“Where there’s oil, there’s money, and where there’s money there is fashion,” says Kathleen Detoro, the costume designer for “Blood and Oil,” the latest nighttime drama from ABC, premiering Sunday. It tells the story of a race for oil money in North Dakota but the fashion Detoro speaks of is not the usual Midwestern fare. Detoro’s selection skews more Jason Wu and Victoria Beckham than Levi’s and Wrangler (though, admittedly, they do pop up occasionally). Also, she’s dressing a major model: Amber Valletta.
Detoro outfitted the entire cast, but with Valletta’s character, she really gets to play. Valletta plays Carla Briggs, the wife of oil baron Hap Briggs, portrayed by Don Johnson. “She’s not a trophy wife, she’s a working finance person and she now runs this company with [her husband],” Detoro says. Valletta adds that Carla is “very fashion forward. She definitely goes to Paris and watches the shows. There’s always an element to her that is a little bit a killer, a little Helmut Newton. Just by the way she dresses, you wouldn’t mess with this woman.”
Detoro studied at Pratt and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute and is perhaps most known for her work on “Breaking Bad,” which she costumed from the pilot through the end of season four. Working with a model-turned-actress makes the job all the easier. “Amber is one of the few supermodels to cross over well into film and television,” she says. “She can and has worn everything.There’s nothing you could put on her that doesn’t look good.”
“When I’ve been cast for something like this, it is intentional on the storytellers’ part to put someone like me in this role, because they want someone who looked like they walked off a Paris catwalk,” Valletta says, speaking from Los Angeles, where she was visiting her family on a break from shooting the series in Park City, Utah. For the role of Carla specifically, casting an actress with a background like Valletta’s was “because they needed someone to be very glamorous,” she says. “I wear the clothes well, and I can get away with things that other actors couldn’t necessarily.”
Unsurprisingly, the Valetta’s connections in fashion “have helped us get clothing we wouldn’t otherwise be able to get,” she says. Recently, Detoro had spied a Jason Wu trenchcoat she wanted to pair with a dress from the designer, but “I still have to pay attention to budget,” she says. Given Valletta’s relationship with the designer, “I had my assistant contact the Jason Wu team and they sent her the trenchcoat to wear because they love her so much,” Detoro says.
In addition to Wu, Detoro dresses Valletta in a variety of brands including The Row, Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Stella McCartney, Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham, which Detoro is particularly fond of for Valletta. “She looks amazing in those dresses,” Detoro says of the Beckham pieces, made from, what she describes as, “some fabric that is just fantastic, something between a scuba and a Spanx.” Valletta also wears a selection of Alaïa and Saint Laurent boots; for an equestrian look, “I did a Gucci cream-colored turtleneck and then I did a mallard green The Row suede shirt over it.” She also sports Hermès’ riding clothes for some scenes.
Valletta’s catwalk experience has also proven handy. “I don’t even worry about her walking,” Detoro says. “I swear, the girl could walk over hot coals in her boots and she’d be fine.”