Phoenix Mellow interview: ‘Sylvie’s Love’ costume designer
Amazon’s new film “Sylvie’s Love” opens with a shot of Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) wearing an eye-poppingly blue dress in 1960s New York. “This scene was the director’s obsession,” costume designer Phoenix Mellow reveals about director/producer/writer Eugene Ashe in Gold Derby’s exclusive TV Costume Designers Panel (watch above). “He talked about this the moment that we met about the project, and also reading the script you know that the way that it’s written just has that ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ moment, where you’re just waiting to see the hero.”
Mellow discusses the “impact” of Sylvie’s introduction on screen in that blue dress, noting, “We were planning on making it but it just wasn’t the right blue that I wanted — it didn’t have a punch. Weirdly, on the truck that same day the dress had gone missing. It was crazy.” Luckily, at the time Thompson was an ambassador for Chanel, so they had other options available to them. “I saw that we had picked out that Chanel dress but never tried it on. I brought it into the room and she put it on and it just was this wow moment. It just felt like a Cinderella story.”
As the film progresses, Sylvie succeeds in her career by living her dreams of working in television production. Her wardrobe understandably gets more sophisticated, confirms Mellow. “I definitely wanted to show the progression of Sylvie’s costumes and the changing time in her life, like have a very distinct 1957 look and then have her 1962-63 look to be much more sophisticated and professional.” Mellow adds, “She’s now a mother, she’s a working woman. She still has all the same strengths that she did in the 50s when they were first falling in love, but at this time in her life she really knows herself.”
Two of the movie’s standout supporting characters are TV cooking host Lucy (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and singer-dancer Carmen (Eva Longoria), who both have their own distinct looks. Mellow says Lucy’s wardrobe “was definitely about what her kitchen looked like, what color, so I really had to work with the production designer on that.” As for Carmen, who was inspired by Dorothy Dandridge in “Carmen Jones,” Mellow admits it was “very, very fun” to dress her.
Also in our exclusive video interview, Mellow talks about premiering at Sundance earlier in the year, the challenges presented by a shorter shooting schedule, and how Sylvie and Robert’s (Nnamdi Asomugha) wardrobe colors would be “cool tones” to reflect their love story.