Landing early in the morning and off on another plane the same night, costume designer Phoenix Mellow didn’t have too much time to soak in the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, as she attended the premiere for her latest project Sylvie’s Love. Luckily, Her Campus Utah was able to catch up with Mellow in the Acura Village on Main St. before she sets off to the Costume Designer Guild Awards in Beverly Hills, where she is nominated “Excellence in Short Form Design for Katy Perry’s “Small Talk” music video.
HC: Was costume design always the plan for you, career-wise?
PM: I wanted to be a fashion designer since I was five; all I would draw was girls in dresses and mermaids and stuff. Then, I went to FIT and while I was there, I really circled out my skills. I always felt like I didn’t want to stay in one certain branch, it’s almost like a box…but I realized it was a career. I came from Delaware, very far from the film industry, and then in New York I was like, oh this is a thing? That’s a career? So, I moved all the way to LA, not knowing anybody, and interned to work my way in. I assistant designed for commercials, and had a lot of amazing mentors along the way, getting design credit and getting to do more and more.
What do you think most important skill to have is when working in costume design?
You have to be a really good boss. You’re running a giant crew and you don’t have a lot of time, so it’s crucial to be the communication between your crew, other departments, the directors, and the actors… it’s a lot of information. There’s a lot of pieces going on, so if you know how to talk to your crew. You need to be creative and have fun and you need to loveit- you’re working fifteen-hour days every day, you know, so if you don’t love it, it’s going to really wear you down. But, It’s amazing, it’s fun, it’s family on set.
HC: Do you primarily enjoy doing period piece costuming like what we see in Sylvie’s Love?
PM:I first started off with Mad Men, and got an amazing education through doing three seasons of it. So, that started me working on period stuff, and I’m obsessed with history- historical fashion specifically. I love going into costume houses and feeling like it’s a museum; you have things that are much older than all of us, and everything is delicate and intricate and the clothes kept there are beautiful and unique- I love going to work every day in a costume house.
HC: What’s your research process like?
PM: You start with the script, it’s the bare bones, you know? Sylvie’s Love was an amazing script. Eugene (Ashe) sets up a very realistic 50s and 60s world. So, we watched a million movies, and I have so many boards of research on who I thought Sylvie was like: Grace Kelley, Diahann Carroll…obviously Audrey Hepburn- all very classic, beautiful, smart women.
Check out the Chanel dress featured in the film, as well as costume sketches featured in the Acura Lounge below: