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If it seems as if the current culture couldn’t conjure a greater ‘70s fashion moment (thank you, Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane) or more ‘70s rock nostalgia with the recent deaths of David Bowie and Glenn Frey, wait until you get a load of HBO’s drama series Vinyl, premiering Feb. 14.
It’s got the ultimate period-detail cred, executive-produced by Martin Scorsese (who also directed the pilot), Mick Jagger, showrunner Terence Winter (who was a CBGB patron in his teens), Jagger’s longtime producing partner Victoria Pearman (Get On Up) and Scorsese colleague Emma Tillinger Koskoff – along with industry vets Rick Yorn, John Melfi, Allen Coulter and George Mastras. With this team, you know the costumes worn by Bobby Cannavale as record exec Richie Finestra, Olivia Wilde as his wife Devon, Ray Romano as a sleazy exec, Juno Temple as an aspiring ambitious A & R girl – and James Jagger (yes, one of Mick’s many offspring) as a Richard Hell-type rock star – are going to be a veritable rock feast for the eyes. “Few people know this,” says Tillinger Koskoff, “but Marty is very passionate – and particular – about fashion. His parents worked in the Garment District and instilled him with fashion fascination at a very young age. I think the importance he puts on costume is especially felt in this series. Luckily for us, that influence has generated a look and feel so spectacularly genuine. Our series costume design John Dunn is incredibly meticulous – and I think, in the two weeks he had to produce the myriad costumes for each episode – made true artistry.”
Dunn’s sketch, drawn exclusively for THR, of Wilde’s character in? a backless Halston-inspired dress, which she wears “when she’s helping Richie sign a Sly Stone sort of artist, so she’s going glam.”
After the pilot’s costumes were designed by Oscar nominated film costume designer Mark Bridges, Dunn – who cut his teeth with Scorsese on New York Stories, Casino and Boardwalk Empire – came in to do the series, with Vinyl being a horse of many many difference colors: “Unlike Boardwalk,” he describes, “we could get a hold of actual clothing through vintage dealers and not have it disintegrate in our hands!”
While many authentic ‘70s pieces were used, Dunn and his team designed most of the costumes for the principals, referencing high-fashion labels of the time like Halston, Stephen Burrows, and Biba and Thea Porter from the U.K. They also worked with a variety of high end vintage stores like Decades in L.A. Says Terence Winter: “If you stop and freeze-frame, you’ll see what a stickler for detail John is. He’s like a fashion historian.” Dunn does confess to one shortcut: “When we had time sensitivities, ‘70s styles from Topshop and Uniqlo were lifesavers in a pinch!”
Susan Heyward as Richie Finestra’s assistant.?
Of course, NYC 1973 was the zenith of cool — a mashup of glam rock, punk and disco. “I think Marty, Terry and Mick picked it because it was the birth of a new culture,” says Dunn. “Max’s Kansas City was at its height: Andy Warhol’s crowd, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, Bowie, Robert Mapplethorpe, Alice Cooper hung out there, and it’s extremely well documented.” Scorsese maintains that people related to clothing differently back then with “all these different uniforms: the mod double-knit stuff worn by Richie and his friends; the glam kids with the sequins, spangles and feather boas; the dressed- down look of the punks; the mob guys with the silk suits — all these approaches to life crisscrossing. With Vinyl, I was going back and looking at a period that I had lived through. Of course I had memories – but when making the picture I left like an archeologist, because that world is as gone as the New York of The Age of Innocence. Getting back to that feeling of the city in the early seventies was like performing an excavation. The brilliant costumes helped give us the world of 1973.” Pearman adds, “The fashion authenticity is particularly fascinating as it is so well documented. Growing up in the UK, my fashion icons were Ossie Clark and Biba – very much the look of Vinyl.”
Cannavale “makes leisure suits look good,” laughs Winter. In the ’70s, “it was all about polyester,” says Dunn. “Some of it is bad, horrible stuff.”?
One would think Jagger, who signed off on final looks (“we would see all the costumes before they went on camera to critique and adjust if necessary,” says Pearman), would have weighed in on fashion specifics, but Dunn laughs: “I kept asking him, ‘Is this right?’ And he joked, ‘Don’t ask me. I don’t remember any of that!’ But he was like Zelig: There was barely a research photo — from New York or London — that didn’t have Mick Jagger in it.” Jagger demurs: “As far as the clothes, of course I did live it and knew lots of the players of the times. Lots of the execs would dress according to the artists they represented.”
To convey aspirations of cool among the younger record execs, Dunn relied on New York vintage store Cherry for its “most extraordinary collection of platform shoes. They were the hardest thing to find, the gold standard, since they were only in fashion for two years.” Dunn decked out Cannavale in Savile Row wool suits and leather jackets: “Richie’s at the top of his game, and he has to operate with gangster types and rock stars like Robert Plant, who don’t trust ‘a suit.’ It was also a time of major polyester. Some of it bad horrible stuff. Cherry had a lot of that. We ever coordinated belt buckles with the shoes because that’s what trying-to-be-cool executives in music did back then.” While Cannavale’s character doesn’t wear a ton of polyester, he did don a little – “and I told him he’s the rare guy who can make polyester look good,” says Winter. “He grimaced – but he didn’t disagree.”
Wilde in a ’70s maxidress. Dunn says the women on the show couldn’t wear bras as it was a “burn your bra” era.
Dunn describes Wilde’s character Devon as “a New York artist who finds herself in Connecticut with a kid. In her heart, she’s bohemian. So we reference Patti Smith in her Chelsea Hotel period, but also Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo.”
Seventies nostalgia isn’t likely to go away anytime soon (Dunn says the show hoarded its costumes to maintain distinctiveness: “We had to fight the new Baz Luhrmann show and some cop shows for resources!”). After all, it’s one of the last decades of fashion that was flamboyant, rebellious, individual and optimistic. “If it’s fun for those of us who remember it,” says the costumer, “imagine what it’s like for young people who don’t and who weren’t even around for the countless revivals. My young staff is just bedazzled by it.”
This story first appeared in the Feb. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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