Stylist Eric Daman Speaks about the Reboot of “Gossip Girl”

Image courtesy of variety.com

“Gossip Girl,” the popular television series about New York City’s young Upper East Side socialites, has been rebooted for a new generation on HBOMax. This time around, and in the spirit of Gen Z, the show features a more diverse cast of characters in terms of race and sexuality. Fans of the original “Gossip Girl” loved many things about the show, particularly the fashion, with the original “Gossip Girl” characters donning designer threads ranging from Henri Bendel to Gucci.

Fashion played such a huge role in “Gossip Girl,” because it is a challenge to portray a young New York socialite without looking the part. Enter Eric Daman, costume designer of the original “Gossip Girl” series, who was tapped to return and outfit the 2021 reboot. In the decade plus since the show first premiered, the style and fashion trends of the Upper East Side have evolved. Daman knows the who, what, and where of young New York City socialites’ style, and he expertly brings it to the television screen.

Image courtesy of uccexpress.com

FR: You costumed the original series. Tell us about the conversation and process of getting you on board for this reboot of “Gossip Girl.”

Eric Daman: Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who developed the original show, contacted me about the diversity of the new cast, and that the new storylines would show people of different races and sexualities. That was a big factor in me wanting to come back.

I have a legacy factor attached to my name, having costumed the original “Gossip Girl,” so Josh and Stephanie really hoped I’d return for the reboot. I came on board hoping to pioneer some fashion for a new generation.

FR: How did you conceptualize the style of each character?

Eric Daman: My degree is in French literature. I went to school at Paris-Sorbonne University, so it was beat into me to look at all aspects of stories and plot. I carry that attitude into reading scripts and try to peel back each characters’ personality like an onion.

For the character of Julien, I looked at things like how her dad is a music producer and was probably a DJ in late ‘90s and early 2000s. I think about how that would have influenced what Julien grew up with in terms of fashion and what she would have nostalgia for. With her character, I looked at the early 2000s VMAs and red-carpet moments with TLC, Destiny’s Child, and early Rihanna. I thought about how Julien would emulate that for the current day, which brought me to designers like LaQuan Smith and Christopher John Rogers. LaQuan Smith felt so much like a modern-day version of Destiny’s Child at the VMAs.  Instagram was a huge part of my research in developing the character’s style, especially since it’s such an essential plot point in the “Gossip Girl” reboot.

With the character of Zoya, who comes from a different socioeconomic class and is very socio-politically conscious, I had those aspects reflected in her wardrobe. Her tote bags for school are from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) owned bookstores. She wears a lot of vintage graphic tee shirts from the ‘90s. Zoya also has a NAMES Project tee shirt, which is a nod back to the AIDS epidemic era and those who died from AIDS causes. It’s an era that has come up a lot recently as people compare it to the current COVID-19 pandemic. It was exciting to play with sociopolitical messaging through wardrobe.

Image courtesy of crfashionbook.com

FR: The show is set in NYC’s upper crust Upper East Side (UES) neighborhood. How do you think UES style has changed in the decade since the original show?

Eric Daman: There’s been a huge overhaul in style. Upper East Side style has become much more unbuttoned in a way. There’s a more relaxed approach. The advent of athleisure has changed everything we know about how we dress. The show has come a long way from when Blair Waldorf said leggings are not pants. Now, crocs and sweatpants are almost everywhere.

There’s like an alpha and omega of how different the times are right now. We’re reentering the early 2000s in terms of style, and next we’ll be emulating the late 2000s. Fashion is cyclical, so next thing you know we’ll be inspired by the last seasons of the original “Gossip Girl.”

FR: What designers and brand to do you think represent how Upper East Side fashionistas dress now?

Eric Daman: It’s more of an open playing field now. There’s a new interest in thrift and purchasing luxury brands from the past. The Christian Dior Saddle bag is cool right now. People want heritage luxury brands, but they want vintage pieces. They are more conscious about sustainability, and that’s a big part of the fashion conservation.

Thrifting and buying luxury labels second-hand are big right now because it’s sustainable, one-of-a-kind, and not everyone is walking down the street with these pieces. You see people carrying the tiny pink Prada nylon totes again, and those were popular in the early 2000s.

FR: The original “Gossip Girl” debuted in 2007. How have your costume choices reflected the evolution of style in the past 14 years?

Eric Daman: The opulence and ostentatious styling of the old days was heavier handed, candy-coated, layered, and bright. The character Serena on the original show would wear six MCL bracelets and three Steven Dweck necklaces at once. This new generation is more paired back and minimal. Gen Z has a desire to be comfortable and casual, but look incredible and idiosyncratic at the same time.

Those traits of this generation helped me decide how to dress these characters when it came to things like XXL, oversized clothes that harked back to the ‘90s, but done in a modern way. I paired oversized Celine sweatshirts with biker shorts. A lot of old school rules were thrown out of the window for the reboot. The school uniforms were the biggest adjustment we were doing this time around.

New York City is a constant source of inspiration for me. Early in preparation for the show, I was walking downtown, and Grace Church School let out, and there was a flood of four young girls who came out wearing oversized collegiate vibe clothes with biker shorts and Fila sneakers. Hailey Bieber then appeared everywhere in the oversized Princess Diana style sweatshirts with biker shorts. I thought that was the right tone to go with for the school uniforms. School uniforms are so iconic. We all have that nostalgia for the schoolboy and schoolgirl uniform look. It’s a fun vibe to play with.

Image courtesy of Gossip Girls

FR: How did you keep the characters wardrobe choices fresh and current when viewers are so familiar with the characters from the original series?

Eric Daman: These characters are such a different group of kids, and we are in such a different era. It was easy to switch off the idea that we weren’t emulating the original characters, like Blair Waldorf and Serena van der Woodsen. That wasn’t the fashion direction at all, which is what made coming back to costume this show exciting.

We threw out the old-world rules. While some of these kids were a bit newer money I’d say, you have someone like Monet, who is the richest girl in school, so she looks more old money. Monet has some Blair Waldorf type, Balmain-inspired moments. Julien has that free spiritedness that Serena van der Woodsen had when it came to fashion, but it’s catered toward more of an Instagram generation and her social media followers.

FR: What brands did you use in the original series that you also used for the reboot?

Eric Daman: A lot of the big fashion houses transitioned with us from the original show for the reboot including Chanel, Valentino, Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga. I had great relationships with these brands from working with them on the later seasons of original “Gossip Girl” and they were thrilled to come on board.

FR: What new brands and designers did you incorporate for the revamp?

Eric Daman: We used Monse quite a bit, and both Julien and the character Monet wear those designers in many episodes. The character Luna likes to wear her Telfar bag a lot. We used more Stella McCartney for the women this season, who isn’t a new designer, but with sustainability being such a big topic in fashion, she was very fitting for this era. Stella McCartney was an early adapter of vegan fashion and faux leather usage.

Christopher John Rogers fashion show in “Gossip Girls” image courtesy of wornontv.net

FR: The Christopher John Rogers fashion show was quite a feat to include in the show. Talk to us about the process of making that happen and costuming that scene.

Eric Daman: That was an incredible coup. Christopher is an amazing designer I’ve had my eye on for a while. Going into costuming “Gossip Girl, I felt he was one of the freshest faces in New York City as far as designers go. His collections felt so linked to the original show with the bright colors, taffeta, tulle, and the debutante vibes, so his clothes felt so cool and current.

When the script came out, an episode called for a fashion show. The producers hadn’t locked in a designer for that. Executives were hoping for a bigger, corporate house to do the fashion show, but after talking with the team we wanted something just cool and downtown chic.

I’m friends with Tyler McCall, editor-in-chief of Fashionista.com, who introduced Christopher and I through Christopher’s public relations team. Christopher was a huge fan of the original “Gossip Girl” and said the show was a huge influence on him becoming a designer. The collection featured in the show no one had really got to see because in-person New York Fashion Week was cancelled due to the pandemic, so the show became his way of debuting the collection.

I worked with Christopher and the director of the specific episode to select the clothes that would fit best within production design. Christopher was very involved and made sure the moment stayed true to his DNA.  We featured models he used in his lookbook and the hair and makeup were inspired by his past runway shows. It was a true communication highway between my team and Christopher to stay true to what would have been his vision.

— Kristopher Fraser

Emerging Songbirds Celebrate Music and Fashion

After a year in lockdown, new singing talent is coming out of the woodwork. With singing competition shows and SoundCloud giving artists access to new platforms, it’s gotten just a little bit easier for young and independent talent to break through the crowd. Fashion Reverie has spotlighted some up-and-coming artists who we’ve deemed ones to watch.

Tamara Jade

You might know her from season 19 of NBC’s “The Voice,” but Tamara Jade was working long and hard to make a name for herself in music before ”The Voice.” Growing up in a musical family, she naturally honed her craft from singing in church to formal vocal training. Tamara has found her heart in the genres of gospel, r&b, soul, and jazz and is continuing to make a name for herself as an independent artist.

Fashion Reverie: How did you find your love of music?

Tamara Jade: I was born into a musical family, so music was just always around me. I grew up singing in church, too. I didn’t really have a choice when it came to music being a part of my life. No one ever forced me to do music, I just loved it. My mother is a singer and was our church music director, one brother is an organist and pianist, and my oldest brother is my manager, co-producer and co-writer, so [he] and I are actively working on music together all of the time.

THE VOICE — “Knockout Rounds” Episode 1909 — Pictured: Tamara Jade — (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

FR: I want to hear more about your educational background and how you started formally studying music.

Tamara Jade: My family did not just do music for fun. It was very serious to us. The whole attitude my family had was, if you’re going to do music, do it at the highest level, and the way to do that is to study.

I went to Suitland High School to their visual and performing arts magnet program. After that, I attended Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Oberlin College. I did the vocal performance program in the conservatory of music and I studied sociology in the college as a double degree student so I could explore my interests outside of music.

As soon as I graduated college, I booked the role of Mimi in Puccini’s “La Boheme” in Italy, but I wasn’t truly happy singing classical music. After that, I did a gospel tour for three months in Europe.

FR: What would you consider the turning point in your career?

Tamara Jade: When I worked with Lizzo for her MTV VMAs performance. Everything changed for me after that. I got to the audition, they gave us the dance routine to learn, and I never felt like something belonged to me more in my life. I made it clear to the casting directors I expect to get a phone call the next day. They called to book me the next day and told me I manifested this and they wanted someone that had the kind of power I have on board.

FR: You were cast on season 19 of “The Voice.” Why did you decide to go the reality TV competition route?

