By Julia Rubin
You probably know costume designers Eric Daman best from his wardrobe work on "Gossip Girl," and now he's tackling TV's newest fashion-forward show: "The Carrie Diaries," starring Teen Vogue cover star AnnaSophia Robb.
Daman was an obvious choice for the job for several reasons. First of all, he cut his teeth as Patricia Field's assistant on "Carrie Diaries" precursor "Sex and the City." Secondly, the show shares the same co-creators as "Gossip Girl." But most importantly, he is very, very good at creating an entire sartorial world for some of television's most memorable characters.
We caught up with Daman on his first day back on the show's Brooklyn set after a much-deserved holiday break. Find out what he had to say about teen Carrie, '80s trends, and reimagining a style icon.
What is it like heading up costume design for "The Carrie Diaries" after assisting on "Sex and the City"?
At first, it was a bit intimidating and nerve-wracking because you want to go into it and honor the icon that is Carrie Bradshaw. And to have to pre-create that, well, there's no pressure at all trying to figure it out! But really, it's thrilling and very exciting. I feel very privileged and honored to have been a part of "Sex and the City," and to feed off of who I know Carrie Bradshaw. I get to go back in time and create who she was as a young girl in high school and follow this evolution of who she becomes.
And who exactly is Carrie the high school student?
She's in quiet Connecticut, she's in public school. We created this suburban girl who is growing up. She loves style, and she's an avid fan of Interview Magazine, but what we're going to see with young Carrie's style is that she's not giving into every '80s fad and trend. She's her own person, her own style icon in her own way. She has an original, eclectic style that's all her own. It's not all Madonna or all Flashdance. Her mother's closet is almost a Pandora's box to her; she can have a pair of '60s boots or a '70s bow blouse. In the '80s, every day was an excuse to mix eras. It was kind of an underground thing for her to be able to do that and to create this idiosyncratic, confident style.
What inspired her teen style?
I was very drawn to Molly Ringwald and all those John Hughes films. I think Carrie was that girl, the It girl that was a little off. I think of it more as the idea of a Molly Ringwald character, not the clothing necessarily. We also want to keep it contemporary and have an aspirational authenticity to it. It's about mixing and matching prints and shapes that you don't see every day, mixing things from different decades. I was actually looking toward Christie Brinkley and her fresh face when she was a young model. She had some great Cosmo covers form the '80s that I thought were very appropriate to Carrie, but also Carrie gets involved in New York.
Something that will surely resonate with viewers is the idea of Carrie's double life. She's a suburban high schooler, but she knows that world doesn't quite fit her. How do you show that in her clothing?
There's definitely a double life in the wardrobe. She's in school, and you see her in these quiet but still stylish looks. But it's much different than when you see her walk down the streets of New York in that pink and black dress. That's the "Aha!" moment. That's the Carrie Bradshaw moment -- she hasn't been wearing that to high school. There's an element of that even when she goes to her law firm internship, and she's wearing this great bow blouse. It's still very different trying to create a more sophisticated Carrie when she's in New York. And the more she's in New York, there's more of an overlap. As the series progresses, we're going to see a bit more of New York trickle into her everyday life... but she's not going to all of the sudden show up to school in Manolos.
You mentioned she isn't a slave to '80s trends, but what decade staples should we be on the lookout for?
There are definitely some scrunchies, some layered plastic bracelets. We're playing around more with accessories than we did with the original Carrie Bradshaw. It's subtle but cute things like fruit earrings and big apple brooches, not like the knee highs or legwarmers. She's also wearing quite a few pairs of Keds. It could be like, "Whoa, Carrie Bradshaw's wearing Keds!" But it's appropriate for her age.
One thing we love about the show is that it's a show about high school that could stand on its own, but it also has the benefit of being attached to a legendary series like "Sex and the City."
It was very important for us to keep it a teen show and keep the aesthetic and the audience younger. We're hoping for a Teen Vogue demographic! That's what we want to capture. We want a girl to look at the show and think it looks great and that it feels '80s, but that it's also contemporary and aspirational but attainable.
What kind of places are the clothes coming from?
I've been using a lot of Topshop and H&M. There are so many fast fashion stores out there that have these great elements that we can mix with an '80s puffy dress. We give it layers so it's not all vintage stuff. I shop all over the city. I think our biggest discovery so far has been Etsy. You can find a lot of really original, great things on there that you can't find in stores. She's also wearing a lot of Crumpet sweaters and cardigans. We've done quite a bit at Urban Outfitters. There are definitely going to be some high fashion moments though. She's working in New York and she's friends with Larissa who is an editor at Interview, so she has access to that closet. Carrie is so young and impressionable, and has this amazing mentor that will help her shape her style.
Unlike SATC and "Gossip Girl," this show doesn't have an ensemble cast. Did that change how you did the costumes?
The friends are a complement to Carrie. It's "The Carrie Diaries," not The "This Is a Group of Friends" Diaries. But that doesn't mean I give any less attention to how to dress the others. They all have great style, and my job as a designer is to create the sense that they're a support and a part of Carrie's life. The clothes have to embellish what's going on with the story. But then you look at someone like Larissa, who definitely is a complement to Carrie, but is like an exclamation point next to her. Also, Donna LaDonna, the mean girl -- I really enjoy dressing her. She is really giving into the '80s fashion. She could be the Whitesnake video girl. She is Madonna, she is Flashdance, she is acid-washed jeans. She stands in stark contrast to who Carrie is in high school.
Carrie had some iconic accessories on the first series -- her flower pins, her nameplate necklace. What's going to be the must-have item this time around?
I'm interested to see how people react to the bag she makes. I hope we see girls creating their own personalized bags. She makes lemonade from lemons and turns it into this great fashion piece. Hopefully that will be inspirational to girls. I want people to take away from it that fashion should be fun and individual. That's what Carrie Bradshaw embodies! There's also the "C" pendant which is a precursor to the Carrie nameplate, of course. That's a little subtle moment, that Alex Woo "C" necklace.
Speaking of that nail polish-splattered purse, how did you choose the bag?
Originally I wanted to use a very big designer name so that it really meant something and had value attached to it. But the more we thought about it, we realized we didn't want Carrie to be overshadowed by a brand. We came across Mark Cross, which has a long lineage of being an equestrian company, which is appropriate for Connecticut. The one we used, the Scottie bag, is what Grace Kelly wore. It has a quiet, almost Hermès feel to it without having a giant label attached to it. The label could be that it's a Carrie bag.
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