Make room, Hollywood stylists: costume designers are poised to be the next influencers.
Mesh tops, strappy dresses and lace-up-the-leg sandals are just a few fashion trends spawned by HBO’s hit series “Euphoria,” which generated its own #EuphoriaHigh TikTok challenge when season two premiered in January.
Costume designer Heidi Bivens’ looks have also reverberated on the runways, with Paris-based brand Coperni drawing direct inspiration from the show for its high school-themed fall 2022 collection, down to the student lockers as part of the production.
“They represent a new guard — and to think that an American show could have that kind of larger world impact is exciting. The language of fashion can travel,” said Bivens, a former staffer at WWD, who is publishing a book with A24 about the costumes of “Euphoria” later this year, including an interview with Coperni designers Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant.
“Euphoria” has changed the game for Hollywood and fashion with its diverse group of social media-savvy Gen Z stars racking up luxury partnerships with Coach, Valentino, Thom Browne and more, brands lining up to provide clothing for characters to wear on-screen, and to collaborate on merchandise inspired by the show.
Hunter Schafer’s spring 2022 Prada campaign generated $3.4 million in media impact value, which is comparable to a fashion week runway show, according to Michael Jais, chief executive officer of Launchmetrics. And Angus Cloud had the top social media post of New York Fashion Week, at Coach, generating $914,000.
Part of their real-world fashion success is Bivens’ character-building using her own designs, vintage and current pieces from brands like House of CB, Akna, Prada and Coperni.
“People will send me street-style shots, or…if they see scantily clad teens, they’ll tell me it’s my fault,” she laughed. “But, honestly, that stuff was already going on. I just tapped into it. And then I had a platform to put it on television, where often a lot of the time, especially on networks, there was more of a commercial look.”
The success of the show’s costumes “has everything to do with timing, the onset of social media and me being able to reference that as a resource for inspiration. If anything, I’d like to believe that the show inspired people to take more chances with their style,” she said.
Bivens has her pick of brands now, but that wasn’t the case before the show came out. “To call in runway pieces for fittings for a television show or even a film at the time was a novelty,” she said, explaining that more than one brand rep seemed to “find her email in spam,” after the series became an overnight success.
“But it was the way that I approached contemporary costuming because of coming from editorial. And often I would be working on projects that didn’t have huge budgets, so that would be my first step. Before I even started buying stuff, I was like, ‘OK, what’s going on in fashion, and which brands would these characters gravitate toward?'”
Next up, Bivens is designing a collection of avatar clothing for Genies Studio, as well as directing the first four episodes of the upcoming animated fairy series of “Gossamer,” based on the novel of the same name by Lois Lowry.
“I can remember ages ago I worked on a film where I brokered a deal with a clothing brand and I never saw one cent.…But the times are changing and there is this great opportunity for studios and producers to start to see costume designers as larger creative partners, and not just people who put cool clothes on people,” said Bivens, pointing to costume designer Lou Eyrich’s rise to producer on Ryan Murphy’s projects as a new paradigm.
Of course, it’s not only “Euphoria” that’s had recent fashion resonance — “Gossip Girl,” “Emily in Paris,” “Stranger Things” and “Bridgerton” have also sent online searches skyrocketing for berets, rompers, ’80s fashion, corsets, hair bows and long gloves.
“I managed to create the Regency period in a way that was alluring to a modern audience, and they hadn’t seen it and wanted to try it. It became the largest audience for a project I have ever worked on and they wanted everything. It was constant from the day it aired, I still get notes,” said costume designer Ellen Mirojnick of creating the romantic, escapist look of “Bridgerton,” which swept up viewers in the darkest days of the pandemic, in late 2020.
“The categories merge now,” said Mirojnick of costume and fashion. “Where I think in the past, there’s been more of a specific categorization.”
She sees the intimacy of bigger and smaller screens affecting how viewers are responding. “Costumes are more noticeable now simply because of the amount of content we have, number one, and number two, there is a more immersive involvement in storytelling and characters, the freedom to emulate what’s attractive to you, and the type of character you want to be.”