Tamara Jade: I was supposed to be touring with Cory Henry & the Funk Apostles, and we were supposed to open for Lenny Kravitz’s tour in Europe. While I was going through the process of auditioning for “The Voice,” I made it clear that if this show conflicting with the tour, I wasn’t doing it. Then COVID-19 cancelled the tour, so that potential conflict was out of the way.

This was actually my third time auditioning for the show. The producers reached out to me every time, they had wanted me on the show for a long time. Taping for season 19 kept getting pushed back because of COVID-19, but we made it happen, eventually.

FR: On “The Voice” you were coached by the legendary Mr. John Legend himself. Talk to me about that mentorship?

Tamara Jade: John Legend taught me so much exponentially in a short amount of time. From the moment I started working with John Legend, it was like we had known each other for years. There was immediate recognition of who we were outside of who everybody else was. One thing he said to me that they did not air was when he told me I have what church mothers called ‘the anointing.’ This man could look at me singing a Lizzo song and call me anointed. I was sold with him as a mentor from that moment.

THE VOICE — “Live Top 9 Performances” Episode 1913A — Pictured: Tamara Jade — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

FR: Now that you’ve come more into the public spotlight, have you worked to cultivate your fashion and style to build your image?

Tamara Jade: I hired a stylist. I had a vision in my head of what I wanted my fashion sense to be, but I didn’t have the time to go find clothes to create the image I wanted.

Working with a stylist has helped me learn the language of fashion, so that I could communicate my needs accurately to stylists.  

Fashion is an outward representation of who I am. Even if I’m wearing all black, I still want people to feel inspired when they see me, of course. I love mixing prints and patterns. I’ve learned what colors look good on my skin tone.

FR: Who do you want the world to see Tamara Jade as in ten years?

Tamara Jade: Love, light, and power.

Image courtesy of Ella Isaacson

Ella Isaacson

Ella Isaacson has become a major pop star to watch. The young starlet on the rise has over 40 million streams across multiple platforms and is being produced by Norwegian super producers Stargate, making her the first artist to be developed by the duo. She has a trained operatic voice. She might just be on the early leg of her journey, but make no mistake, she isn’t one to be underestimated.

FR: What inspired you to pursue music?

Ella Isaacson: I grew up in New York, and I was driven to start singing at a very young age. My father was an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor, so he treated a lot of singers. I started classically training my voice at age 7. At 16, I was already taking lessons with major opera coaches.

I also had a natural love for writing and poetry. When I was in my teens, I had a cousin that was a music producer and musician. I begged him to help me record and start doing demos.

FR: You came from a more operatic background in terms of your music training. How did you make the transition from that to doing more pop and commercial music?

Ella Isaacson: My writing came from a place of being a lyricist, and I just loved pop music. When I was in the studio, I found that pop music came very naturally to me. That is what I was drawn to versus performing classical music professionally.

FR: You have over 40 million streams of your music. How do you think streaming has been beneficial to developing independent artists?

Ella Isaacson: It’s has become easier for artists to take more power into their own hands. Record labels have questions about what can work. If you have a voice or sound that’s different from what’s being pushed currently, record labels are afraid to take a risk on you.

I met with a lot of people, but there was the question from music executives about my sound being too different. I put my first song out on SoundCloud, and overnight it had 400,000 plays. There’s no guarantees in this industry; you just have to put the music out there and see what people feel.

Image courtesy of Bong Mines Entertainment

FR: How did you come to get produced by the duo Stargate? They are living legends who have produced lots of artists from Sam Smith to Rihanna.

Ella Isaacson: I had been releasing music online, and I came to a point where I felt a bit lost. Travelling and meeting new creators always make me feel inspired. I was living with a friend in England, and then I went to Sweden and got to meet other creators.

I went back to England and my friend I was staying with convinced me to go out for a drink. We went to a hotel bar, and in walked Stargate. My friend had worked for their publisher several years prior. She told Stargate I was a singer and they invited us to have breakfast the next morning. I felt like Stargate were the first people that really saw me for me. I really trusted them, and it was so natural.

FR: How would you describe your fashion style?

Ella Isaacson: My style is very classic and feminine. I love vintage pieces. Most of my wardrobe pieces are vintage, hand-me downs, or consignment. I love things that have a history. I’ll even redesign and alter old things myself so I can keep them longer.

I’m a big thrifter. I love the hunt. Sometimes you have these really beautiful pieces you come across and you can mix them with something more ‘90s or retro..

Zimmermann is one of my favorite designers, so they are one of the few brands I wouldn’t necessarily get on a vintage hunt, but aside from them I love vintage Chloé, Ralph Lauren, and Mugler. Mugler’s vintage cut is gorgeous from the shoulder pads to the cinched waists. I also love vintage Jean Paul Gaultier.  

Alice + Olivia is one of my favorite modern brands. One time I tagged the brand on Instagram and I got a personal message from the designer Stacey Bendet!

Image courtesy of Ella Isaacson

FR: What’s next for you?

Ella Isaacson: I have an EP I’m working on; we’re working on figuring out the release date.

—Kristopher Fraser

Musical Stars Comment on Broadway’s Comeback

Image courtesy of lovingnewyork.com

It’s back, bold, and beautiful! Broadway is set to return after shutting down for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most shows are slated for return this September, just in time for some post-New York Fashion Week theatrical exploits. New York is making a comeback and will leave you nothing short of impressed.

The re-emergence of musical theatre is also being helped by hit musical TV shows like “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” The roaring ‘20s 2.0 is shaping up to be a golden era for musical theatre madness.

As stars return to the stage, they are also returning to the red carpets and public appearances, and of course that means more fashion. Fashion Reverie has interviewed several musical stars on the resurgence of musical theatre, their return to public appearances, and how they cultivate their own style.

Image courtesy of imdb.com

Julia Lester — Ashlyn in TV’s “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”

Actress and songbird Julia Lester brings Disney’s hit “High School Musical” franchise to an entirely new generation. Growing up in an entertainment family, Lester had long been drawn to the world of performing arts, and her big break came when she was cast as Ashlyn on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” on Disney+, catapulting her to being a highly recognizable face among young television actors. While millennials had the original “High School Musical” movies and Ryan Murphy’s “Glee,” Lester is helping bring the world of musical theatre via television to Generation Z. With the return of the red carpet, she’s also exploring one of her other favorite things aside from performing: playing dress up.

Fashion Reverie: You come from a family where many people work in the entertainment industry. When and why did you pursue acting as a career?

Julia Lester: My entire family is in the industry, so. it was in my nature to be interested in performing since I was a young kid. Had I been naturally interested in pursuing something else, I would have done that, but, from the get-go, I was always into music, dancing, and performing. It was great growing up in a family of performers to nurture the love I had for the arts. I did theatre growing up as well, and that led me to my role on “High Musical: The Musical: The Series.”

FR: Were you a fan “High School Musical” before you were cast in the show?

Julia Lester:  A huge one! I was around seven years old when the first movie came out, and I have two older sisters who are really into musical theatre, so it was the perfect family movie for us to watch. I knew the creators of “High School Musical” were trying to find a way to continue the story in some way, so, when I got the audition for the series, I thought it was the best way to continue “High School Musical” in a way we all love and know so well.

FR: For the past two decades musicals seems to inspire a new generation of fans. Now, “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” seems to be building the next generation of musical theatre nerds as one of Disney+’s highest rated shows. How do you think this show is helping propel and inspire a new generation of musical theatre lovers?

Julia Lester: “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” is introducing a lot of people to musical theatre who may not have been familiar with that genre of music or got to be in a space where they were introduced to musical theatre. The show also helps introduce so many different genres of music, while still having a plotline that can appeal to a lot of people. The show writers do a incredible job of incorporating musical theatre into the everyday lives of the characters on the show, and it’s done in a way that’s so natural.

Julia Lester

FR: With outside starting to reopen as we emerge from COVID-19, press tours are a thing again, and there’s been tons of press around “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” How do you work on building your individual style as you’re doing more publicity, especially this season now that your role on the show has gotten bigger?

Julia Lester: That is something I really enjoy doing. I’ve been styling myself for most of our press events. It’s been fun for me because I have a huge love of styling and fashion. It’s been great getting to dress up and put on real outfits again, especially after I’ve been wearing sweatpants every single day for almost a year. The fact that we can go out and dress up again has been very exciting.

A few of the cast members from “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” including myself, got to go to the world premiere of the “Cruella” movie. It was the first real movie premiere since the COVID-19 shutdown. That was a great opportunity to play dress up.

FR: What else do we have to look forward to from you in a post-pandemic entertainment industry?

Julia Lester: I produced a film with my sister, Jenny Lester, called “What She Said” with her production company Shallow Graves. It’s a kitchen sink drama that’s so incredible that I’m hoping it will have a firm release date soon.

We’re also hoping for a renewal to do season 3 of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” There’s been no news on that yet, but that’s what I’m most hoping for right now. Fingers crossed!

Image courtesy of thenewyorktimes.com

Jarvis B. Manning — Al Bryant in Broadway’s “Ain’t Too Proud”

Jarvis B. Manning is no stranger to the world of Motown music. The actor grew up in a family that was big on the genre, and he was previously in the ensemble of “Motown the Musical.” Now, he’s ready to dust off his dancing shoes again as he prepares to step back into the role of Al Bryant in “Ain’t Too Proud,” a hit Broadway musical that focuses on the story of famed Motown group The Temptations. As he’s making a name for himself in song and dance, Manning has also found himself thinking more about fashion and his public image now that he’s getting ready to say hello to audiences again.

Fashion Reverie: When did you first find your love of music and theatre?

Jarvis B. Manning: I grew up in the church, so music was so much a part of my life. Anytime “Can’t Touch This” by M.C. Hammer came on, my sister and I would run to the dance floor and we had a whole dance routine going. If you asked my parents if I was a natural at anything, it was song and dance.

I went to the High School for Visual and Performing Arts in Houston. I studied classical voice and jazz. I noticed there was a theatre program in the school, and we also had an all-school Black history program.

My sophomore year, I auditioned to be a dancer in the Black History program because they were short male dancers. I fell in love with dancing and singing at the same time, even though I still didn’t know much about musical theatre. By my senior year, I was tired of singing classical music all the time, so I sang in the jazz group for our young performers showcase where I got to both sing and dance. That was when I realized I had to do musical theatre as a profession.

Jarvis B. Manning

FR: How familiar were you with the music of The Temptations before your current role in “Ain’t Too Proud” and your previous role in “Motown The Musical”?

