- Posted September 27, 2013 by
Newport International Group on costume designers for TV
When the costume designer Mandi Line was interviewing for a job on the ABC Family show “Pretty Little Liars,” she had a case to make. “I said, “if you let me make fashion the fifth character on this show, people will watch it just for the clothes,’ ” she said.
Ms. Line was hired, and the characters’ signature looks — stripes, leather jackets, trench coats — have been the subject of much discussion ever since, with blogs devoted to what the characters wear. “Every single day I get tweets, Facebook messages and Instagrams from girls who line up their clothes next to photos of the characters,” said Ms. Line, who also believes that “Pretty Little Liars” is influencing retail. “I have seen feather earrings and black-and-white-stripe dresses in stores.”
But Ms. Line has bigger ambitions than just glimpsing her influence while shopping. “I’m a Leo, I’m 6 feet tall, I love being in front of the camera,” she said. “I’m a vegan and do charity work and mentor kids. I am destined for something.”
“Ultimately, I want to do a fitness line,” she said. “I want a book and a show.”
Years ago, if costume designers were known at all, they worked in movies. Think of studio powerhouses like Adrian, who worked on MGM productions like “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Philadelphia Story,” or Edith Head, of Paramount and later Universal, who designed costumes for Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.
Today, even successful movie costume designers like Catherine Martin, who did the designs for “The Great Gatsby,” and Trish Summerville who is doing the next “Hunger Games” movie and will sell a line, Capitol Couture by Trish Summerville, on Net-a-Porter, don’t exactly cut outsize figures.
But as television has gained more respect as a medium, there has been a coattail effect on some of its costume designers, who say that their work there gives them greater opportunity than current cinema to influence the culture at large.
“The movie genres popular right now have to do with designing vampires and superheroes,” said Rebecca Hofherr, the costume designer for “Elementary” on CBS. “TV deals with more realistic issues and more realistic clothing.”
And some, like Janie Bryant of “Mad Men” on AMC, whose revival of midcentury styles is now a frequent reference on high-fashion runways, are practically becoming brands unto themselves.
Over the last three years Ms. Bryant, who is writing a book and developing a reality-TV competition with the working title “Janie Bryant’s Hollywood,” has struck deals with Maidenform, Hearts on Fire Diamonds (for which she is also a model), Banana Republic and Cosmopolitan Russia. When Ms. Bryant designed a suit for Brooks Brothers based on Don Draper’s look, it sold out of all stores and the Web within 10 days, said Arthur Wayne, the vice president for global public relations for the store, adding, “These types of collaborations help the consumers think of us differently.”
Thanks to a new division at the Matchbook Company, an agency in a town house on a leafy block of Murray Hill that is currently managing the careers of Ms. Bryant and Ms. Line, consumers may also soon be thinking of television costume designers differently.
“We want the public to recognize them as people, not just behind the scenes,” said Linda Kearns, the vice president for brand development at Matchbook, which also represents the costume designers Tom Broecker (House of Cards”),Dan Lawson (“The Good Wife”), Jenn Rogien (“Girls,”“Orange Is the New Black”) and Lyn Paolo (“Shameless,” “Scandal,”), as well as athletes, models and speakers. “We are focusing on the TV designers because there’s a bigger attachment when the characters of the show enter your home and life each week.”
Although she would like to represent the designers for the shows “Downton Abbey” and “Nashville,” Ms. Kearns said she has turned down plenty of potential clients.
She met Ms. Bryant after Ms. Kearns’s business partner, Kristi McCormick, booked her for an appearance at Nordstrom in Seattle, sponsored by Joseph Abboud, offering style tips to men. “I just had this sense she could be so much more,” Ms. Kearns said.