LOS ANGELES — When A-list actors draft their speeches to thank everyone who helped them win their Golden Globes on Sunday, they should be sure to include a vital but sometimes overlooked group: The designers and manufacturers who domestically produce the fashion, jewelry and props that got them into character.
Whether dressing Julianna Margulies’ poised attorney on “The Good Wife,” Clive Owen’s 1900-era surgeon in “The Knick” or Lena Dunham’s Brooklyn writer who’s still growing up on “Girls,” a number of costume designers, property masters and stylists are increasingly adopting the practice of making jewelry, shoes and clothing for celebrities in the U.S. They’re relying on factories that have the expertise to fuse cool design with manufacturing knowhow on a tight deadline. Even as politicians are enticing TV and film production companies to stay Stateside with generous tax credits, entertainers — and the teams who are responsible for finessing their image — prefer to work locally so that they can realize their creative vision without forsaking quality, losing time or exceeding their budgets.
“For me, one of the great advantages of having a domestic manufacturer is the amount of personalized attention that I get,” said Dan Lawson, costume designer for “The Good Wife.” “We can come up with something and they tweak it in the fitting room.”
For CBS’ “The Good Wife,” which is nominated for a Golden Globe as best TV drama, Lawson usually has four to five days to collect over 80 outfits for his principal actors and more than 300 costumes for background players who film in Brooklyn, N.Y. For Margulies, embodying the role of Alicia Florrick comes more easily when she’s outfitted with custom gloves from New York-based LaCrasia Gloves and polished sportswear from Lafayette 148 New York, which normally manufactures in Asia but creates one-of-a-kind pieces for her in its Manhattan sample room. Margulies is nominated in the lead actress category this year for TV drama for both the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards, adding to past wins at the Globes, SAGs and Emmys for her work on the series.
In a monumental episode last season, when a main character — who happened to be Florrick’s lover — was shockingly murdered in a courtroom, Lawson wanted to evoke the feeling when President John F. Kennedy was shot and First Lady Jackie Kennedy steeled herself for tragedy in a classic suit. Having found a vintage-inspired jacket with a standaway collar from New York-based Karolina Zmarlak, he asked the designer to make a matching skirt in one day.
“It drove home the episode,” said Lawson, adding that the silk-wool blend with a satin finish also satisfied Margulies’ impeccable taste. “Julianna can spot crappy quality a mile away,” he said.
As actors move into other creative channels, they need manufacturing experts to interpret their discerning taste. Shortly after winning an Academy Award for his supporting role in “Dallas Buyers Club” last year, Jared Leto had his stylists approach Los Angeles-based Chrome Hearts about creating a gold leather cape, lab coat, jumpsuit, silk shirts, shoes and beanies for his band’s world tour — all in one week.
Time was also of the essence for Drew Barrymore, who was revealed as a presenter for the Golden Globes on the Friday before the Sunday awards ceremony last January. Her stylist, Elizabeth Stewart, asked designer Monique Lhuillier to replicate an ethereal dress embroidered with pink and red flowers and sequined vines for the then-six-months pregnant actress. Although Lhuillier’s atelier in Los Angeles spent almost seven weeks to finishing the hand-beading on the original dress, it rallied as many as 16 employees to accommodate Barrymore’s request.
“We sent a team to measure her and we made that dress from scratch in three days,” recalled Lhuillier, who also made wedding gowns domestically for on-screen nuptials on “Revenge,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
Added Tom Bugbee, the company’s chief executive officer: “We had 10 people on a team and a separate team on a bodice and skirt. We can divide and conquer if necessary.”
Audrey Fisher took the same tactic when she designed costumes during seven seasons of the vampire TV series “True Blood” for HBO. While she preferred to have her in-house team of tailors handle the multiple cuttings, fittings and adjustments on waistbands, sleeves and trims for Anna Paquin, who took home the honors for best actress in a drama in 2009, she sought local tailors to produce outfits for others in the cast. One L.A. shop called High Society fashioned a lightweight wool Western suit accented with ultrasuede on the jacket yoke for Alexander Skarsgård. Though she sourced the fabric locally, she had to ship extra material from Canada to cover the 6’ 4” Swedish actor as well as his stunt double.
“Sometimes it’s really cheaper to custom-make it,” Fisher said. “You get exactly what you want. You work on the prices on the fabric and trims.”
Even when Ellen Mirojnick found a vintage gown from 1900 to suit Cinemax’s “The Knick,” the fabric disintegrated in her hands as she fastened the buttons on an actress’ body. That’s why she and her team of six needed to construct between 1,000 and 1,500 outfits over 10 weeks for the period drama. For her leading man Clive Owen, who’s in contention Sunday for a Golden Globe awarded to the best actor in a TV drama, the costume designer called on Anto in Beverly Hills to make his shirts, Stacy Adams in Glendale, Wisc., to cobble his white shoes and Martin Greenfield Clothiers in Brooklyn to tailor his green velvet cutaway jacket, silk brocade double-breasted vest and other items in his wardrobe.
“You have to replicate what existed at that time,” Mirojnick said. “There’s nothing left in the world in terms of clothing that can be worn by a person in today’s age. The body shapes were different. They were tiny clothes. Most importantly, the fabrics are rotting away.”
To evoke Millennial-populated Brooklyn on the Golden Globe-nominated “Girls,” Brooklyn-raised Erica Weiner crafted the dogwood blossom-shaped earrings out of enamel and gold plating worn by Zosia Mamet, while Dusen Dusen made five versions of an ivory shirtdress printed with neon fruits in its Brooklyn studio for Lena Dunham, who’s also up for a Globe as best actress in the HBO comedy. The only character who didn’t need to stick with the borough for fashion options was the GQ executive portrayed by J Crew creative director Jenna Lyons, who styled her own get-ups for her guest appearance.
Otherwise, “Girls” costume designer Jenn Rogien said, “I try to go with young Brooklyn designers whenever I can. It looks like things girls in Brooklyn actually wear.”
Aside from authenticity, film veterans also want to work with companies they can trust.
Overseeing the props for “The Dark Knight,” “Tomorrowland” and other big-budget flicks, Kris Peck turned to 1928 Jewelry in Burbank, Calif., to produce 14 rings for Helena Bonham Carter’s character as an outlandish owner of a traveling freak show in “The Lone Ranger.” After e-mailing a copy of a sketched hand with Bonham Carter’s ring sizes to 1928 Jewelry, the prop master specified that the rings must look like they came from the 1880s. Upon examining photos of the first batch that 1928 Jewelry produced in its Burbank, Calif., factory, where it handles its own mold-making, casting, polishing and electroplating, the only critique he made was that an aquamarine crystal should replace a bright rose-colored stone. Five days and four e-mails later, 1928 Jewelry shipped the oversized oval filigree ring with antique gold plating and other baubles via FedEx to Peck on the movie’s New Mexico set.
“I don’t have time to police people,” Peck said. “I don’t want to come to the party with my cheap Chinese stuff and have my costume designer and actor say, ‘Get this guy out of here.’”
“Overseas, you’re never going to make one-of-a-kind [pieces] or 20 to 30 units,” added Christina Lovejoy, 1928 Jewelry’s director of product development.
Moreover, protecting intellectual property is as important to Hollywood studios as it is to 1928 Jewelry, which also made purple resin beaded necklaces for the Sofia the First characters roaming Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and the limited-edition cursed opal necklace from “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” that retails for $300 at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, also in Orlando.
“We don’t want to risk sending this out and having it knocked off,” Lovejoy said. “We like to protect our designs and the companies we work for.”