Looking at what’s popular on TV and what filters down to social media has become a good way to read trends, especially among Gen Z.
“You have two fashion directions, ‘Emily in Paris,’ focusing on designer names and exclusivity, and then you’ve got ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Euphoria,’ which are DIY [do-it-yourself] and nostalgia-based. It tells us a lot about how people want to dress post-pandemic, with superexaggerated, oversize skater looks, ’80s and DIY, mixed with a super high-end accessory,” said Launchmetrics’ Jais, noting that Christian Dior Parfums signing on to sponsor the Canneseries festival in April was a signal of how influential streaming TV content has become in the fashion and beauty realm.
“It feels that’s where the audience is going, with networks being less exciting, they want to go to streaming, it becomes viral, and people talk or TikTok or meme about it,” said “Stranger Things” costume designer Amy Parris. (Nicolas Ghesquière was such a fan he made a “Stranger Things” T-shirt for his spring 2018 Louis Vuitton show.)
Several fashion brands collaborated with “Stranger Things” for the fourth season, including Levi’s, which copied a pair of double-button waistband, channel-stitched balloon pants that Parris painstakingly created for the show using a 19-piece pattern.
When the licensed Levi’s x Stranger Things collection came out, Parris was not credited, an age-old problem for costume designers, who are among the lowest-paid workers in entertainment.
“[Brands] should be treating them like influencers. What they haven’t understood is that while they are not necessarily building everything from scratch, they are curating and bringing designs to the small and big screen that makes them stylists extraordinaire,” said Stacy Jones, founder of pop culture brand partnership agency Hollywood Branded.
Jones herself was recently influenced by Kirston Mann’s costumes for Maya Rudolph playing a billionaire ex-wife on a journey of self-discovery in the Apple TV+ comedy “Loot” to buy a fringed dress from up-and-coming Italian brand Taller Marmo. “These costume designers are discovering brands and making them more attainable.”
Launchmetrics’ Jais goes one step further: “The future is brands creating their own TV shows,” he said, mentioning Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren as potential producers.
Storytelling is key to making it more than just a marketing exercise, he said, mentioning Calvin Klein producing a video and song for the band XX in 2017 as a good example. “They never mentioned Calvin Klein as a brand but all the characters were wearing Calvin Klein. The reason they did that is that the music group had an audience on social media exactly the same as the audience of Calvin Klein. They became the producer of a song, so why not have the brand becoming a producer of TV shows?”
“What I see is brands leveraging other peoples’ content in smarter ways — with capsule collections, recognizing the art form of the costume designer and the importance of the Costume Designers Guild of America,” said Jones. “There are opportunities for brands to become part of a scene, and to create limited merch around a show through a licensing agreement. But the costume designer has to be part of that deal, the production company should be part of the deal, and the distributor. It’s multipronged as to who should have their fingers in this.”
Amazon is perfectly positioned. “They have e-commerce, they have built a fashion division, they are going out to secure brands to be part of their content. The next layer is you are in the content and you can click out through it to buy, or Amazon is tracking you on Prime, and you are served up the look from the show,” said Jones. “My sense is Netflix will get there, too. But Amazon is there now.”
Certainly, Netflix’s animated “Entergalactic,” premiering Sept. 30, starring Kid Cudi as an up-and-coming artist in New York wearing designs by the late Virgil Abloh and others, could be among the fall season’s fashion influential shows, as could the new adaptation of “Interview With the Vampire,” debuting on AMC on Oct. 2, with Jacob Anderson as a Black, gay, rich vampire in early 20th-century New Orleans, and Gothic menswear galore.
But is Amazon’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” coming Friday, really going to spawn fashion trends?
“Game of Thrones” costume designer Michele Clapton caused a sensation when she revealed the show’s capes were made out of $79 Ikea Skold rugs.
“Are there things the designers are taking from real life that become known, that are recast as something you can purchase?” said Jones of the Middle-earth tale with an estimated cost of $450 million. “We might see an elfin dress that becomes something. Fashion changes all the time.”