TV shows afford the costume designer greater opportunities than a movie, as the designer has to build a wardrobe for an ongoing character in an ever-changing climate. And the scope is on a larger scale – in a TV show you have to dress women, men, children, of all socioeconomic backgrounds, and all different body types.
Did you love the 50’s style of Madmen? Or the colorful look of Telenovela? Well, then meet Janie Bryant, an Emmy award winning costume designer. Bryant is well known for her work on Madmen, Deadwood, Telenovela, and she is currently working on an Amazon pilot called “The Last Tycoon”.
Did you always want to be a costume designer?
I actually studied fashion design and always wanted to be a fashion designer. When I moved to NYC after I graduated from college, I met a lot of people in the film industry, and I met a costume designer at a party. That was my first introduction to costume design as a career.
What’s the best part about being a costume designer?
I love to create characters visually through costume design. I also especially love period costume design; it’s about transporting the actors and audience into a different time and creating an entire world.
What’s the hardest part about being a costume designer?
I find that the creative process, while being exciting and fun, is also hard and it can be painstaking to get that amazing end result.
Who have been your favorite characters to dress?
The list is long and for many different reasons. And so much has to do with what is happening in the script. For Mad Men specifically, I love all the female characters. Betty, Megan, Trudy, Jane and Joan!
Which of your characters do you think you most dress like?
Megan for sure.
Which TV shows/movies did you watch for the clothes when you were starting out?
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been obsessed with old movies. I have many, many favorites like The Women, Gone With The Wind, My Fair Lady, Gi Gi, An American in Paris, Wuthering Heights, Guys and Dolls, Sound of Music, Grease, On the Town, To Catch a Thief, High Society, and many more. I’ve seen them all a thousand times.
I hear you are writing a book. Can you tell us more about that?
My book is called The Fashion File and it’s available for sale.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m working with Hartmann Luggage as a brand ambassador and plan to do a design collaboration with them in the future. It’s a brand I love and grew up with. I just completed the first season of the NBC show starring Eva Longoria, called Telenovela. Working with Eva and the cast was such fun, and I loved designing the glamorous gowns and gorgeous heels (available on Shoes of Prey). I’m also just now working on the new AMAZON pilot The Last Tycoon, which should be amazing. Lots of exciting things ahead.
Designer, Michael Ngo presented a SS 2016 collection last season during Art Hearts Fashion Week in Los Angeles, and it was clear to the media and audiences alike that this designer knew how to set himself apart from the masses. SoCal Magazine caught up with Michael Ngo to get an update on how his craft is fairing after such a successful presentation.
Written and interviewed by Joshua Pinkay
- Last Fall you presented a collection that you titled Sovereigns of the Sea. This show wowed the audience and received lots of media attention. What has that presentation garnered for you up to this point?
That show has gained me recognition from a lot of my peers and high-profile influencers in the industry. I think that complete body of work really made people take me seriously, and it’s funny because I used to think that people didn’t take me seriously as a designer at all. To see a complete body of work on that scale, I feel, really made people believe in what I do.
- Judging by your social media pages, you’ve recently had numerous celebrities wear your clothing. How has that made you feel and how has that affected your business?
I feel great to have anyone want to wear my designs, let alone artists and entertainers. In a way, it makes me feel validated and accepted. A lot of what I create isn’t necessarily tailored to mainstream or ready to wear fashion, but having that exposure through celebrities really exposes my brand to a wide array of audiences. This has allowed me to grow my custom design following and gain new clients.
- Sovereigns of the Sea was created with elements of streetwear. What made you go in that direction with your designs?
I’ve always loved streetwear, and I love mixing every day clothing with simple silhouettes and cool fabrics with unique details and trends. For me, this collection has a light-hearted energy that’s very easy to wear but is still very chic and luxurious through details and styling. As a designer, I have street influences from many cities like London. It’s a genre of fashion that’s popping up in so many facets of entertainment. I love having my own interpretation of that on the runway.
- Have you put any thought into what you’re presenting for next season?
Yes, I’ve finalized my concepts for my latest collection and am currently in production with my samples. I’m still sticking with a streetwear influence but fusing my aesthetic with different styling. I’ve been inspired by a concept that I call “retro-futurism”. This collection will be my take on what this future is to me and how the world we’re going to live in will be a melting pot of culture that celebrates diversity but still pays homage to the past.
- What do you see for the future of Michael Ngo?
I ask myself this question a lot, actually. I don’t necessarily know what’s to come, but I definitely want to continue to create and inspire people. I want to do what makes me happy and create art. I love the reaction that my art evokes from an audience. If I can keep doing that with my brand, then that will be more than enough to keep me going.
65 years old and a bonafied Medicare card carrying Senior Citizen.
Fashion College educator/ Costume Designer/ Interior Stylist/ Garden-Landscape Developer.
My personal style evolves around my shoes. I pick out the shoe I want to wear and then the clothes and accessories that compliment. I like vintage mixed with contemporary, highlighted by great accessories. Top off with a fun hat or cap, which I collect.
Shopping for me is an adventure!
I have many favorite places, but here’s some nuggets I’ll share: Crenshaw area GOODWILL. ST.VINCENT DE PAUL, Downtown. ROSS DRESS FOR LESS.IT’S A WRAP, In L.A. Hancock Park, estate sales. In Los Feliz, HALF OFF CLOTHING STORE.
ZARA. FIDM SCHOLARSHIP STORE.
And my visits to Europe yield great finds.
