If you’re an aspiring costume designer who hasn’t yet broke into the industry, don’t give up! Five top talented dressers recently spoke with Gold Derby about how they got started and when they knew they wanted to work in Hollywood: Rudy Mance (“The Alienist: Angel of Darkness”), Amy Andrews-Harrell (“The Good Lord Bird”), Rebecca Guzzi (“Ratched”), Hope Hanafin (“The Right Stuff”) and Phoenix Mellow (“Sylvie’s Love“). Click each name above to watch their individual interviews separate from our Meet the BTL Experts: TV Costume Designers group panel.
“I luckily had two artistic parents, so they were always very supportive of the arts,” Mellow reveals to the group. “I grew up wanting to be a fashion designer and I went to school in New York at FIT for that. It sort of dawned on me that I really didn’t care about what sold in stores next month and instead I wanted to make couture and unique pieces. I realized watching a few more films as I was working in fashion, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a career!’ Somebody makes these historical garments and you get to create these characters, and so I went full force.”
As for Hanafin, she readily admits, “I guess I always wanted to be, but didn’t trust that.” She continues on, “My undergraduate degree is in religious studies and I taught and did other things for a while. I had an eye-opening trip to New York when I was a high school teacher and loved it and just had this kind of epiphany. I applied to NYU for my MFA and moved in with my grandmother for a year and did basic things like how to sew and how to draw. My MFA training was for theater, not for movies, so I had a stumbling start there. But I never really felt at home until I stepped onto a movie set.”
Guzzi echoes Hanafin’s story, confirming she didn’t “really understand” this was something she could make a living at when she was younger. “I actually studied history and did the two in tandem, which probably explains why you have to tear me away from doing research now,” she laughs. “I love going on that treasure hunt. I started doing TV and film when I was in graduate school. student films — 5-minute, 10-minute shorts here and there — and got that experience as you’re a one-man show.”
Andrews-Harrell recalls, “I always did costumes ever since I was little. I’d play dress-up. Even before I knew how to sew, I took my mom’s brand new sewing machine and made a suit of armor out of vinyl, kind of ruined her sewing machine. I went to college in theater and our costume design teacher was so magnetic. I was hooked and every job that I’ve had as an adult has been in costumes ever since. I love costumes — they’re in my DNA.”
Finally, Mance says, “I always had an interest in clothing and fashion. Like Phoenix, I thought I would go into the fashion industry. My first job in my New York career I was a junior editor at Vogue, but I didn’t make a lot of money doing that, so on the weekends I would work at this buy/sell trade store in Brooklyn. There was a woman who worked there and I always knew that she did something in film but I wasn’t sure what. One day I just asked her and she was a wardrobe supervisor and she brought me in. From there I just kept going.”
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