HBO‘s new buzzed-about series “Euphoria” is partnering with gender-free Manhattan retailer The Phluid Project to create pop-up shops next month in three U.S. markets. The ephemeral retail spaces will be open to the public for just one day in each city and are as transient as “Euphoria’s” troubled high school students whose search for love, friendship and identity in a world of lost innocence and trauma is blunted by drugs and sexual experimentation.
The binary-breaking pop-up shops will be safe spaces for openness, inclusivity and dialogue in San Francisco on July 8; Seattle, July 10, and Miami, July 12. Following the shopping experience, “Euphoria” cast members Hunter Schafer (Jules) and Barbie Ferreira (Kat) will participate in an invite-only screening and discussion. The Phluid Project’s Preston Souza will moderate.
The Phluid Project founder Rob Smith said “Euphoria” taps into the anxiety of being a young person dealing with issues around identity. “Hunter is a transgender female,” he said. “There’s an honesty in the show, which is kind of scary for a parent. There’s a lot of woken parents who understand that things are changing and always evolving. It’s happening regardless of whether they want it to happen or not.”
“Euphoria” was inspired by the experiences of creator Sam Levinson, who said he shares with lead Zendaya the goal of creating empathy for the generation.
“It was exciting to work with Zendaya for many reasons,” said “Euphoria” costume designer Heidi Bivens, “One of the best is that people are aware of her. It doesn’t hurt to have Drake, the producer, and HBO has a great reputation. Those three names really cleared a path for me.”
While Bivens is no newbie – she’s responsible for the mashup of tastelessness and high fashion that’s “The Beach Bum” look – she shared the exhilarating feelings of discovery with “Euphoria’s” young actors. This is the first TV gig that I’ve had,” she said. “It’s new territory and it’s exciting for me to work on a longer project and time to develop the catalogs and build the closets.”
“Mental illness or depression is the leading issue among young people right now,” Phluid Project founder Rob Smith said. “No matter what your decade is, adolescence is difficult.”
In addition to a selection of gender-free apparel and accessories, a “Euphoria” x The Phluid Project tote bag will be for sale, with proceeds entirely benefiting The Trevor Project suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. HBO has committed to matching the raised funds.
While some of “Euphoria’s” characters may seem out of control, there’s nothing haphazard about the drama’s visual elements. Every pulse of neon light and tiny rhinestones in the corner of an eye is a visual cue and clue to the characters’ inner worlds.
“I did quite a bit of research on Instagram,” said costume designer said Heidi Bivens. “I went down the rabbit hole and doing deep dives, I was able to find a lot of young interesting designers form all over the world. Sometimes, I was messaging young people in college, who were making clothes out of their college bedrooms in Korea, Spain. And some of the stuff ended up on screen.
“Young people are taking fashion into their own hands,” Bivens said. “Depop just got this influx of cash. I see that as the future in terms of young people being inspired to create their own style rather than looking at mass produced fashion.”
Bivens also raided the vintage racks. “We used quite a bit of vintage and I think that’s also a comment on how young people are dressing,” she said. “Sixty percent of the girls’ wardrobe is vintage from different eras. Part of the reason I chose to go in that direction, rather than current labels, is that we wanted something that wasn’t so derivative, as it is in stores.”
There’s not much good news for traditional retailers in Bivens’ assessment. “When I was young, you could go to any Goodwill and find gems,” she said. “Today it’s incredibly picked-over because anyone can start their own viable vintage business.” Her advice to consumers: “Borrow. Everything’s always going to keep changing and morphing into the next thing.”
“The show is perfectly aligned with The Phluid Project,” said Smith. “HBO reached out to us because they like the fact that the store is more than just transactional. We have a resource page and we’re activists.
“People are now talking about gender identity and not who you’re sleeping with,” Smith said. “We’ve come a long way in terms of sexual orientation. We’re moving forward, and Gen Z is a force to be reckoned with. They have values and morals.”