'Zoolander 2' Costume Designer on Mixing Humor and High Fashion

Zoolander Costume Designer - H 2015
AP Images; Courtesy Leesa Evans

Zoolander Costume Designer - H 2015

Leesa Evans, who's working on the 'Zoolander' sequel, shares how she keeps Derek and Hansel looking walk-off ready.

As if the fact that the second installment of Zoolander is underway wasn’t enough to get you shouting, "It’s a walk off!" with excitement, the film’s stars, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson hit the runway as their male supermodel characters at the Valentino show during Paris Fashion Week, gliding down the runway with Blue Steel seriousness and bringing some welcome humor to the high-end event.

Besides the endless funny fashion references and impressive industry cameos, Zoolander is equally beloved for its costumes (which were originally designed by David C. Robinson) — a wonderfully whimsical mix of club wear and riffs on designer couture.

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Costume designer Leesa Evans (Bridesmaids, I Love You Man, Get Him to the Greek and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) is the talent creating the looks for Zoolander 2, bringing her skills for seamlessly blending fashion and humor, to the hotly anticipated film (which hits theaters on Feb. 12 2016).

We chatted with Evans, who is currently shooting the movie in Rome, to get the sartorial scoop on her inspiration for the costumes, which brands are being used in the film and how she feels about street style "peacocks" and bloggers who wear outlandish ensembles we’re sure Mugatu would approve of. Derelicte anyone?

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Pret-a-Reporter: Fashion is no doubt a huge part of this movie. Are there certain designers or labels you’ve looked to for inspiration?

Lessa Evans: I am heavily influenced by fashion and film collaborations on every level. My favorite part of this film is working with the designers and labels to really incorporate fashion in the film, because they create pieces that we can’t really do any better. We are looking at things as either gorgeous couture or hilarious and thought provoking, and creating our own fashion within the film. The whole thing is just a huge dream come true for me, like going to the Valentino atelier in Rome. Every fantasy I’ve ever had of seeing behind the scenes of a designer's work, is being fulfilled.

To what degree is humor a part of the costumes?

The movie is a comedy and fashion is a character in the film. That’s what was so brilliant about the first movie, they played with the fashion. It’s different this time, because we are celebrating couture and runway looks maybe a little bit more, because there is so much about fashion that is so beautiful and so much that is so provocative. It’s also healthy to have a bit of a laugh at ourselves.

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Are designers very open to the idea of working together since the first film was such a hit, particularly within the fashion community?

We’ve had a lot of great collaborations, so yes, we probably have more fashion in this film, because people have been really interested to get involved. We have great designers on every level, whether it’s Saint Laurent, Kenzo or Opening Ceremony, they’re all excited to be involved.

Are all of the street style stars that have emerged since the first film a source of inspiration for you?

There is a real surge of people being complete and total individuals, which I so appreciate. I feel happy for them that they feel so confident to go out there and do it and make a name for themselves based on their style. I am influenced by that — by a sense that not everything has to be status quo. That we can have fun with fashion and anything goes now. It’s a big part of what we’re doing in the film now, trying to give people a real sense of the fun that comes with fashion. We can be outrageous, then subdued — and the next day, wear ball gowns. It’s part of the playful nature of this film.

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Do you hope the film will spawn any fashion trends? Do you feel pressure due to the fact that the first movie was such a huge hit?

I definitely, definitely want so much for people to love the film and laugh as hard as they did in the first movie. It’s not pressure, but it’s excitement to rise to the occasion to make it something great.

The main thing I really want to do is support the film and make it as memorable as possible and if for some reason people get inspired by the wild fabrics and styles I’ve created, I’d be honored. The thing is that the sky’s the limit. The worst thing we could do is not have fun with it.

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I am also so lucky to work with actors that are so up for it like Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller. Ben is so fun to talk about fashion with because he’s always amazed by what’s real. It’s a fun education for him and for everyone.

We’re working with everything that made us sigh because it’s so beautiful or laughing about fashion. Combined, it makes this special visual experience. You might not ever see these designers all in one place, but in Zoolander you will. I hope that like 50 percent of the people will say, "That is gorgeous!" and the other 50 will say, "That is hilarious!" then I’ll feel like I really did my job.