Jarvis B. Manning: Very familiar. Growing up, we weren’t allowed to listen to anything in the house but gospel, old school blues, and Motown. I knew the music of The Temptations through and through..

I saw “Jersey Boys” on Broadway and wanted to do a Black version, so of course my next thought was The Temptations. I was working on it for a year, and I put it down and kept saying I would come back to it someday. Next thing I knew, Dominique Morriseau was writing the book for this musical. I always joke with her that she stole this musical from me.

FR: Of course, with musical theatre, costuming is a huge part of any production. How do you feel costuming helped you really embody and develop your character?

Jarvis B. Manning: Costuming helps so much.. Once you get on stage, the costume is on your body, and you see the actual set pieces, it puts you in a new land. I have an idea of what my character would be, and once the costume shows up, it’s a whole different situation.

Al’s main costume was a blue stripe shirt, grey pants, and his hair is also pressed. The costumes make you hold yourself in a different way, from the pants coming up to the belly button to the boots hitting a certain part of your ankle. The costumes are truly the last piece of the puzzle that can put you and your mind in a [time] period.

FR: How do you think the reopening of Broadway will spark a new musical theatre renaissance for this decade?

Jarvis B. Manning: I’m hoping it will spark more space for people who are not the ‘norm.’ We have all heard and seen those people’s stories on the Broadway stage, and the rest of us are tired of it. People who are coming to see Broadway shows look like everybody and come from all walks of life.

If the people who have been creating during this lull and silence can speak up when Broadway reopens, it will be a beautiful thing. If Broadway falls back into its old, nasty habits of feeding the same crowd they have always fed, it would be a major let down to old creatives, new creatives, people who have lost their lives, and the future Broadway community.

There’s the opportunity to allow change. It’s crazy that we must think about ‘allowing change,’ but it’s the perfect time. It might be a forced moment at first, where producers feel obligated to do things because that’s what’s expected, but that could open up people’s eyes to show them the rest of us are capable of creating work that will make money.

When Broadway takes a chance on new formulas, we get things like “Hamilton,” which was a hit. The powers that be just need to let people work and let all people work.

FR: Now that Broadway is reopening and there’s press events and public appearance opportunities, how do you cultivate your style and image as an actor now that the spotlight is back on you?

Jarvis B. Manning: Recently, toward the end of 2020, I started doing more film and television auditions, which have been going well. I had a well-known casting agent reach out to me, who happened to be a Black woman. She had ‘the mama’ conversation with me and said, ‘You are great. Your audition was great, but you need to start promoting yourself. I shouldn’t go on your Instagram and see you promoting everyone but yourself.’

I told her that makes me feel weird, but she told me get over it. I don’t like that aspect of the business, but after talking to her she told me learn to treat it as art. I’m also a photographer. She told me I don’t have to be vain about it. She said find some amazing clothes, come up with some ideas, and take photos.

I’m now cultivating what that’s going to be when I return to Instagram. I’ve been off social media since April 2020. I’m getting ready to come back artistically and showcase myself.

A costume designer had reached out to me and gave me a bunch of vintage clothes. She blessed me with all these beautiful free clothes, so be on the lookout for that.

Luba Mason in “Girl from the North Country”

Luba Mason – Mrs. Burke in Broadway’s “Girl from the North Country”

Luba Mason is a veteran of the stage with an extensive list of Broadway credits under her belt including “The Will Rogers Follies,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” and “Chicago.” She’s also no stranger to the small screen with guest starring roles on acclaimed television series including “As the World Turns,” “Law & Order,” and “NYPD Blue.” This fall, she’ll be returning to a role that she loves. Mrs. Burke in the Broadway musical “Girl from the North Country.” She’s a true triple threat.

Fashion Reverie: What’s your musical theatre background and describe for me the moment you decided to be a performer?

Luba Mason: My love for music and theatre started very young. I was a classical pianist for thirteen years. There was really the question of whether I was going to pursue being a classical pianist or go into musical theatre. I know I made the right choice. I have much more fun doing musical theatre than sitting in a room practicing scales.

My piano teach was also a choral director in the local church, so I started taking singing lessons with him and progressing in that direction. My older sister was an opera singer who studied at Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard, so I started studying voice with her teachers from those schools when I was in high school. That’s when musical theatre started to pull at my heartstrings.

FR: You have trademarked your own style of music called Mixtura. How did you develop that?

Luba Mason: My musical background is very diverse. I’ve done classical music and I love pop music, folk songs, and showtunes are obviously a huge part of my life. My husband is Ruben Blades, who is a Latin music icon, so, when I married him, Latin music became a huge part of my life. As I’ve matured, jazz has also become a big influence in my musical background as well.

When I went to record my first studio album, I had to ask myself what kind of an album to record, so I recorded an album that was a mix of my various musical influences. I had songs of different genres from pop, to folk, and I even sang a song in Spanish. By the time my third album came around, I said I had to put a label on this and create my own genre, so I trademarked Mixtura, and there you have it.

FR: Tell me about your role in “Girl from the North Country”?

Luba Mason: The casting process was very quick. It wasn’t one of those three or four callback situations. I got great feedback in my first audition, and I had a good feeling about it. I got a response the day after my audition that I got the role of Mrs. Burke. I guess the director knew what he wanted and I happened to be it.

My character, Mrs. Burke, is a rich Southern woman whose husband loses his fortune during The Great Depression in 1932. We have an autistic son who’s about 30 years old. Since we lost our money, we are trying to find a new place to resettle ourselves and find a way to make a living.

All thirteen principal characters in the show have found themselves in a boarding house type situation in Minnesota. Each one of the characters is either running toward something new or away from something, like a problem or secret. My family in the show is running from a secret, but one you’ll have to come watch the show and find out what it is.

FR: After several decades in the business and now surviving a global pandemic, what are your predictions for the next decade of Broadway?

Luba Mason: When Lin Manuel Miranda created “Hamilton,” that changed the trajectory for musical theatre. He helped make Broadway more contemporary. He brought in a whole new audience and skew of musical theatre lovers.

Also, you’re seeing a lot of pop composers creating jukebox musicals to highlight their music. Disney always has their hand in Broadway. If a Disney musical franchise is successful, they’ll create a Broadway musical from it.

I’m hoping revivals will continue and I’m hoping for some more real creative shows from composers like Lin Manuel Miranda. I think our show, “A Girl from North Country,” is one of the contemporary shows because it’s music and lyrics are from Bob Dylan.

FR: Press events are about to start happening again, putting an emphasis on what talent is wearing. How would you say your approach to fashion and style has changed over the course of your career?

Luba Mason: There’s way more of an emphasis on fashion and style with social media, for sure. Whenever I tell people I have a show or concert coming up, the first question I always here is ‘What are you wearing?’ Everyone wants to see your picture and comments on it on social media now.

I recently was watching the Netflix series on the fashion designer Halston, and on my most recent photoshoot, a friend of mine loaned me a vintage Halston halter top. It was this stunning gold lamé top. The same friend of mine also told me go purchase some new jumpsuits for my upcoming public engagements, and that’s on my to-do list.

Luba Mason

FR: What are some other upcoming projects?

Luba Mason: I released my fourth studio album, “Triangle,” during October of 2020. There was a good three months of album promotion before that, and I got rave reviews. The album itself was filmed live. It was a live recording we had filmed in 2019 in front of a live studio audience at the legendary Power Station Studios in New York City.

In 2021, I started getting more auditions for television and film. I recently also did a livestream performance for soapboxgallery.org, and there was a venue in Brooklyn where they livestreamed the performance.

I get ready to go back to rehearsals for Broadway in September. I also have a benefit I’m doing that goes back to my dancing days when I was in “Will Rogers Follies.” We are recreating the choreography from one of director and choreographer Tommy Tune’s numbers he did for the show. This project is through the affiliation of the American Dance Machine who recreates the original choreography of past Broadway shows. They asked some of the original cast dancers to do the recreation along with their younger company of dancers. Now, we’ve got a beautiful collaborative project coming up in July.

I’m about to start campaigning for the Grammy’s with “Triangle.” I’m hoping to leave a few weeks between going back to Broadway and my Grammy’s campaign, to go on vacation.

—Kristopher Fraser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costume Designer Jeriana San Juan Talks about Her Work in Netflix’s Miniseries “Halston”

Image courtesy of Netflix

In his prime, Roy Halston Frowick was among the pantheon of America’s fashion design talent. The famed American designer, whose life was tragically cut short by AIDS, was arguably the “people’s designer” of his generation. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Halston would rise through the ranks of the fashion industry to become renowned with a name that is still revered to this day.

Halston’s story once again appears on screen in a new biopic miniseries on Netflix. Respectfully titled “Halston,”  this miniseries stars Ewan McGregor and is produced by critically acclaimed television producer Ryan Murphy.

Image courtesy of IMDB

No film about a legendary fashion icon can be complete without impeccable detail to the garments used in the production. Jeriana San Juan, the brilliant mind behind the wardrobe in this miniseries. Fashion Reverie simply had to find out how she recreated this era of fashion history.

Fashion Reverie: How did you become involved with the Halston miniseries?

Jeriana San Juan: I had an initial meeting with the director Daniel Minahan. I had worked with the line producer of Halston in the past, and she gave me a whisper about the project when it was early in production. She’s a friend and collaborator of mine, and she thought I’d be a perfect fit to costume the series. Daniel and I share such a mutual love for Halston’s work and his creativity as an artist. We had a common goal in creating this show, and it was a match made in heaven.

FR: Aside from the obvious Halston fashion shows and those direct references, were there other places you draw inspiration from for the costumes?

Jeriana San Juan:  To draw inspiration for the costumes, I really wanted to highlight as much contrast between Halston’s aesthetic and the rest of the fashion landscape. I wanted to highlight how modern he was in his aesthetic and how minimalism along with very close attention to construction, detail, and fabric was the key to his success. Halston’s idea of centering glamour around comfort was revolutionary at that time. It was something that really changed the face of fashion. I have such a deep respect for it. He really had a respect for women by making women feel free in their clothes.

I wanted to show the contrast between that and what someone like Givenchy or Yves Saint Laurent were doing simultaneously. Halston’s clothes still look so contemporary and modern today, even more so, and arguably futuristic for the time period in which they were presented.

FR: What period does the miniseries reflect?

Jeriana San Juan: The show starts off in the early 1960s and takes the audiences through the arc of Halston’s career starting with his work as a milliner at Bergdorf Goodman. It takes us to his death in the ‘80s.

