It's long been my goal to up the visibility of the craft of costume design here at The Film Experience. So when the W.E. team was making the press rounds, I jumped at the chance to talk with Arianne Phillips, who has long been a designer I admire both for her technical and visual invention and for her uncanny ability to hit the pop cultural bullseye with instantly memorable looks whether she's designing for musicians (including longtime collaborator Madonna) or for actors. Her film career took off with the one-two comic book punch of The Crow (1994) and Tank Girl (1995). And it's continued to fascinate through Hedwig and the Angry Inch and on to her first Oscar nomination for Walk the Line (2005).
She received her second nomination last month for W.E. (2011) which has an absurd amount of use for her skills. In my mind they really ought to have done away with typical star "billing" and listed Arianna Phillips up top. No disrespect intended to Abbie Cornish and Andrea Riseborough, who lead the picture through its double-sided narrative.
Years before W.E. materialized Phillips has been living her own double-sided career "by design". Arianne speaks with a mixture of confidence, sincerity and appreciated bluntness: she agrees that costume designers don't get enough credit calling it an "a gorllina in the room. It's such an annoyance" but she corrects my slight misunderstanding about her past collaborations with musicians. She freelances as a stylist and editor for print photography, concerts and music videos. She doesn't dress stars for events.
I do videos and album covers, mostly narrative based: fantasy, illusion and character. It's very connected to film. You're creating the fantasy of who that person is.
-Arianne Phillips on her second career as a fashion editor and stylist.