HBO Max’s “Gossip Girl” returned for its second season on Dec. 1. The show continues to follow the lives of New York’s Upper East Side crew who attend the prestigious Constance Billard — St. Jude’s School.
Fashion has continued to play a big part in the storylines and lives of the characters since the show’s original run on The CW network from 2007 to 2012, under the helm of costume designer Eric Daman, who returned for the reboot.
In the original series, he brought the characters to life with designs from brands like Henri Bendel, Chanel, Valentino and Gucci. It made style stars out of Blake Lively as Serena Celia van der Woodsen and Leighton Meester as Blair Waldorf.
Although he incorporates many of those brands into the reboot, the new series needed to reflect the Upper East Side youth of today and the increased diversity in the cast. For the show’s second season, Daman sought out new designers to help further the characters’ style, plot lines and personal development.
“This season, we brought in younger brands for the girls, like Marine Serre and LaQuan Smith,” Daman said. “We also saw other brands and designers, like Conner Ives, David Koma and Natasha Zinko. I worked with Simone Rocha quite a bit to develop the school shirts because, of course, the new ‘Gossip Girl’ schoolgirl shirt is by Simone Rocha. For the boys, we are seeing brands like Alyx, 73 London and Bode.”
This season, Daman wanted to focus more on sustainability, as this is imperative to Gen Z and the way they shop now. Season two features more fashion pieces that are vintage and archival, including Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent and brands Daman found on The RealReal.
“It’s a new terrain for me to bring in as many archival pieces and vintage pieces as we have this season,” Daman said. “Even with people in the background, I was very mindful. We have so much background dressing this season with all these elaborate black-tie events. It just seemed wasteful to keep buying all these new gowns when there were all these incredible archival and vintage pieces.”
Daman says one of the things he loves about Gen Z is their appreciation for nostalgia and pieces with a good story, and that vintage and archival pieces come to life in a way that pieces off the rack or bought at a sample sale don’t.
Daman also referenced inspiration from the original “Gossip Girl,” and wanted to give the reboot the editorialized fashion sense that viewers came to expect from the original.
“With the show’s first season, we wanted to debut this new world and had a more low-key, minimalist, monochrome vibe,” Daman said. “This season, there are heavier accessories, more bright colors and more pattern mixing, so it feels like we are echoing the original ‘Gossip Girl.’”
The first episode of season two picks up the day after the finale episode of season one, so viewers first see the characters return in the outfits from season one’s closing scene. However, the fashion quickly transitions from there and immediately becomes part of the conversation and even the plot, as the characters shop for an upcoming debutante ball.
Daman brought in more diverse designers this season, as well as independent designers and brands based in New York and Brooklyn. Daman had Andrea Pitter, a young Black female designer known for her bridal collection and winning season one of “Making The Cut,” design a dress worn by the character Julien Calloway.
The costume designer said that this season there are so many big red carpet style moments it’s like a “fashion punch in the face.”
One of the new characters that Daman had fun dressing was Shan, played by actress Grace Duah.
“At the end of the last season, when we first met Shan, she was like a tornado in a teacup,” Daman said. “She was this wild child, and we didn’t know how wealthy she was. This season, we find out she’s one of the wealthiest girls in school. I had to take her style from Trash & Vaudeville to Dover Street Market. We see her in brands including Sacai, Rick Owens, Comme des Garçons, Monse and Margiela.”
Daman also brought in Brooklyn-based designers, including ready-to-wear designer Theophilio and jewelry designer Martine Ali, to help create Shan’s wardrobe.
“What I love about living and working in New York is we get to bring all these under-the-radar designers that kids like the ‘Gossip Girl’ characters would be running around New York and encountering,” Daman said. “We are privileged to be in this city with amazing artists and designers.”
The character Monet, played by Savannah Lee Smith, aims to become the resident Queen Bee on the show this season. To reflect that, Daman harkened back to style inspiration from the original “Gossip Girl,” specifically Meester’s Waldorf.
To that end, Daman wanted an updated version of Blair’s signature headbands. Throughout the season, we will see Monet in headbands by Deepa Gurnani, Lele Sadoughi and Jennifer Behr. Behr was the designer behind many of the headbands featured in the original run of “Gossip Girl,” leading Daman to want to work with her again.
Despite the echoes back to the first “Gossip Girl” series, Daman says the new generation has a different approach to their lifestyle and fashion compared to the original series characters.
“In the original series, we saw the kids living, breathing and dying the entire world of the Upper East Side just like their parents did,” Daman said. “These new kids might go to school on the Upper East Side, but they are also running around Brooklyn. They are less conservative, there are fewer pearls and fewer twin set ensembles.”
Season two of Gossip Girl debuted on Dec. 1 on HBO Max. The episodes will follow a weekly release format.