HALSTON (L to R) DAVID PITTU as JOE EULA, EWAN MCGREGOR as HALSTON, KRYSTA RODRIGUEZ as LIZA MINNELLI, and REBECCA DAYAN as ELSA PERETTI in episode 102 of HALSTON Cr. ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/NETFLIX © 2021

FR: That obviously required a large breadth of costumes trying to encapsulate three different decades of dress.

Jeriana San Juan: There was not only a difference in finding a specific note for Halston and his own creative journey, but the tone had to be set for every different decade, including the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. I really had to sink my teeth into what trends were driving the fashion scene during those times.

FR: As you were working on costuming the miniseries, did you interview any current designers who had worked with Halston, like Ralph Rucci or Naeem Khan? Did you reach out to any of the “Halstonettes”, his former models?

Jeriana San Juan: Yes, it was important that I do this story as accurately and authentically as possible. I went to anyone who had firsthand connections with Halston, as well as Toray International, the developers of Ultrasuede, and I met a guy who worked with Halston to develop the Ultrasuede collection. I went to Chris Royer, who was a former house model and creative collaborator of his. I went to her house and went through all of the clothes Halston made for her and samples that were given to her from the showroom.

I had extensive conversations with Sassy Johnson, who was the former head of his women’s wear division for made-to-order of Halston’s company. Sassy originally started off as his personal secretary and had tons of stories to tell me about Halston. She gave me great insight on not only her personal photos, but what went on at Olympic Tower, how Halston would walk into a room, and the details about his shoes and sunglasses, as well as how the other assistants were dressed in the work room. Naeem Khan had a great meeting with me at his studio. He told me wonderful stories about Halston, and I even worked with Naeem to recreate one of the beading patterns on a dress that is featured in the film that Naeem’s father had created for Halston.

FR: Toward the last few years of Halston’s life, although his name was still on his fashion line, there was someone else designing the collections. How did you create costumes around that and what were those challenges?

Jeriana San Juan: The most important thing to me was to celebrate Halston’s work and Roy Halston Frowick’s immense creativity and artistry. I wanted to be as accurate as possible in bringing those clothes to life. After we meet Halston at that point in the story, John David Ridge had was designing most of the garments at Halston Limited. That’s when I took more creative license. I found a few pieces that are featured in the show that were John David Ridge-designed, Halston pieces. I took a lot more creative license to help dramatically play toward the story and the swing of the ‘80s and the “Dynasty” era. There definitely starts to be a bit more creative license taken at the very end of the story and Halston’s departure from his brand.

FR: How do we see the fashion evolve throughout the series? Halston goes from an  unknown fashion designer to fashion star, so through the clothes how to you capture that transition?  

Jeriana San Juan: I was able to speak to a gentleman from Bergdorf Goodman who was a milliner that worked alongside Halston. He was featured in Halston’s documentary on CNN. He said that Halston was always Halston in his mind. There is some level of Halston inhabiting his existence and how he dressed, even prior to the quintessential black turtleneck and black trouser. There is a lot leading up to that to clue us into Halston’s interest in modern thinking and wanting to create vibrant youthful looks. He himself was dressing with ‘70s trends before the 1970s trends occurred. I definitely tried to play toward him always being ahead of his time in any decade.

HALSTON (L to R) RORY CULKIN as JOEL SCHUMACHER, REBECCA DAYAN as ELSA PERETTI, and DAVID PITTU as JOE EULA in episode 101 of HALSTON Cr. JOJO WHILDEN/NETFLIX © 2021

FR: What do you think was the most defining thing about Halston’s style that we see in the series?

Jeriana San Juan: The most defining thing about Halston and his clothing is the way he made women feel. That’s my takeaway from everyone I spoke to who had firsthand connections to Halston. He was so charming and funny, and he had such an impact on people. In my role as costume designer for the show, that thought was always in the back of my mind. I wanted to not only present Halston’s clothes well, but pay them justice, and honor the people who helped me in researching for the miniseries.

FR: Who was the toughest character to costume?

Jeriana San Juan: Joe Eula! He was the creative director at Halston for ten years, and there was so little documentation of him. I tried to use fashion classics on him, focusing on things that felt sartorial, but unfussy and worldly. Joe Eula was also a fashion illustrator and artist who worked with fashion designers all over the world, but he had humble roots and a very New York story. How do you dress a worldly character, who is also incredibly artistic, but is a confidante for everyone from Andy Warhol to Yves Saint Laurent? There are not many photographs of him, but Joe is mentioned all over Andy Warhol’s diary book. I had to invent someone who was creating their own thing and persona.

FR: What was the greatest costume piece you think you did in the series?

Jeriana San Juan: You’re asking me to toot my own horn or pick a favorite child. That’s a hard one, because there are moments of the show designed like an orchestra, like the scene where they recreate the Battle of Versailles.

FR: Wait, so we see the Battle of Versailles (a fashion event in Paris to raise money for the restoration of Versailles) in the series?

Jeriana San Juan: Yes.

FR: What was it like costuming that scene?

Jeriana San Juan: It was tremendous and a very big task. Doing Versailles was a real study in editing because it had to be very clear about what Bill Blass was doing versus Stephen Burrows versus Anne Klein versus Halston in a matter of minutes. To do that, I really had to edit down the concepts, and the color palette, textures, and fabrics they were working in. I also had to build a cohesive collection that felt inspired by each designer.

FR: I know Ryan is very collaborative with the creative teams from set to costume design. Was that the case for this series, or was that not possible because of COVID-19?

Jeriana San Juan: Initially, I did share my moodboards with Ryan and his producing partner Alexis. I was given a little bit more license creatively, and after that initial pass, the director, Daniel Minahan, really took hold of this project and made it his baby. This project is so great because of Dan and his guidance on cultivating a unique voice between costume design, set, and actors. All of the elements came together through him.

HALSTON (L to R) REBECCA DAYAN as ELSA PERETTI in episode 102 of HALSTON Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

FR: If you could go back in time and have one Halston look for yourself, what would it be?

Jeriana San Juan: I crave so many. What I’d want is an entire closet full of Elsa Peretti jewelry. After doing this show, I respect Halston as an artist on a whole new level. He really was a revolutionary thinker. Fashion was so democratic in his eyes and celebrated all women. He had a whole tapestry of different ethnicities of women and women of all sizes. We used the word inclusivity now, but he was inclusive early on. Halston wanted women to wear clothes with a freedom of movement.

Netflix’s “Halston” premieres on May 14. The cast includes Ewan McGregor, Rory Culkin, Rebecca Dayan, Sullivan Jones, David Pittu, Krysta Rodriguez, Gian Franco Rodriguez, Bill Pullman, Kelly Bishop, and Maxim Swinton.

— Kristopher Fraser

Despite COVID-19, Rebecca Olson Continues to Make Inroads in Television and Film

You might recognize her from her various small screen roles—“A Wedding to Remember,” “Just My Type,” and “Tempting Fate,” just to name a few. As a matter of fact, actress Rebecca Olson has been lighting up your TV for over several years. Since landing a guest starring role on the hit CW series “Supernatural” in 2014, Olson has continued racking up television credits including “Hell on Wheels,” “My Best Friend’s Bouquet,” and most recently a role in The CW’s widely talked about “Kung Fu,” which debuted earlier this month.

The Vancouver-based actress has found herself at home on the small screen, and in a year crippled by the global COVID-19 pandemic, Rebecca has managed to continue stacking her acting resume with a TV movie, “A Vineyard Romance.” Rebecca Olsen found a brief moment away from the set of  her current project to chat with Fashion Reverie about her new role in “Kung Fu,” upcoming projects, and how she managed to keep accumulating acting credits during a year when most of us were stuck at home.

Image courtesy of wikifeet.com

Fashion Reverie: Hello, Rebecca. You’re in Vancouver right now, correct?

Rebecca Olson: I’m back and forth between Vancouver and shooting a project right outside of the city. We aren’t allowed to travel abroad right now, so any chance to get out of the city with work is a treat.

FR: Congratulations on the projects you’ve been booking lately.

Rebecca Olson: Thank you so much! It’s crazy, because it’s been such a difficult year for so many people. I’m in a long-distance relationship across the border. I have family I haven’t gotten to see in a year. But, somehow, this has been good for the acting industry in Vancouver, in some ways, because of more opportunities going to local actors.

FR: There’s been so much film and television work produced in Vancouver recently.

Rebecca Olson: It’s been crazy. Opportunities with American productions and ensembles where American actors would have been guaranteed a certain number of roles have gone to more actors based here in Vancouver ever since the borders closed and people were unable to travel.

Image courtesy of The CW — © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

FR: I want to talk about your role in the new CW series “Kung Fu.” How were you cast in that series?

Rebecca Olson: I was lucky I booked that role prior to the COVID-19 lockdown. We weren’t sure what was really going to happen with the show after the pilot episode. All production shutdown, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after that since a lot of productions decided not to come back to Vancouver. There was a waiting period of uncertainty. One of my co-stars, Gavin Stenhouse, who plays the character Evan, reached out to connect to see what I was doing. He kept me in the loop, [as] he was part of the main ensemble, so he was likely to hear what would happen with the show before I did. By the end of summer, the show resumed production, and we went back to filming.

FR: Were you getting nervous about having your character cut?

Rebecca Olson: Yes, I was for sure. I wasn’t sure whether they were going to change around the plotlines or relocate. I had booked another small role on a Netflix production during that in-between time, and that production decided they were going to relocate so they didn’t have to deal with the quarantines. The fact that “Kung Fu” came back to shoot in Vancouver was amazing.

FR: What’s it been liking forming working relationships with co-stars between the quarantines and COVID-19 pandemic? 

Rebecca Olson: That’s what’s been so interesting. I shot a movie called “A Wedding to Remember” this summer. As far as I know, it was either the first, or at least one of the first productions to start back up in North America after the height of pandemic. We shot in Colonna on a resort and my quarantine bubble was me and three other actors. Most of us knew each other from previous projects, but that was a very unique experience. Everything was shot in one location and all four of us were constantly hanging out with each other.

 It was a unique situation because usually when you shoot on location, you’re with the same people for a while, and you’ll bond in different ways, but now I’ve got co-stars seeing me come downstairs in my pajamas. Working this way creates a different bond, because a lot of people don’t have their families up here or couldn’t go home to them because of the pandemic, so the cast got so close.

For “Kung Fu,” we shot two episodes I was in before I went on to work on other projects, then almost two months had passed before I came in to shoot for my next scene, and when I walked in, I was immediately treated like family.

