Interview with Trish Summerville – Archive Issue iii
January 2, 2015
[An archive piece from our ‘Utopia’ print issue. Words by Courtney Blackman, photography by Axis Photography & the MET.]
Trish Summerville is a name that most fashion insiders know. If you’ve watched MTV and films like The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo and The Hunger Games, then you will have been visually inspired by this costume designer and stylist extraordinaire. Turning Hollywood actress Rooney Mara into a punk computer hacker, that was Trish. Crafting a dress that burst into flames and then turned into a bird, that was Trish. Her name is credited to so many music videos, editorials and films; the power and clout that her name carries in Tinsel Town is seriously intense.
I met Trish a few years ago via a mutual friend in, Daniel Hernandez and was fascinated by her – a creative powerhouse who just looked cool. The kind of girl you wish you could look like – cool hair, a rock ‘n’ roll wardrobe and incredibly nice.
It was brilliant that she was able to take time in between projects for Stylenoir’s Utopia issue to talk developing iconic Hollywood characters, her own unique style, her next big film project and a possible Trish Summerville brand.
First and foremost, congratulations on winning Excellence In Fantasy Film at Costume Designers Guild Awards for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It’s no surprise and we were very excited for you
Thank you very much! It was truly an honour to be nominated and to win, especially since it was voted on by my peers and very creative people that I highly respect.
Your name skyrocketed after working on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but pre-blockbusters, you worked with and continue to work with some of the biggest and most diverse musicians of all time: Will.i.am, Pink, Christina Aguilera, KISS…who have you enjoyed styling the most? And do you ever work with emerging artists to help them identify ‘their look’?
It’s always hard to choose a specific project. I like each experience for different reasons. I really love two videos with Pink – ‘Just Like a Pill’ directed by Francis Lawrence and ‘Sober’ directed by Jonas Akerlund. Both were very creative, fun projects to be a part of. Several of the artists that I have worked with were definitely figuring out their look. I love that part of the process – helping somebody change their look or develop it.
What kind of music do you listen to? What’s on your playlist right now?
My music taste runs far and wide. Currently – Alt-J, NIN, M.I.A., The Knife, Jay Z, Miike Snow, David Bowie, Lykke Li and The Kills.
Back to films, you’ve created the looks that have designed some of the most powerful visual icons over the last several years, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Who did you base Lisbeth Salander on?
First thank you for such a lovely complement! I based Lisbeth on Lisbeth. There was a Lisbeth in my mind and how the director, David Fincher spoke about her. She is a mash-up of street punk, squatter, hacker, rock chick and fearlessness.
In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, when Katniss spins and her dress actually catches fire, and then turns into a mockingjay, it was breathtaking from a costume perspective and set new standards as far as film wardrobe. When designing a character’s wardrobe, how much of the vision is the director’s and how much of the vision is yours?
It depends on the project and the director. I have been very fortunate to work with very creatively collaborative directors. Generally we have discussions about who the character is – their world, their way of thinking and their approach to life. From there I do tear sheets, sketches and vision boards to help conjure the character.
Quite a lot of Britain’s Alexander McQueen featured in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. When reading a script, do you instantly know what shapes, colours, and designers will fit?
When reading a script I’m not as much thinking about what designers would fit. I more so begin by visualising the world and the characters, how I can help bring them to life for the actor playing the role, for the director, the story and for the audience. This story was very fashion conscious and a bit extreme in shapes, colours and world, so collaborating with designers made sense with particular costumes.
Your role is integral to shaping an actor’s visual character. What‘s on the Trish Summerville wardrobe checklist for a female lead?
Since each female lead I have done is extremely different, I don’t necessarily have particulars. Again it reflects back to 1. Who is she? 2. What her world looks like 3. Her occupation, career and income level 4. What is her past or her secrets?
You’re not only the world’s preeminent fashion and wardrobe stylist, you’re also a retail entrepreneur with collaborative collections with both H&M for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dragon Tattoo Collection by Trish Summerville) and Net-a-Porter with The Hunger Games (Capitol Couture by Trish Summerville). Did you enjoy that process and will we ever see a Trish Summerville stand alone ready-to-wear label?
It was a great pleasure and very fulfilling designing and producing both lines. It presented great opportunities in designing various price points of lines and production quantities. It was an extremely fulfilling creative process and I definitely learned a lot on both. Hopefully an opportunity will present itself so that sometime I would be able to do a standalone line. It’s something I’ve always been interested in. Originally I did train for fashion design, but my journey has taken me in so many directions. It’s certainly always been in the back of my head.
Your own style has a bit of a dark twist. What is your style based around? What inspires you?
I guess I consider my style classic with a dark twist. I feel in ways that I like traditional pieces, but with a bend. Mixing classic pieces with modern or ethnic pieces. So many things including subcultures, ethnic fashion, the animal kingdom, insects, architecture, art and music inspire me.
Can you divulge anything on your upcoming music or film projects? Gone Girl is currently in post-production, correct?
I just wrapped designing Gone Girl this month. It was a great script, wonderful cast and David Fincher directing, what more could you ask for? I’ve read all of Gillian Flynn’s books. I really enjoy her writing style and challenging characters. It will be out in early October. I’m constantly reading books and scripts so hopefully a good fit comes along soon, that and possibly some interesting collaborations. I always love a new challenge or project with something I’ve not done before. I’m always looking for new experiences.