In case you missed its relentless promotion, “Zoolander 2” is upon us. (Release date: Feb. 12.) Despite the plotline, in the 15 years since the first movie, Derek Zoolander and crew have earned more fashion cred with the real industry even as they mock us. Which begs the question: What are they wearing?
The film’s costume designer, Leesa Evans, has a thing for making comedy stylish. Her film credits include “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him to the Greek,” “Bridesmaids” and “22 Jump Street.” She is also a celebrity stylist — Amy Schumer is a client. Here, Evans talks with WWD about taking fashion seriously on set.
WWD: What purpose does the fashion serve in the movie? Is it all a joke?
Leesa Evans: When the first movie was made, it was this sweet and simple concept from a sketch that Ben had been developing. They didn’t know people were going to love it so much. In the second film, I wanted to stay true to the lovable aspects of the characters from the first film, but I wanted to play with all the parts of fashion that I love. I wanted to showcase the artistry and embrace the idea that editorial and runway and couture aren’t always worn on the street, but what if they were? The idea was that 50 percent of the film was couture fashion that would look at beauty and the art form and 50 percent would just be comedy.
WWD: What designers did you work with?
L.E.: Having Valentino’s design offices in Rome was a huge advantage because we shot the entire film there. Maria Grazia [Chiuri] and Pierpaolo [Piccioli] were wonderful collaborators. Also, Italian designers such as Ennio Capasa from Costume National, Giuseppe Zanotti. The French designers: Saint Laurent and Balmain, Kenzo, Opening Ceremony. We had such a great relationship with high-level designers. Things that they maybe never showcase in their own collections, we would take a version and make it “Zoolander.”
WWD: Did you work with pieces from actual collections or custom pieces?
L.E.: A mix. We would use samples and we would use different ideas from different collections and make them in our own Zoolander shapes and styles. Owen Wilson’s character Hansel is meant to have traveled all over the world and picked up all these fashion-oriented pieces from everywhere he’s ever been. We used a lot of Dries Van Noten and Haider Ackermann. It felt like we were trying to incorporate everything and anything that has been in the world of fashion for the last however many decades.
WWD: Are the characters wearing designer clothes throughout?
L.E.: They’re wearing a lot of designer clothes, and they’re wearing a lot of ghost designer clothes, which is me as a ghost designer. For example, Kristen Wiig’s character wears clothes that are partially Zac Posen gowns that we’ve elaborated on. Then she has a lot of her own collection, which are pieces that I’ve designed.
WWD: Fashion is prime for parody, otherwise this movie wouldn’t exist. Tell me about some of the things that were real but made good punch lines.
L.E.: You can look at a collection and see the whimsy and the pushing of the envelope for what might be considered street style. On the runway or in editorial and it’s just outrageous. What if we took these outrageous clothes and made them our regular clothes? That means a dress that’s too big to ever fit through a door or something that you could never sit down in. And in its outrageousness it’s kind of beautiful as an art form.
WWD: It seems like Benedict Cumberbatch’s character is drawn from the gender fluid thing that’s going on right now.
L.E.: Totally. We just said it could be anything and let’s not worry about what the reality is, let’s just go for something that’s utter fantasy. We tried not to conform to if men wore clothes that were distinctly feminine and women wore clothes that were distinctly masculine. That was irrelevant. It was what was the best piece for that scene. His character’s name is All, so it felt like we were just trying to incorporate anything and everything of all time. That’s the general concept.
WWD: There are a lot of celebrity cameos. Did you dress all of them?
L.E.: We basically outfitted everyone in the film because there are such specific things about the costumes that everybody needed something special to wear for the film. Definitely in the case of fashion designers, I really wanted them to wear something that was their own design. It was a real collaboration of what would be their own design that would be right for the scene.
WWD: Did you have a favorite look or character?
L.E.: Kristen Wiig’s character was in some ways the most fun because a lot of things she wore were outrageous. But each character for different reasons speaks to some part of fashion that I love. I love the idea that you find something that you love in every culture and country you go to and incorporate it into your style. That’s why I love Hansel.
WWD: Any funny moments about the actors’ reactions to their character?
L.E.: I don’t know if this is still in the film, but there’s a character that’s supposed to be one of the top fashion designers and the whole idea for what he believes fashion to be is anything that isn’t fashion. He just picks random things off the street and says, “Now that’s fashion.” We were like, “Can we really make chopsticks into fashion?” There were all these ideas we threw out: Can this ice cube be fashion? How would we do that?
WWD: Who was it based on?
L.E.: It wasn’t based on anyone in particular but it was based on so many people. Kyle Mooney plays this character who is the fashion designer of the moment.
[Editor’s note: Wild guess — Jeremy Scott.]