I did three movies last summer, and the working relationships I formed with co-stars last year were some of the strongest I’d ever formed because we were only allowed to socialize with each other. You’re living and working together, so that’s something I will miss in a post-COVID world when things go back to normal. I created bonds over the past year that I don’t think I would’ve had under usual circumstances where a shoot day wraps and everyone goes back to their after-work lives at the end of the day.

FR: How would you describe the character you play in “Kung Fu,” because I know your role gets bigger in later episodes that haven’t premiered yet?

Rebecca Olson: What I loved about the character Sabine and the direction they are taking with her is the love triangle. Sabine is clearly struggling with her boyfriend’s ex coming back into the picture, but nothing is ever done with malice. That insecurity is inevitably going to be there for her, but she’s trying to fight against it and be supportive. When it comes to Evan helping Nikki, she puts her own insecurities and feelings aside because she feels it’s the right thing to do. It would’ve been so easy to fall into the trope of pitting these women against each other, and it’s so not that, and I love that.

FR: You describe your character Sabine with such complexity. How did you prepare for this role?

Rebecca Olson: Life. When you get to a certain age you’re dealing with other people and other relationships in their life and history and learning how to navigate that with a balance of great, at the same time making sure your feelings are heard and validated. There was so much for me to tap into in things that I’ve been through in my own life, it was so effortless. When I read the role I immediately connected with Sabine and felt this hasn’t been something that is seen enough. I know so many women who are like this and it often gets portrayed as the need to go after the other women, but it’s not always like that.

Image courtesy of Jenna Berman Photography

FR: In your character development process as an actor, do you typically draw on your own past experiences or do you ever look to people you may know for inspiration and physical characterization?

Rebecca Olson: I feel lucky in that the roles I have played most of the time I was easy to connect with the character. I’ve yet to play a villain, that would be interesting for me. But if I did, I would still find the parts of them that are lovable to make it interesting.

For me, especially with the romantic comedies I did this summer, I build organic relationships with my castmates because then we read better as an ensemble on screen. I’m most comfortable when I can draw on my own experiences.

FR: Television shows and television movies seem to be a real sweet spot for you as an actress. What do you love about working in television ?

Rebecca Olson: What I love about television shows is the potential for growth and arcs that are unseen. Your character can get brought back in later episodes if they are guest or recurring. Your character can go through a process that isn’t even written. Whereas when you are shooting a movie all the action are determined already. With television, another season could happen, and your character could be taken in a whole new direction. I love that unpredictably and how you can sink your teeth into something that is going to evolve. Even with a show like “Kung Fu,” I’ve an found opportunity to change and adapt as a recurring character.

FR: You have an upcoming role in a new made-for-TV rom com, “A Vineyard Romance.” Could you elaborate about that project and the role you are playing?

Rebecca Olson: I play Sam Hart, she’s a journalist who works for a wedding magazine. Her passion is writing, and her dream is being a romance novelist. She’s a total book nerd, just trying to pay the bills. She’s been waiting for a promotion and she gets the opportunity to cover an influencer’s wedding taking place in her hometown. She’s confused because her hometown is a nothing town and can’t believe that’s where the wedding is happening. She goes home and finds out it’s her ex that’s getting married. She covers this wedding of ‘the one that got away.’ She and the ex-boyfriend never had closure, and she has her own feelings, but she’s doing her best to be supportive and be the bigger person and do right by this couple, even if she’s still dealing with old wounds. She and her ex-boyfriend finally figure out where things went wrong and try to figure out what this means for them going forward.

Image courtesy of Jenna Berman Photography

FR: What’s up next for you?

Rebecca Olson: I’m in the middle of working on “American Dreamer.” The cast is stellar. It’s Peter Dinklage, Shirley MacLaine, Danny Glover, and Matt Dillon. I’ve died my hair brunette for the first time in my career, and I’m playing a twin, so I’m playing two roles. It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks. I’m so excited.

“Kung Fu” is currently airing on The CW Wednesday at 8pm EST.

—Kristopher Fraser

Amber Chardae Robinson Speaks about Her Role in “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Actress Amber Chardae Robinson is now proud to say that she’s been a part of a film that received the Oscar nomination for Best Picture. “Judas and the Black Messiah,” where Robinson plays Betty Coachman, a supporter of the Black Panther Party, tells the story of party chairman Fred Hampton and FBI informant William “Bill” O’Neal who went undercover to gather intelligence on the civil rights martyr. The role of Betty Coachman was a turning point in Robinson’s career, and she got to work with an amazing group of actors including Academy Award nominees Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, and rising star Dominique Fishback. Fashion Reverie recently sat down with the actress to discuss the importance of this film, the history of the Black Panther Party, and how this project changed her life.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get cast in this film?

Amber Chardae Robinson: It’s a funny story. I was living my regular actor life in Los Angeles, and I got a phone call from my agent to do the table read for the parts they hadn’t cast. Ryan Coogler, Daniel Kaluuya, and LaKeith Stanfield were all going to be there. The casting director said there was no promise of a role, but I took it as an opportunity to deliver the material the best way I know how

 When I went in, I met Ryan Coogler, who sat directly across from me. After that, I did everything I was supposed to, some folks would say I went in and ‘dropped the mic.’ I thanked everyone when I left, and I didn’t hear anything for two weeks after that. In the meantime I just became obsessed with the history of the Black Panther Party.

FR: Were you aware of Fred Hampton and his story before you found out about “Judas and the Black Messiah?”

Amber Chardae Robinson: No, I had no idea who he was. After I did the table read, all this extra research I was doing on the Black Panthers was leisure, but some people would call it manifestation. I went to Florida on vacation, and I was speaking at Bethune Cookman University about “Always a Bridesmaid,” another movie I was in. Two weeks after that, I got a call from my agent saying there was a role in “Judas and the Black Messiah” for me. I hopped on a flight to Cleveland and lived there for three months shooting this film with these amazing people. It felt so divinely ordained. What are the odds you get cast from a table read?

FR: Do you know the producers came up with the name of the film, “Judas and the Black Messiah?”

Amber Chardae Robinson: For the longest we were shooting; we didn’t have a title for it. It was called “The Untitled Fred Hampton Project.” When the story of the film broke in the press, that was when I learned about the name of film. The entire time we were shooting the movie, we didn’t know what it was going to be called. It was like raising a child without a name, saying you’ll let them find themselves. The producers wanted to finish the project and feel what works.

FR: Talk to me about the preparation to play your character, Betty Coachman?

Amber Chardae Robinson: I engulfed myself in the culture of the women in the Black Panther Party. They played such a vital role in the movement. I listened to speeches from Angela Davis—who coincidentally was never a member of the Black Panther Party—and Kathleen Cleaver, just hearing the intelligence and gravitas they spoke with was very similar to who I am today.

I have an MFA in acting from Columbia University, and I did my undergrad at an HBCU, so I went from a predominantly Black environment to one with a lot less people who look like me. I had to constantly remind myself who I was and that I was worthy of being there.

Thinking about on my time in graduate school, there was a parallel for me. I tapped into my own strength of being a Black woman at a predominantly white institution. I had to learn to assert my intellect. I’m a Black girl from the South with a country accent. People don’t think Ivy League graduate when they see me. White people back then did not look at these women as intellectuals, they were seen as demonizing, rebels, or radicals. These women need their stories told. We need an Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver biopic next.

FR: What do you think you brought to the Betty Coachman character?

Amber Chardae Robinson: I brought myself and all of the things I possess as a Black woman in this time. I’m growing up in a time that’s very similar, but where racism isn’t as overt. I tapped into my real life and used those feelings as fuel for this character.

Growing up in the South and being Black, smart, and loud, and going off to do things like art weren’t supported. I brought strength, power, and knowing who I am to this role. I learned so much about myself doing this movie as well, and I’ve been fueled to chase after my purpose. Learning about Fred Hampton and the vision he had for us as a collective of Black people really changed me and has fueled me in my current process as an actor and person.

FR: Fred Hampton’s murder has been documented in Black Panther Party documentary films, but there’s never been a feature film about his life. His murder happened decades ago. Why do you think “Judas and the Black Messiah” needed to happen at this time?

Amber Chardae Robinson: So many people are uninformed or just don’t know about this history. I heard the name Fred Hampton before, but I didn’t know the history and issues surrounding his murder, the FBI’s involvement, or the role J. Edgar Hoover played. To this day, Fred Hampton is still held on this pedestal, and there’s a reason for that. This movie has given people the initiative to do their research and learn about the actual issues that are going on. The conditioning of this country has led us to believe things that aren’t true or accurate.

FR: Although the film takes places in the 1960s, many of the issues of race and civil rights are still relevant today. Do you think the story and issues of racial justice will appeal to current audiences? If so, why?

Amber Chardae Robinson: I hope this film educates. The reasons I tell stories is to liberate people through art. The people who don’t know anything about Fred Hampton, Bill O’Neal, the FBI, and J. Edgar Hoover will be educated from this film. One of the things that was really astounding for me about this film was someone in the FBI pushed for a bill to take J. Edgar Hoover’s name off the FBI building after he watched this film. The amount of black civil rights activists that died under J. Edgar Hoover’s watch was astonishing. Films like this cause us to reflect and make adjustments to our society. That’s why I do the work I do.

FR: Most people don’t realize the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover were involved in Fred Hampton’s murder. Do you think the film conveys the historical accuracies and horrors of the situation well?

Amber Chardae Robinson: The film does an excellent job of that. It really gives just insight and peaks into just the surface of what happened. I hope people will be motivated to go do more research about what the FBI did to the Black Panther Party and see what else really happened.

FR: Many people know very little about the Black Panther Party and don’t realize the party was established to uplift all people. How does this film help clear up some of the misinformation about the Black Panther Party?

Amber Chardae Robinson: It shows people Fred Hampton’s mission. The party was created to take care of Black people with clinics and free breakfast programs. We had to protect ourselves because they were killing us. It wasn’t about rebelling against white men. That narrative was constructed because people were scared Black people would want revenge for oppression, but Black people wanted to live and be taken care of after we helped build this country.

FR: How has working on “Judas and the Black Messiah” enriched your life?

Amber Chardae Robinson: For a long time, I had imposter syndrome. I kept telling myself get it together, and I forget that I am worthy and ready to be where I am. I spent the money and had the training to be at the point I’m at in my acting career. After working on this film, I have more confidence in my work. I don’t want to say this movie showed me my worth, but it allowed me to watch people who are where I want to be career wise, and I had intimate conversations with them, and built a familial relationship with them. Working on this film changed my outlook on this business and showed me how I’m going to grow in this field. After this experience, I feel like my opportunities are limitless, and I’m so excited about it.

