Tuesday, August 01, 2017

New York Fashion Cool-Aid by Laurel Marcus

An Interview with Costume Designer Emily Gunshor of "Odd Mom Out"

Emily Gunshor

Although I initially resisted watching "Odd Mom Out"  ( See trailer  - Wednesdays at 10 p.m.) when it premiered in June 2015, (I figured I had lived it, Lol), the show has since earned a place on my discriminating list of "must see TV." This scripted comedy hilariously skewers the life and times of the one percent of UES dwellers -- the masters of the universe who, as Season 3 begins have been defrauded by a Madoff-esque character, leaving them faced with a modern day "Sophie's Choice" -- whether to sell the chalet in Aspen or the horse farm in Millbrook. One character attends grief counseling for the loss of his yacht. A few have even been forced to reduce the size of their household staff producing some very funny bits as they are left to turn on their own ovens, iron their own pants (while wearing them!) or heaven forbid, answer their own front door.

"Andy and Jill"

Enter the real life character of author/actress Jill Kargman, creator of the show based loosely on her 2007 book "Momzillas." Jill Weber, a raven-haired, black-clad Jew, who dresses like a "Sicilian widow" is a sharp tongued crow sticking out amongst the blue-blood blonde swans who actually behave more like high rent sheep. In this season's interesting turnabout, Jill and husband Andy (Andy Buckley) were the only ones left un-fleeced as Andy confessed they didn't have enough available funds to invest in the Ponzi scheme. Jill and BFF Vanessa (KK Glick), ER doctor (and fellow brunette) trade repartee "keeping it real" in order to deal with the elevated comedic situations which ensue. At times almost cringe worthy -- their witticisms are really way too much to ring true, yet, if you can suspend disbelief, there's plenty of tightly written banter.

"Jill Weber"

In the latest episode, Jill shows her nude doorman photo series at a prestigious art gallery wearing what Andy calls "something vaguely sado-masochistic" ie. a Zana Bayne leather harness. Until she is schooled by Vanessa and others to channel her "MFA in BS", she is unable to sell a thing to the "Neiman Marxists." In an episode which sums up the summer camp visiting experience, Jill, Andy and their two other kids drive for hours to proffer homemade cookies to daughter Hazel while everyone else comes bearing overflowing Lester's ("Lestuhs") bags and Sushi of Gari kept fresh on ice direct from their private helicopters.

"Andy and Candace von Weber"

Other great plotlines include Candace von Weber (Andy's mother) coming to live with the Kargmans after her financial reversal (Joanna Cassidy plays this Auntie Mame character to the hilt), while sister-in-law Brooke von Weber (former SNL-er Abby Elliott) has become a faux philanthropic handbag/lifestyle designer wishing to "empow-her" women. Season 3 filmed last fall, hence I am bracing myself for a more political climate going forward -- apparently Bravo asked that the Trump punches be pulled a bit after the election.

"Brooke and her Hayward bag"

Of course, the fashion in this show needs to be on-point (Kargman is the daughter of former Chanel president Arie Kopelman BTW) and, while I thought costume designer Staci Greenbaum (click to my article) did a credible job on Season 1 and 2, this season the fashion has risen even more to the forefront. The idea to interview Season 3 costume designer Emily Gunshor actually arose out of my need to know whose handbag was the "stand-in" for Brooke's in Episode 301. Here she answers that burning question and more.

Laurel Marcus: How did you come to be involved in Odd Mom Out?

Emily Gunshor: I had done a few projects for Jax Media and had developed a rapport with their team (the New York Unit for Dance Academy: The Movie and a pilot for Joel Kim Booster, Birthright). The timing worked out with my schedule, and I had a lovely meeting with [Odd Mom Out showrunner] Lara Spotts and Jill Kargman…the rest is history.

Laurel: Was it difficult to come in to an already established show in the third season? Did you have any time on the show that overlapped with former costume designer Staci Greenbaum?

Emily: Staci and I have been friends for a long time. We worked together on "American Gangster", and although we never overlapped on "Odd Mom Out", we kept an open line of communication. The transition was seamless.

Laurel: How much input on costumes does each actor have on their character's look? Are there any general types of clothing/accessories that anyone refuses to wear?

Emily: The preparation on the show is amazing. I received all ten scripts up front and had huge fittings with the actors at the beginning of the job. Everyone was lovely, and we had a fun time playing and trying on options. No one dug their heels in about anything.

Laurel: Was there a conscious decision to go "next level" or to push the envelope with items such as the upcoming "Edward Scissorhands" Zana Bayne leather harness with Jill Kargman or was that mostly plot driven? Do most of her clothes come out of her real life closet as I've read?

Emily: Pushing the envelope was definitely part of the plan. That's the best part of my job! Jill has the most extraordinary closet with the coolest clothes. The harnesses from Zana accompany so many other inspiring designer pieces. The first fitting with her was at her house where I got to play with her clothes, and borrow anything/everything I wanted. From there we filled in the gaps, having all of the casual T-shirts made and purchasing a few items that we needed multiples of, like a Sandro dress you will see in episode 308 - "Stargazing."

Laurel: What designers do you favor for Brooke? For Candace? For Vanessa? Do you try to go "over-the-top" with the stereotypical Upper East Side "costume"? Who is the most fun/adventurous to dress? Who gets the most involved in the process?

Emily: I shopped primarily at Sak's, Bloomingdales and vintage from designers across the board. Abby Elliot, who plays Brooke von Weber, wore Ted Baker, Kate Spade, and Badgley Mischka. Joanna Cassidy as Candace von Weber wore mainly St. John and vintage designer pieces. KK Glick who plays Vanessa was our downtown chick and wore a lot of Rag + Bone and Current Elliot. The show is over the top and the clothing needs to reflect this. One of the most important parts of the process is collaborating with the actors to help them feel the part and good in their clothes at the same time. I had a really fun time with Joanna this season – adding ostrich feathers to vintage robes, playing with tango dresses, and putting her in a vintage Gaultier leather catsuit for episode 301.

Laurel: Whose handbag was used as Brooke's design in the first episode?

Emily: It was a Hayward bag that I personally embellished. We needed a beautiful bag that was further over the top, so we added those leather tassels and beads.

Laurel: Do you prefer doing shows with contemporary dress or period dress? What is your background and what made you decide/what influenced you to become a costume designer? Do you have any advice for those aspiring to work in the field?

Emily: I love what I do and have done both period and contemporary projects. They both have their pros and cons, but if I had to choose I would love to do more period projects. Delving into the research, digging through archives and custom making clothing to recreate a time period is incredibly fulfilling. I moved to New York from Atlanta to pursue a career in classical ballet. After an injury, I started making costumes for dance and theatre which quickly evolved into working in film. I fell in love with the process of helping to create characters through clothing.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most talented designers in the business – Ann Roth, Sarah Edwards, Colleen Atwood, Sandy Powell, and Leesa Evans – each of which has helped me on my journey. My advice to people who would want to do this is to work hard, harder than you would ever imagine having to work. No job is too small and there are endless opportunities for learning. Be patient, it takes a long time to grow into the role. I think above all though it is most important to be humble and kind - you need to be the type of person other people are comfortable (and hopefully excited) spending countless hours with.

Laurel: What else are you working on?

Emily: I just wrapped a top-secret movie that I am very excited about (Editor's Note: it stars Louis C.K), and am currently designing the Tracy Morgan project, “The Last O.G.”





- Laurel Marcus

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