I’m a Shopper by Trade, so I’m all over the city and have found havens that most people ignore, which is great for ME.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY FARIA RAJI
Salvador Dali famously said “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” Therefore we must concede that everything new is inspired by works of the past; and who better than to inspire these images than Mr. Dali himself.
Fringing on the border of dreaming and reality was what surrealists like Dali were all about. Surrealists allowed the unconscious to express itself through their art; nowadays we express ourselves with Fashion.
Graphic prints, textures and tones unleash the creative subconscious within and exhibit wearable art.
– Carmine Bicchetti
“We’re here to Slay and We’re here to Stay!”
Transgender really “came out of the closet” in 2015, as Caitlyn Jenner, The Danish Girl and Transparent, all brought transgender awareness to the forefront. What great timing for SLAY Model Management, the first exclusively transgender modeling agency, to open their doors in DTLA.
SLAY’s founder and chief talent scout, Cecilio Asuncion, started his involvement with the transgender community a few years ago while directing his documentary “What the T?” CC, as he calls himself, immersed himself in the transgender world, wanting to make a documentary from the inside out, not from the outside looking in. During his time scouting, mingling and filming, CC formed a deep bond with the transgender community. After his documentary won him the Outstanding Filipino American Award for LGBT Advocacy in 2012, CC wanted to continue advocating for the transgender community and opened SLAY. Out of 485 applicants, CC whittled it down to 15 girls, as he is very particular about the models he wishes to represent: “Models must have the right height, measurements and a drive like no other! We’re competing against the world’s top girls. We’re not asking clients to give our models special treatment. We’re simply saying, if transgender models can do the job, let them do the damn job”.
Although transgender models have been around for ages, up until now, they’ve felt fearful to reveal their gender identity. The backlash and negativity towards them has not been easy. Today, as society’s attitudes change, more transgender models, like those represented by Slay, feel safe enough to reveal their gender. CC hopes to find acceptance and success for his business, and wishes for his models to infiltrate the commercial market. The SLAY models strive to represent the trans community in a very positive light – each step on a fashion runway, and every modeling job landed, is a move in the right direction – and a win for transgender rights and awareness.
What drew you to opening a modeling agency solely for transgender models?
In 2011, I started my documentary on transgender. I don’t know why, but I was drawn to making the doc. I saw a young trans being interviewed on the Anderson Cooper Show, and knew I wanted to do a film that showed trans women in a positive light. A film that would inspire young trans people to know they can be who they are. I sought out the trans community – I visited the bars and restaurants they hung out in. And as I scouted for talent, I became part of their group.
What kind of modeling jobs are they called on for?
At SLAY we teach the girls to walk, how to do test shots, and we work on developing their books. This builds their self-esteem and gives them a print opportunity. They need employment, and they need to be treated fairly. I’m very protective over the models. My girls have walked in LA Fashion Week, and at the Oxford Fashion Showcase, plus Arisce, formerly with Ford Models, and perhaps the most recognizable face on the roster, has been featured in Vogue, Germany.
How old is your youngest model?
Our youngest is 12-years-old, Alex. Her mother says she signed her daughter with us because she’s more comfortable with her daughter’s participation in the fashion industry being represented by an exclusively trans agency. Usually, trans know at a young age that they are not in the “right” body. It’s very important to have supportive parents, as the suicide rate in LGBT is high for teens. Our next youngest is Amber, who is 15. Her parents are also very supportive, and she is home schooled to circumvent any problems at school.
Has the recent Caitlyn Jenner story helped your cause?
Absolutely. 2015 has been a year of progress for the trans community, with many exciting breakthroughs. There was the reality show devoted to Caitlyn Jenner’s life and transition. Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New Black” was on the cover of Time Magazine. And there’s Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the first transgender appointee in the White House. The more high profile transgender people we have, the less fearful and more accepting society becomes. First there is conversation and awareness – acceptance comes last.
INTERVIEW WITH SLAY MODEL, SABEL
CC discovered Sabel when she won runner up at the world’s leading transgender pageant “Queen of the Universe Pageant”. Sabel has been with SLAY for several months and is grateful for the opportunity. Next year, Sabel hopes to represent her country in the most prestigious transgender pageant: the “Queen of International”. What is it like to be a trans model? Well, we asked Sabel.
How old were you when you realized you weren’t comfortable as your birth sex?
I was very young, about 6 years old. I was more comfortable with girls and girl toys. Most trans know at a young age.
Did you tell your parents? Were they supportive?
My mom was against it, but I mainly grew up with my grandmother, and she was supportive. I was a very pretty boy and my mother wanted me to have children.
Now that I’m a model in America, I’m the breadwinner for my family back in the Philippines. I support my grandma and my uncle who is disabled, plus my 3 young cousins – I pay for their schooling. So my family thinks differently about me now.
What was the experience of childhood/teenager/young adult like for you?
I loved being in the theater and became a performer for a transgender theater in the Philippines. It helped me learn to be more open, and soon the community got to know me as a trans. I started my transition at 20. I started growing hair and felt happier; more free, and felt I had added opportunities. While at college, I entered a trans pageant – The Queen of Flowers that aired on TV. I won that pageant and my mom saw me on TV. Now she is proud of me.
What advise would you give young people that are currently having gender issues?
My advice to parents is to be open with your children. My advice o the young trans is be true to yourself and focus on your career and studies. You are the only one who can help yourself. Don’t be scared of society. Every time I’m discriminated against – it makes me stronger. I respect myself for who I am.
Anything else you’d like to add?
SLAY helps me a lot. As a kid at school I filled in a questionnaire that asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And I wrote “a runway model.“
And after 10 years, here I am! I love being a model – and hope to be an inspiration for others.