FR: What did you take away from working with a cast of incredible actors including big names like Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, and Dominique Jackson?

Amber Chardae Robinson: I think I’ve gained another family. I learned so much being around these people, because they are so rooted in themselves. If they are ever second guessing themselves, I can’t see it. Their confidence and knowing who they are and what they bring to the table and knowing no one can get in the way of their journey was a privilege to witness. It helped me so much with myself. It helped me understand myself and made me feel more comfortable about what I do. Going on to the next set, I won’t be as nervous. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is the biggest set I’ve worked on. I’m grateful to have experience people who are strong in their foundation.

FR: What are some projects you have coming up this year?

Amber Chardae Robinson: Right now I’m in the process of taking a couple meetings and auditioning. We are still in a pandemic, but I’m using the time to write my own feature film. Writing has always been something I’ve done since I was a little girl. Being able to write a feature has been an interesting process. It’s kept me busy through such turbulent times, and it’s given me a foundation to come back to while the world has felt like its collapsing around us. I’m excited to share it with the world.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is currently in theatres and streaming on HBO Max. The film was directed by Shaka King and is a contender at the 93rd Academy Awards for Best Picture.

—Kristopher Fraser

In This Season of Change, Gary Quinn Sets Us on the Path to Success, Wellness, and Growth

Have you noticed that we are on the precipice of great change? We have a new administration in the White House, we are slowly getting a handle of the COVID-19 pandemic with more and more people getting vaccinated globally, the new $1.9 billion economic relief packaged has been signed into law and we are just a week away from the season of budding flowers and chirping birds.

All things appear to be looking up. Still, everything is coming up roses only if you can tap into positivity and this new great shift in consciousness.

Author and Motivational Speaker Gary Quinn spoke to Fashion Reverie about what it takes to live a life of joy, fulfillment, and positive change. This detailed and much-needed conversation fits perfectly into this season of change, if only we pay attention and apply some of these incredible, life-affirming principles.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get on this path to positive thinking and transition your approach to positive thinking into being a life coach, a motivational speaker, and author?

Gary Quinn: I started training for the Olympics when I was very young, and I was fortunate to have great coaches and all these opportunities. Like most kids, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. From swimming I developed a great work ethic and I parlayed that work ethic into working in the entertainment industry.

I have done everything from writing situation comedies to working and representing actors, writers, and directors to being a music producer.  In other words, I have run the gamut of things you can do in the entertainment industry.

Jonelle Allen was one of my first celebrity clients and she recognized that I was very intuitive, and she prompted me to do something with this knack I have for seeing potential in people. I do have the ability to connect to a higher energy and the divine in people and help them connect or reconnect with that divine or higher frequency.

From recognizing that I had this gift, I started doing life coach work privately and from that I wrote my first book “The Yes Frequency.” This book launched a global 37-city book tour.

When I had written my first book, I was at a wellness conference and I met Dan Millman, I told Dan Millman how much admired his work and how his work had influenced and helped me. Millman took me to this crew that was interviewing him for some television show and tells the crew, “You need to interview this guy, also.” I never forgot that moment because that televised interview really helped my burgeoning career.

FR: In your life coaching, what do you teach your clients?

Gary Quinn: I teach people how to be the master of their mind and living their vision is not scary. I teach people how to activate their greatness. I teach how to work with the principles of grace, gratitude, opportunity, and knowing that every day we can do something great. My work is about rejuvenating your thought processes and your perspective on your own life.

FR: You have a book “Living in the Spiritual Zone: 10 Steps to Change Your Life and Discover Your Truth.” Quickly, name a few things people can do to facilitate change.

Gary Quinn: I start with having my clients make a list of all the stress and anger they have had in their life. You cannot upload any positive affirmations or positive change if you have not cleared the cupboards or the subconscious of all the anger and negativity that might be there.

As you right down those things that are negative or cause a lot of anger, if you need to forgive someone that has caused that hurt and anger, you should right a forgiveness letter to that individual, and read it out loud. (Often when clients do this, they began to cry which means they are beginning to release the toxins that came from living in a space of resentment.)

Then I instruct my clients to start to speak positive affirmations for 21 days. As you start to act on those affirmations, you will begin to see a shift in perspective and a shift in behavior. I also get my clients to make a mission statement of what they want their life in this new place of forgiveness and positivity.

FR: Why is making these list so important?

Gary Quinn: Making lists of what you want is very important, if you make a list, you probably will not forget and take your aspirations more seriously. From the list, you can identify events in your life where you felt diminished and felt disempowered and I can help you work through that. From these lists you can began to create the life that you want. It does take work and some research, but it is possible, if you are willing to do the work. It is about putting in  the work, doing the affirmation exercises, and restoring yourself daily.

FR: In this time of rejuvenation, a new presidential administration, and coming into a new season, what can people do rejuvenation their perspective and life?

Gary Quinn First, you should figure out if the career that you are in is the career that feeds your passion. If not, you need to change it. Secondly, you should access and look for things that will cause you to grow. You also need to monitor your diet because what you are eating affects your mood and your thought processes. During this time of activating the new you, changing your diet, exercising, positive affirmations, finding something that inspires your soul that is removed from your work life, and accessing new learning opportunities will put you the track to rejuvenating your life.

FR: We are slowing coming out of this terrible health pandemic. What positive things can people take away from being isolated, shutdown, and not experiencing life as we once knew it?

Gary Quinn: This health pandemic has caused many of us to look within, simply because some of the quarantining has slowed some of our daily activities. And because of this slowing down of our lives, we now have the time to closely examine our lives and look at the things that make us happy. This shutdown has been a great opportunity to focus on change. We all must be willing to accept change. To grow, embracing change is necessary.

This pandemic put us in front or ourselves, and we can look in the mirror and figure out what is not working. We should release what is not working and embrace change. You should also make a daily list of things that are working and things that make your feel good.

FR: Because of this health pandemic, we will be experiencing a new normal. What might this new normal look like?

Gary Quinn: Our new normal is about people looking within to take inventory of what does work. The new normal will be about more efficiency, and not wasting time.

People have been waiting for something to bring them happiness, and during this health pandemic experience, the new normal is about encouraging ourselves and others to use empowerment tools. The new normal is also be about honoring other people more because we are all connected. And this health pandemic dramatically demonstrated that.

Images courtesy of VERY New York

FR: We are now in Women’s History month. What can everyone learn from women?

Gary Quinn: Women are the power of the future and men need to get more into their feminine side to learn mindfulness and compassion, attributes that some women naturally have. Most women are very in touch with their emotions which gives them the ability to be more compassionate. Women can run this country and right now we need compassionate leaders.

Women have helped my career enormously. In fact, my book deals where orchestrated by women in positions of power.

FR: What’s next for you?

Gary Quinn: My next book, “Be Your Business Guru,” which is coming out in the fall, is about how business folks can find their own path to happiness and success in their business. This book will come out in Italy and the rest of Europe in the fall and be released in the US in 2022.

William S. Gooch

For SUEDE There Was a Lot of Life to Live After “Project Runway”

Have you binged on fashion reality television shows since the COVID-19 health pandemic? If you have, you’ve probably wondered what has happened to many of the talented fashion designers from “Project Runway.” In the 18 seasons of “Project Runway,” only Christian Siriano has become a household name.

Still, there was a lot of fantastic design talent on the show. (Fashion Reverie is very familiar with several designers from “Project Runway.” Some of them are friends to the site.) Did most of the contestant leave the fashion industry, move to other countries, become reality television has-beens, or just quietly get jobs in the fashion industry without much fanfare?

The latter is true for most. And that is true for SUEDE (Stephen Whitney Baum) from season 5 and “Project Runway All-Stars.”

You may remember SUEDE for his witty comebacks, blue spiky hair, and avant-garde fashion creations. And if you do, that was the plan!! However, SUEDE is so much more than that.

In this revealing interview, SUEDE talks about his stint on “Project Runway,” the opportunities that opened up for him after “Project Runway,” his love of fashion, and his new passion.

Fashion Reverie: First, how did you get the name SUEDE?

SUEDE: I attended Kent State University, where I have a lifetime endowment. Back in the day when I was just a student, I was the only guy in one of my fashion classes. We had this project, which was a very challenging project, and everyone was on edge. So, to take some of the edge off I had every gather around the fabric bin and pick a fabric. Whatever fabric you picked, you had to be that fabric for the entire day. I choose suede and the name just stuck and it became my nickname all through college.

When I auditioned for “Project Runway,” I was trying to set myself apart from all the other potential contestants, so I resurrected my nickname from college for the show. I am so glad I did that because it separated me from other designers, and it helped with branding after the show.

FR: Was fashion always something you wanted to do?

SUEDE: When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor. I would get the Village Voice every week and look at all the apartment listings and dream about living in New York City.

Still, early in life, I was not tuned into a career in fashion. I applied to NYU to Tisch School of the Arts and my parents would not let me go to school in New York City at 17. I knew that I was creative, but I didn’t know what to do with my creativity. I knew that Kent State had a fashion program. I applied and got accepted. Even though, at the time, I wasn’t sure if a career in fashion was what I wanted, I excelled in all my classes, and over all Kent State was a great fit for me.

I moved to New York City soon after graduation and started working for Geoffrey Beene. I ended working with Alber Elbaz while at Geoffrey Beene.

FR: How would you describe your design aesthetic?

SUEDE: I believe I am very street savvy and edgy. However, when I design it is not about my personal taste, it is attempting to embody that brand. I worked for Jordache for five years, FUBU ladies, Rocawear, Polo jeans and a bunch of denim brands and working for those brands was a part of who I am because I love denim. Still, you must be able to put yourself in the consumer’s head.

FR: What brands have you worked for and in what capacity?

SUEDE: Polo jeans company, Lee jeans girls and junior division, and I worked for Geoffrey Beene on two separate occasions, Van Heusen on the sportwear side, Rocawear jeans, a lot of denim-based brands. This was in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Interestingly, that is what made being on “Project Runway” so challenging for me, is that because I had worked at these denim brands for so long and had not created or sewn a garment in some time. I was involved with merchandising and designing the denim collections and the actual production was done in some factory in another country.

When you are working for brands that are very consumer-based and mass-produced it is a huge challenge to incorporate embellishments and more advanced design aesthetics. For the most part those things don’t fit into the budget of mass-produced garments because you are making everything on a much larger scale.

