artifacts and materials from W.E. that made it into the exhibition.
Lucky for us, our director Madonna has an extensive archive of her own with a full-time archivist, so the costumes from the film are being preserved there. A lot of times when the film is over, you can’t even find them because the costumes are being used for promotional purposes, but we have the costumes in perfect condition. There is a day dress (blue and white silk) that is not based on any dress Wallis actually wore. That’s one of my favorite pieces, and there are a few dresses based on ones by Madeleine Vionnet, but there is also one of the Schiaparelli black and white crepe dresses, which is quite famous. Interestingly enough, one of the real ones is on display at the Met right now (for the Prada/Schiaparelli exhibit) and it’s the exact same one I looked at in the costume archives when I was researching for this film and made our version (pictured, above). We also worked with Cartier and re-created jewelry pieces based on pieces the Duke and Duchess owned. They are actually going to be destroyed once this exhibition is over because just like a great painting, they can’t have replicas sitting around. Trust me, Madonna and I have cried many times over this.
How closely did you work with the curator Michael Connor on selecting these pieces for the exhibit?
Michael came out to L.A. where I live, and when they first asked, I was really excited, especially for costume to be recognized in such a way. I am always looking to speak about costuming publicly because it’s an aspect of filmmaking that is not completely understood. He really went out of his way to make sure I was involved every step of the way. We went through all my archives, which were pretty fresh because we only had finished filming a year ago. I was about as involved as you could get in putting this together.
How do these pieces fit into this overarching concept of obsession in the exhibition?
In terms of magnificent obsession, I leave that up to Michael Connor and Persol. I am obsessive about details, I really am and I admit it. But also, I worked with a director, Madonna, who (I worked with her over 15 years) is magnificently obsessed with details and that’s very apparent in the film. I try to infuse those details into a costume to help the actor harness this character and help catapult the actor. Costumes really serve two purposes. Visually, they obviously form the character, and really enrich the viewer and help set a time and place. But also I believe it’s equally important for the actor. Costumes should be a way to catapult an actor into a time and place. Those visceral, tactile aspects are equally important, like how the dresses felt on Andrea and how the suits felt on James D’Arcy.
Specifically, what elements of costume design do you obsess over?
You are speaking my language. I obsess about perfection every step of the way. I always feel there is more that can be done. I do a lot of research and I try to diversify it as much as possible and this film really tapped into that. And I obsess about the organization of it. I am always very obsessive about my presentation, I do elaborate presentations to the director and this helps my process and filters what will be valuable in the design process. I am really big on accessories and color and silhouette. I really want to know cinematically how a costume will work visually. And, I am obsessive about how costumes fit an actor. I guess there is no limit to obsession, really. That is the problem with obsession, it’s a mind-set, it’s a hindrance and an advantage. You have to know when is enough. Sometimes your first inspiration is your best inspiration. For me, obsession means going to whatever length possible to get the job done.
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