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“When we first started out, it was like anarchy,” says costume designer Erin Hirsh with a laugh as she recalled getting organized for The Voice‘s first season in 2011. “We didn’t have a home for anything, especially in my department. The first season we would literally have to shuttle all our contestants’ wardrobe to the stage.”
Nine seasons and a couple of hotel rooms used as dressing rooms later, Hirsh says with a smile and sigh of relief, “We’ve come a long way.” Now, The Voice‘s closet space includes two sizable rooms that are covered with racks of clothes, shoes and accessories. Hirsh even has her own spacious office. There you can find a rack of men’s clothing for judge Blake Shelton; mood boards; copies of Vogue‘s October and November issues starring Lupita Nyong’o and Angelina Jolie, respectively, on her desk; and a vintage framed photo of her grandmother hung on the wall.
“She was a model and a textile designer in the ‘30s in New York, and just had a love of fashion,” Hirsh describes of her grandma, Frances. “I just absorbed that.”
Though Hirsh’s professional background was in dance, it was her conversations with her grandmother about performance costumes that made her realize her other passion: designing clothes. “I just always found that I perked up whenever it came to that element,” she shares.
Fast forward to today, Hirsh has found success in becoming a costume designer and stylist — she’s designed onstage outfits for some of music’s biggest names including Kanye West, Rihanna and Janelle Monae, and has earned two Emmy nominations for her work on The Voice.
With the NBC show broadcasting every Monday and Tuesday when it’s on the air, it doesn’t leave much time for Hirsh to create looks for her contestants. “We get our creative brief Wednesday, shop it Thursday, fit on Friday and then we’re in dress rehearsals on Saturday and Sunday,” says the Los Angeles native. “It’s fast and furious.”
By now, however, Hirsh and her team have become pros at quickly prepping onstage outfits for each season’s contestants. Before she starts dressing them for their first live performances, she sends them a one-page style sheet that asks their fashion and music inspiration.
Since she doesn’t get much time to custom design the ensembles — many coming from Topshop, Zara, Nasty Gal, ASOS and Wasteland for the ladies, and Traffic for the guys — Hirsh prefers to add her own spin to each piece with embellishments such as adding sequins to the shoulder pads or adding a leather lapel to a blazer.
“I’m always looking for trim and adornment to make a store-bought piece pop,” she says. “What I like to do because of our fast turnaround is take a piece and embellish it, elevate it for stage. Anything that we can add is always a plus.”
While the process for dressing the men and women are similar, Hirsh shares that there are some differences. “With men, it’s really about impeccable tailoring. Every hem, break in the pant — it’s all very thought out,” says the costume designer. “With women, I think it’s more about the flash and the bang.”
As season nine ends with Tuesday night’s two-hour live finale, Hirsh points to why she thinks the show has found much success: “Our production value, which I think is really high, and I think there’s a positive element that I think people are tuning in for. You’re rooting for them. No one is knocking anybody down.”
The Voice‘s season-nine winner will be announced tonight during the two-hour live finale on NBC at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Click the photo above to see more of The Voice‘s wardrobe room.
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