FR: Everyone knows that you were on Season 5 of “Project Runway.” According to your bio, you dreamed about making friends with Tim Gunn and being on “Project Runway.” Is that true?

SUEDE: Yes, that is true. Prior to being on “Project Runway,” I was working at fashion brand that was racist and treated it’s African American and Latin workers very badly. I was having battles daily and I ended up leaving that job.

While I was in between jobs, I had a dream that Tim Gunn asked me to be on “Project Runway.” At the time I was living in Sullivan County, New York, and I decided I needed to work on my sewing skills if I was going to be a contestant on “Project Runway.” From scratch, I created this beautiful black dress which served as my audition garment for the show. And that garment got me pass the first “Project Runway” audition process.

FR:  What is your biggest takeaway from your appearance on Season 5 of “Project Runway”?

SUEDE: My participation on the show did open a lot of doors for me. That said; the fashion industry does not respond well to the talent on “Project Runway.” I was hoping that all these great fashion opportunities would come my way from the show. And that did happen to some extent.

However, what did happen from the show was the amount of notoriety that I got from appearing on “Project Runway.” I was quirky and spoke in the third person and that was a good sell for the show. And even though Obama was running for president and we were in a deep recession, people would stop me and ask me about fashion and my turn on “Project Runway.” Crazy, right?

“Project Runway” opened my eyes up to what it means to be a celebrity of some sorts and to be constantly identifiable and recognized. So, in a nutshell, “Project Runway” opened doors for me, making things easier and difficult all at once.

FR: What doors did “Project Runway” open for you?

SUEDE: I started making money by doing public appearances. You would be surprised the organizations, group, and people that will pay good money to have some one who has been on television show up at their event, party, etc.

Simplicity Patterns approached at an event, where I was making a public appearance, about working for them and making patterns and designing fabric for their company. Within a week, I had my first licensing deal with Simplicity Patterns.

FR: What was not so great about appearing on “Project Runway”?

SUEDE: I was not prepared for the hate and viciousness that was directed at me because of “Project Runway.” There was a certain drag artist that really came for me in the gay press in a series of interviews. Because I was under contract from Bravo at the time, I could not respond to this person’s venom and lack of respect.

FR: Apart from Christian Siriano, very few contestants from “Project Runway” have gone on to became household names. What is your take on that?

SUEDE: First, we are talking about two different things. We are talking about pop culture versus the fashion industry. The fashion industry is a very tight market. When you look at the fashion industry closely, the movers and shakers in the industry mostly concentrate on luxury or high-end fashion. 

Christian received a lot of support after his stint on “Project Runway” to get him to where he is now. Most of the contestants did not get that. Also, you should consider that “Project Runway” makes good television; however, good television is not the fashion industry. There is this trickle-down process in fashion and certain folks in the industry really decide who gets support and who makes it in this industry. “Project Runway,” even though there were very talented designers on the show, does not fit into that paradigm.

FR: What has your life been like after “Project Runway”?

SUEDE: My lifestyle brand SUEDEsays did very well after the show and the brand was in over 4,000 stores. I had mass brands that were buying my patterns and products and before my mom based away, we were trying to get a stronghold in the craft industry. That said; once you get into a particular market, it is very hard to go back into ready-to-wear fashion.

FR: What exactly was SUEDEsays as a brand?

SUEDE: SUEDEsays was fabrics that you could purchase to make clothing. We also produced patterns that was geared toward that home crafter. With every SUEDEsays package, I offered three patterned looks. We gave the consumer the ability to put fashion in their own hands.

Images courtesy of VERY New York

Re: You are currently selling real estate. Could you talk about that?

SUEDE:  I was recently recognized for having my real estate business increase over 2000 percent in 2019. Real estate is a great fit for me after my mom passed in 2017.  I become very depressed after my mother died. Within the two years after my mom died, I took and passed my real estate exams. And of the end of 2020, I passed the $4 million sale mark which is huge in Ohio.

FR: Are you still designing clothing?

SUEDE: I am working on a project with a company that is working on designs for the government. So, I am still working on fashion projects on the side, but it is very, very niche.

—William S. Gooch

 

 

Sy Smith’s “Perfect Love” Takes You to that Perfect Place

This is a time of deep reflection and acknowledgement of things accomplished and things not yet down. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to reconsider what is important to us and look at the things that really brings us joy and fulfillment.

In this time of reflection, music can take us back to a time that was joyful, peaceful, and loving. Particularly music that speaks to the heart, music that arouses in us that need to connect, that need to share, that need to love. Sy Smith’s music does just that!!

Known as the Queen of Underground, Sy Smith always infuses her music with lyrics that speak to the best in all of us, that love that passes all understanding, that love supreme. And with her new song, “Perfect Love,” in collaboration with Rachel Eckroth, Sy Smith speaks about a “Perfect Love,” a love that takes you to a place of euphoric peace and contentment.

Fashion Reverie was granted the privilege to speak to Sy Smith about her life, her endeavors, and her “Perfect Love.”

Fashion Reverie: What is your musical background?

Sy Smith: I started playing piano as a kid. And then I did the chorus thing, county and state choruses. After I finished high school, my mom let me play keyboards for an all-girl, go-go band. While I was at Howard University, I joined an acapella group called In Time.

I was exploring lots of musical genres and expressions. And it wasn’t until I came to Los Angeles and started singing background for whole lot of top musical artists did I begin to discover what my musical path would be.

FR: Who are your musical influences?

Sy Smith: Easily Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and for people who know my music, you can hear a lot of brass instrumental influences. Growing up I loved bands that had a strong horn section—Cameo, Earth, Wind and Fire. I was also influenced by Patrice Rushen.

FR: How would you describe your musical style?

Sy Smith: My musical style is all those things that kind of make up black music. Lyrically, I am a person who loves language and vernacular. If someone sits down and listens to my lyrics, you can tell that I am a writer at heart. And that might mean that my music is influenced by Toni Morrison or Octavia Butler, and any of the writers that I love.

FR: When I listen to your sound it is a fusion of many things, a musical hybrid. For me, your sound is reminiscent of Minnie Riperton.

Sy Smith: You are right, my musical style does harken back to some of the female singers of the late 1960s and early 70s that fused their music with a lot of different influences. I do try to remain true to myself because I also have a story to tell.

FR: Sy Smith, you have been described as the “Queen of Underground Soul. How did you acquire that moniker?

Sy Smith: About twelve years ago at a conference someone use that name to describe me. The person was referring to the fact that at the time I was one of the few musical artists that was doing everything myself—booking my own gigs, running my own label—and doing everything well. I was making a solid living from my music and didn’t need to have a day job.

Folks were kind of shocked that I could create underground music, make a living from it without a machine behind me. I was landing my videos on “BET Soul” without having a major financial backer. So, when I was called the “Queen of Underground Soul,” I felt like I could answer to that.

FR: How were you able to accomplish all the things that you’ve accomplished without major financial backing?

Sy Smith: A lot of times it’s about learning how to do a lot of things by yourself. I had to learn how to do graphic design and run my website 15 years ago when I didn’t have anyone or could afford anyone do those things for me. That said; I did have  people in my life that showed me how to do things.  I had to rely on my friends and use the resources around me.

FR: What was the genesis of “Perfect Love”?

Sy Smith: My friend Rachel Eckroth is a keyboarder and producer. We used to tour together. A few years back on the road she asked me to help her finish a song that she was writing. Things happened in both of our lives and we never got around to completing the writing of the song. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were in quarantine, so we went back to completing the song because there was really nothing else going on.

Anyway, I finished writing the lyrics at home and I recorded the vocals, thinking I was just completing a demo for Rachel. Rachel liked what I had done so much that she felt we should release the song. The next thing I knew, Rachel has the song remixed and mastered. So, we put the song out.

We released the song and then we decided to do a video. Rachel came up with the video concept, and I shot the video at home with my husband. Later Rachel found an animator. So, “Perfect Love” was basically art made during a time of quarantine.

FR: Why the title “Perfect Love”?

Sy Smith: The title came from the hook in the song. Rachel had penned that already, and I felt it was a great title. We could have chosen another title, but I felt “Perfect Love” is what the song is about.  It is about feeling that sensation that puts you in a perfect place, finding that love utopia in your heart.

Rachel Eckroth and Sy Smith

FR: How are you keeping busy during this COVID-19 pandemic with touring on hold?

Sy Smith: In this things-on-hold-time I am doing a lot of recording sessions at home. My husband and I have been recording old school variety shows.  We do them live on Facebook.

FR: You mean singing, dancing, acting, juggling?

Sy Smith: Yes. My husband is a classically trained musician and he sings a little bit. We have a couple of skits that we do, some pre-recorded skits that we will put in the show. My husband is also a filmmaker, so this fits right up his alley.  He is turning these Facebook variety shows into elaborate short films.

FR: Do you expect touring to pick up any time soon?

Sy Smith: Right now, I am speaking to you from the sound check at my show in Charlotte, NC. I have a three-night stint. They had done everything they can do to social distance the customers, reducing capacity drastically, and checking everyone’s temperature.

I have also been doing livestreams where people by tickets for those events. This is done from my house, using a platform called ‘Stages.’ That said; I don’t think we are going to see regular touring resume any time soon or until 2021.

 

 

FR: This is a fashion site, so I must ask you who are your favorite designers?

Sy Smith: Everyone who knows me knows I have a deep love relationship with Gucci. I really like the brand Hanifa and I what she is doing. I love the whole3-D virtual model thing that she is doing. Normally, I go into small boutiques and see what catches my eye.

FR: If you had a wish and could musically collaborate with someone dead or alive who would that be and why?

Sy Smith: I would to collaborate with Prince, particularly the last part of his career where he was getting back into some conscious writing where he was standing up for black people, especially black women.

I would love to get down with Quincy Jones, Greg Phillinganes, and Sting.

Images courtesy of 2R’s Entertainment & Media PR

FR: What’s next for you?

 Sy Smith: I haven’t been able to think about what is next because the COVID-19  pandemic forces you to live in the moment. There is no worry about the future right now. For so many artists right now the immediate is all about how the rent and other living expense are going to be met. My plans for recording in album have been put on the back burner.

I will say this, I have a meeting with an acting agent, so, I may get back into that. When I first arrived in Los Angeles, I did a lot of commercials and was on “Ally McBeal” a few times. All these skits that we are doing live on Facebook has stimulated the acting bug. Despite the pandemic, I am keeping busy and pursuing life and love!!

