- Emily in Paris -The ‘Emily In Paris’ Costume Designer On Choosing (And Shopping For) All Of The Iconic Looks
There are a couple of things that jump out about Netflix’s Emily In Paris. There’s the love triangle, there’s French versus American work-life balance debate, there’s the luxury of it all, and of course, there’s the fashion. Emily Cooper, played by Lily Collins, is the show’s titular character and her wardrobe, which I think can only be described as aggressively optimistic, is just as much a personality on the show as the living and breathing cast.
And truly, what did you expect from a Darren Star and Patricia Field production? The producer/creator and consulting costume designer, respectively, brought us Carrie Bradshaw and all of her fashion moments in Sex and the City; Field also styled and was a consultant on The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty — two pieces of pop culture history that are also known for their portrayal of New York City style (and for their dual purpose in both glamorizing and dismantling women’s media, but I digress).
But it’s not Emily In NYC, you know, which is why Field called in some help.“I love New York, I’m a New Yorker, born and bred,” Field said in a release. “But Paris is Paris.” And Paris needs Parisian styling and a Parisian aesthete. Enter: French costume designer Marylin Fitoussi.
Fitoussi, the styling mastermind behind the dystopian costumes in Colombiana, the 2014 release of Escobar: Paradise Lost, and the forthcoming French comedy-drama Kaamelott (talk about range), helped Field put the finishing touches on the looks while stationed in Paris, where the series was filmed.
She was the boots on the ground, so to speak — Field handled the fittings in New York and Fitoussi finished up with the cast in France — and was responsible for making sure Emily’s looks evolved from American in Paris to straight-up Parisian. And that involved a lot of strategic mood-boarding (Star was shown style moodboards for each character, Fitoussi tells me), planning, and shopping.
As Emily’s character developed, “her style became more and more refined, risky, and interesting,” Fitoussi says. But there was a calculated through-line. “We really wanted to keep her colorful silhouette [throughout] the season; it's her signature."
In fact, Emily’s style was purposefully “miles apart" from Camille's. Camille, Emily’s French counterpart and friend in the series who only wears navy, black, and white, embodies the typical, traditional, French style.
If Emily’s looks are a modern-day nod to Hepburn, Fitoussi says that Camille’s style is a tribute to quintessential Parisian model, Caroline de Maigret. To juxtapose the two worlds — to Field and Fitoussi’s credit — Emily isn’t afraid to be bold with her outfits.
She transitions from black tie (an off-the-shoulder Christian Siriano dress for the Opera — a tribute to Audrey Hepburn, Fitoussi says) to casual (a hot pink coat with trainers to buy flowers from a corner store) seamlessly.
Emily’s fellow ex-pat and friend Mindy Chen (played by Ashley Park), however, was a little more of a challenge for Field and Fitoussi.
“Until Pat [Field] and I could meet Ashley, we didn't have a very precise idea of her looks,” Fitoussi says. They originally thought Mindy’s wardrobe might be conservative, and then… they met Park. “She has the energy of 10 atomic bombs!” Fitoussi says, and just like her character, Park is “able to laugh, sing, dance, eat, answer her phone, try on a pair of shoes, tell a joke and book a restaurant at the same time.”
They decided Mindy’s style should be “versatile, exuberant, sexy” and maybe a little “too much” sometimes, Fitoussi explains. “[Park] was so funny and lively,” and she wanted Mindy’s style to match that. “In Paris, [Mindy] is no longer the daughter of the zipper king, she doesn't feel the weight of her conventional family. She feels free.”
“Free” is definitely a great word to describe Mindy’s style. In the final episode, Mindy wears a white pussy-bow blouse layered beneath a translucent, checkered raincoat. It seems tame until you add in the chandelier pearl earrings, off-kilter fedora, and a plethora of thin gold stackers.
Now. Deciding on the personalities behind the clothing is one thing. Shopping for them is another.
She supplemented her online research with real-life trips to the iconic Bon Marché (the French Barneys, if you will), tourist-favorite Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées, and l'Eclaireur, a concept shop in the Marais, which is probably the part of Paris you envision when you think about Paris.
To complete the outfits (the clothes only take you so far) Fitoussi visited vintage stores like 20/20 Boutique, which has “amazing jewels and bag collections from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s,” as well as Les Merveilles de Babellou. (Unlike Thx God I’m A VIP, Pretty Box, and Rose Market, this is one of the better-kept luxury vintage secrets in Paris, in my opinion.)
She found the strass headpiece that Emily wears in Episode 2 in La Compagnie du Costume’s jewels room, which stocks pieces from the 17th century all the way to present day. “As I become more and more adept of slow fashion and recycling, I purchase a lot of pieces at Vestiaire Collective, a global marketplace where you can purchase luxury fashion products,” like the playful stiletto-print Moschino coat that Emily wears in the season finale.
Still, Fitoussi says each character was the result of serious collaboration with Field. “We both love vintage pieces, unconventional designers, and the never ending search of the perfect accessory.” The duo, who worked in their respective home countries until meeting up in Paris for final fittings, zeroed in on a roster of mostly American and Parisian designers for Emily's outfits. “In Paris, as her looks became more refined, we used Chanel, Alexandre Vauthier, and Elie Saab, but also French brands like Ami, A.P.C, Sandro, Maje, and European designers like Fendi, Ferrani, and AALTO.”
Add in some couture and as much Louboutin as they could find, and you’ve got a wardrobe for the books, and a work-friendship for the ages.
“Working with Pat was a very rewarding experience,” Fitoussi says. She’s the “best consultant ever.” The two stylists liked to surprise each other, Fitoussi explains.
“Several times I heard Patricia telling me as she saw my shopping, ‘Marylin, you have your style, I have mine.’” Fitoussi says that Field told her she hated some of the items Fitoussi pulled when she saw them on the hanger, but once she saw them on Collins, she changed her tune.
And Collins was on board. “It was really interesting to hear Lily's feelings about the looks and be ready to change it if she has some doubts,” she says, but overall, the actor “was very easy to work with” and “really open minded.” When Collins exclaimed “OMG” during one of their fittings, Fitoussi says it felt like a little reward.
There was another treat, too. “We had this beautiful Stephane Rolland Haute couture dress that Lily is wearing for the auction from a previous SR collection,” says Fitoussi. Stephane redesigned some details especially for Lily, which made it all the more special.
All that moodboarding and shopping and styling translates to an impressive wardrobe of stilettos, short shorts, berets, checkered suits and very, very voluminous mini dresses (not to mention a whole lot of jewelry) and they’re all a spectacle worth bookmarking if not because you’ll want to wear any of it, but because you’ll want to pretend you’re someone who might.
When I ask Fitoussi if she could pick one of her most-favorite Emily In Paris outfits, she replies: “The best is yet to come, no?”
As long as there’s tulle and aggressive optimism, I’m game.