How 'True Blood,' 'Mad Men,' 'Revenge' Costume Designers Navigate MAGIC Market Week
The creative clothing geniuses of "American Idol," "Revenge" and "King of the Nerds" also weigh in on creating complex characters with eclectic wardrobes.
MAGIC Market Week is big business for international buyers, vendors and, most recently, bloggers. It's where everyone from celebrity moguls to undiscovered breakouts go to present their collections to retailers — usually with flashy displays like concerts, swag and even live-painting or acrobatics (remember when Desigual introduced their collection with Cirque du Soleil?).
But what is it like to attend the conference as a costume designer? Ahead of their Sourcing @ MAGIC panel discussion on Wednesday at 1 p.m., five famed costume designers reveal their strategies for navigating the Las Vegas fashion trade show, and what works best for their beloved silver-screen characters.
"I'm actually going to be there this year very briefly, so I'm going to seek out new brands that interest me and create new relationships, and make a point to stop by certain designers I currently have relationships with, just to show support for their brand, say hi and see what's new for them this season," said Melanie Leftick, American Idol's celebrity wardrobe stylist, naming jewelry designer Melody Ehsani as a MAGIC favorite. This year, she's on the lookout for crop tops and high-waisted skirts.
"You see a lot of repetition — I'm not going to stop at every booth that looks like everything else," she warned first-time attendees. "Anything with mixed materials, cool fabrics, something that just really catches my eye and makes me want to go there."
Attending the trade show for the first time is Revenge's costume designer, Jill Ohanneson. "I just want to walk around and absorb it," looking out for dresses, menswear and plus-size looks. She plans to stop by Alice & Olivia, Michael Kors, Vince, Alexander Wang, among others.
She added, "I'm very interested in graphic prints — there are some that I can't use on television, but a lot of things that are happening now, I can. We're not really a floral or ruffle-y show! I like strong colors, architectural shapes in dresses and coats. We're moving into fall on our show, so it's always difficult for me to see what's happening far into the future, and work it into our show. The most important thing is that it feels like the Hamptons and it works for my characters."
Also making her inaugural trek to the Vegas fashion trade show is Mad Men's costume designer, Janie Bryant. "MAGIC didn't really pertain to my work as the costume designer of the show, but also, I'm breaking off and building my own brand, so this is an exciting time for me," she said. She is launching a shaping legwear line in the fall, designing a line of socks with Mack Weldon and exploring new categories as well. "I'll be there for three days to explore the manufacturing side. I'm really excited to see everything."
Audrey Fisher, True Blood's costume designer, will be keeping her eye out for "vampire wear and small-town Louisiana wear — I don't have a lot of time, so I'm going to have to be ninja about it," she said, as she'll see longtime vendors she's pulled from before (Copperpeace and Alchemy are a couple of favorites) and watch out for what's new. She's especially looking for cool, computerized cuts of leather. "There's a major moto trend that's coming up, so I'm hoping I can fit that into the story somehow."
Yet Fisher can't actually be on the lookout for one-of-a-kind pieces. "I have to have many multiples of each outfit, so sometimes it's hard for me to work with younger or newer designers because they might have only made one or two pieces of a certain jacket, and I usually need four to six of the same jacket for one character. I try to find interesting young vendors and work with them."
Robin Gurney, costume designer of TBS' King of the Nerds and previously of The Price Is Right, welcomes the navigation challenge.
"It's like a kid in a candy store — everything's beautiful and I want to take it all home! And it keeps getting bigger, which is even more challenging," she said, but noted that she stays in "character-shopping mode" to find pieces that fit into a signature look. The best section to find standout pieces? "I find a lot of cool things in the accessories area — full chain-mail outfits, belts and leather goods that are just accessorized with odd objects, sometimes even found objects. Hats with animal skulls on them!"
For the currently airing season of King of the Nerds, Gurney found herself making custom Tron-like track suits with continuous pieces of electro luminescent wire — "We had one guy who had trouble keeping his lights on, and would have to replace the batteries and hide them again," she said of its only wardrobe malfunction — but still holds onto her longtime experience attending the trade show.
"I used MAGIC for the years when I was dressing the Price Is Right models — all the glamorous dresses you would see on the girls were sponsored by designers," she said, noting that she approached them at the show and discussed the opportunity to feature their clothes on television. "Everybody is there, so it's easier than running around town and trying to catch everyone. I would go through and keep an eye out for things that would specifically look great on those girls, in that set, in that environment, for the image that I had created for them."