—William S. Gooch

Danny Santiago and Carol Cutshall Bring Their Exquisite Styling Skills to “Filthy Rich”

Carol Cutshall and Danny Santiago

Can wealth, be tainted, almost filthy? Well, it will be in Fox’s new television series, “Filthy Rich.”

Coming September 21, “Filthy Rich,” starring Kim Cattrall and Gerald McRane,y spins an elaborate tale of wealth, faith, and fashion all rolled into one. McRaney plays Eugene Monreaux, a mega-rich TV minister who owns a Christian TV network, and Cattrall plays Margaret Monreaux, his Oprah-like southern belle wife. The show focuses on the death of McRaney’s character  and the drama of Monreaux’s estate, as he wrote three illegitimate children in his will.

“Filthy Rich” was created by Tate Taylor, the acclaimed director behind “The Help,” “Get on Up,” and “The Girl on the Train.” A show about money and power is not complete without a great wardrobe.

 Noted costume designer Carol Cutshall was employed to bring a distinct fashion sense—with the exception of lead Kim Cattrall, who had her own fashion team—to the characters on “Filthy Rich.” Cutshall is no stranger to the world of costume design having worked on six seasons of The WB’s hit TV series “One Tree Hill.”

Carol Cutshall spoke with Fashion Reverie about how she managed to bring style to Filthy Rich.

Fashion Reverie: Was this your first project you worked on in New Orleans?

Carol Cutshall: I’ve done a few projects in New Orleans, but this was the first thing I’ve done here that wasn’t an independent film. For the first time, I got to work on a television series in New Orleans.

FR: How did you get involved with the project?

Carol Cutshall: I got a call from my agent that Tate Taylor wanted to speak with me, and that was the moment. I said, ‘I would love to work with Tate Taylor.’ At the time, the network had already shot the pilot, so I came to work from the second episode on. It was an amazing coincidence that I am based in New Orleans. I was in between jobs, and I had nothing slated.

Both Tate, I, and the show’s premise are southern. Tate was familiar my work. We have a lot of people we really admire in common.

FR: What’s it like creating looks for characters of such various socioeconomic backgrounds?

Carol Cutshall: For the three children outside of the marriage, you have an MMA fighter, a Pacific Northwest guy who’s a little indie rock, and you have a Vegas webcam business owner, and you have to bring them into the southern world of khakis, chinos, and seersucker. The southern world is preppy. It’s a world of Brooks Brothers, white bucks, and country clubs.

You see very little denim in that world. You also see no animal print in this world, until Ginger from Las Vegas walks in. Imagine the three children walking into a country club. I had to set up a real tone for the whole of the show so when these outsiders walked in the audience felt it. I had to edit fabrics and color palettes we weren’t going to use with the southern characters versus the other characters.

FR: How did you create the characters looks post-pilot?

Carol Cutshall: I went and looked at these characters and put in dynamic tension when they all come together in a room. There are so many different characters coming from different places into this wealthy southern environment.

There’s the character Ginger, one of the daughters outside of the marriage, who’s coming from Vegas, and she runs a webcam girl business. She was a perfect mix of all things Vegas. She is tenor meets baroque and venetian casino. There are characters you think would be so diametrically opposed that somehow came together.

FR: What references did you use for character inspiration?

Carol Cutshall: I looked at issues of Garden & Gun and Town & Country magazines. For the legitimate son, Eric, I looked for a lot of incredible southern designers that would be youthful and have slim-cut silhouettes. I used a lot of Billy Reid on him. I used this suiting brand, Strong Suit, which is an incredible brand out of Arkansas. They have incredible blazers and suits. I also used a lot of Theory suits for Eric, along with Theory polos paired with Bonobos chinos. I did use a little bit of J. Crew. There was a lot of Club Monaco. When you see him at the family country house, he’s wearing plaid flannels from Billy Reid and L.L. Bean duck boots. Eric’s look had to have the look of someone that had an Ivy League education: casual with the “Dead Poets Society” vibe.

I was really invested in dressing the character Ginger, but I also loved dressing the character Rose, the legitimate daughter. She’s such a pivotal and rich character. You sense that Rose is not really with her people. She’s creative and a free spirit. She’s a fashion designer. I modeled her after Jane Aldridge, the fashion blogger well known for her blog Sea of Shoes. Aldridge is known for mixing her mom’s old designer clothes with thrift store finds and new stuff she shopped. Aldridge’s style was a huge inspiration for the character of Rose. A lot of times I would find a piece that might’ve been nice, but it wasn’t quite there. Luckily, here in New Orleans we have this amazing couture fabric store called Promenade Fine Fabrics. If I found a pencil skirt, I would take it there and have incredible French laces put on it.

 I created a lot of pieces for Rose that were custom. One of my favorite looks on Rose is a vintage white blouse with crystals on the collar, paired with overalls, and a big old Chanel overcoat that looks like it came from her mother.

FR: Let’s talk more about how your sourced clothing.

Carol Cutshall: I literally looked everywhere! I shopped for clothes, I got custom clothes, I went thrift shopping. It’s important to show viewers you can get incredible looks and it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. Sometimes, I got so many incredible things from consignment stores.

One of the things that was limiting was the color palettes that are current. Trends can also make it look like everything is cut from the same cloth. When you go shop at a consignment store that opens up your color palette options.

FR: Who was your favorite character to dress?

Carol Cutshall: I could say absolutely any one of them, but I will say Ginger and Rose were fun to dress. The actresses were so fun to work with and the characters in the script were delightful. When Aubrey Dollar, who plays Rose, and Melia Kreiling, who plays Ginger, would come in for a fitting, we had so much fun.

I also really loved dressing Franklin, who was the character of Margaret’s attorney. He wore a lot of Brooks Brothers, Zegna, and Billy Reid suits. He had all the fashion details of being an HBCU graduate. The details for his fashion were meticulous down to the pocket squares and his ties. When you look at all his fashion layers, he was the character who could wear a windowpane double-breasted suit, a striped shirt, medallion print tie and floral pocket square. He always looked like someone who had the answer.

Danny Santiago has spent over two decades as one of the most highly respected stylists in the fashion industry. His work has appeared in Vogue Italia, Vogue Russia, Vogue Spain, Vogue Mexico, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, W, and other publications. He’s costumed the television show Burn Notice, and has costumed films Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sex and the City, and Sex and the City 2.

 Santiago found his way into the film industry via famed stylist and costume designer/designer Patricia Field. His past experiences working with Golden Globe-winning actress Kim Cattrall brought him onto her new project “Filthy Rich.” Santiago spoke with Fashion Reverie about how he created a glamorous wardrobe for a character for which money was no object

FR: What’s your background in the fashion industry?

Danny Santiago: I started in the fashion industry doing photoshoots for fashion and lifestyle magazines. I was brought into television and film by Patricia Field. Pat and I had known each other for a few years. I knew her from her store she had had on Bowery. We ended up working on a few print jobs together, and she always told me I’d be great for costuming television and film. She got a call for a job that was in Miami and I was lucky to be in Miami at the time, so she referred me.

FR: How did you become part of Kim Cattrall’s fashion team?

Danny Santiago: I knew Kim from working on the “Sex and the City” films. Pat was the one who started working with her on “Filthy Rich.” Pat came up with the overall look for Kim, and then handed over costuming duties to me because Pat went to work on another project.

FR: What was your reaction when you learned about Kim’s involvement with this project?

Danny Santiago: I thought it was a great project for Kim. I think she’s perfect for the role. It’s a very interesting story. Kim has a great sense of the role and her character, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to work with her on this project. Her character is very over the top, so there’s a lot of room to play with fashion.

FR: What type of references did you use to create the wardrobe for Kim’s character?

Danny Santiago: One of the things we talked about and something we wanted to have throughout the wardrobe was a sense of luxury. We worked with certain fabrics and textures that would typically be more fit for eveningwear, like metallics and sequins, but with a special tailoring we were able to transition these fabrications to daytime looks. It was day looks with a glamorous luxury evening feel. Bold jewelry would also come into play. It really gave her character a truly unique look for the show.

FR: Were there any brands that you sourced for the series?

Danny Santiago: Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Badgley Mischka, Tom Ford, Michael Kors, Akris, and other luxury brands on that level. We also focused on pieces with beautiful tailoring and suiting.

FR: What was your favorite look?

Danny Santiago: I found this beautiful vintage fur. It was a one-of-a-kind piece and it had this netting that made these beautiful unique stripes. It was one of the more special pieces worn by Kim in the series. I got it from a rental house in Los Angeles called Replica Vintage. It’s a showroom in Los Angeles with a lot of designer and one-of-a-kind pieces.

FR: Kim plays this wealthy Southern belle. How would you describe the quintessential rich Southern Belle look?

Danny Santiago: I don’t feel like her character has the quintessential Southern belle look. It’s not just a Southern look. She is very regal in what she wears. She has all this control. She runs the family. She has such a voice with the show and everything that she has.

FR: How were you able to dress Kim’s character to contrast with some of the other characters?

Danny Santiago: We kept the color palettes very different with what we were working with. We tended to use colors that weren’t being used so much on other characters. That’s where the metallics, silks, and satins also came into play because we had to separate her from the rest of the characters on the show.

FR: The billionaire’s wives look is one-of-a-kind and not easy to create. What challenges were there in dressing a character who had to look filthy rich?

Danny Santiago: The challenges were more in how we built her costumes. I was between New York and Florida while Kim was in Louisiana. I worked remotely with putting all the outfits together. I would do my outfit look combinations, photograph everything on my phone, then send it to the costuming department in New Orleans. Then, Kim would have her fittings which I was there for remotely. This was before that was this “new normal,” now everyone is working this way due to COVID-19 pandemic.

All images courtesy of FOXFR: How did costuming Kim Cattrall’s character Margaret compare to costuming her iconic character on “Sex and the City”?

Danny Santiago: Margaret is more conservative than Samantha. There are still beautiful silhouettes that have a sexiness to it, but in “Sex and the City” Kim was sexier. Samantha wore more lowcut dresses, clothing was more fitted, skirts were shorter and had higher slits. With Margaret, she is more elegant and there was more focus on the silhouette of clothing rather than exposing the skin.

Filthy Rich will premiere on Monday, September 21 at 9/8c on FOX. The show stars Kim Cattrall, Gerald McRaney, Aubrey Dollar, Corey Cott, Benjamin Levy, Mark L. Young, Melia Kreiling, Steve Harris, Aaron Lazar, and Olivia Macklin.

—Kristopher Fraser

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