Baz Luhrman brings us ‘The Get Down’, a Netflix drama with amazing songs, spectacular dance and gorgeous visuals. The show is set in the South Bronx during the rise of hip-hop as disco began to fade. The movie is centered around a group of teens as they take on life, family and music. We are not just attracted to the engrossing drama but the costume choices give a whole different feel to the series. Costume designer Jeriana San Juan spoke about the difficulties of dressing about 350 actors for the series.
For this show, costume made a lot of difference. Whatever any character represented, he or she had to appear in the outfit to complement. The war lords wore customized jackets and the disco kings wore flare jeans. People wanted to be identified and recognized with the subcultures in which they belong to.
San Juan lived up to the hype as she made sure that the pieces used were time precise. She sourced genuine disco dresses from the Halston archives and custom made ’70s-inspired pieces like dresses with extra-high, leg-baring slits, swishy fabrics and reflective elements to catch the flashy club lighting. San Juan even made multiple versions of Cadillac’s all-white suit with his varied partying needs in mind. One jacket had roomy, “danceable” sleeves, while a more streamlined copy was produced for when he’s lounging in his VIP backroom partaking in the ’70s version of bottle service — and menacing aspiring DJ and cool-kid mystic Shaolin Fantastic (Shameik Moore), known for his “Pumas that are always pristine.”
In order to get the best for the show, San Juan immersed herself in research and reached out to brands, who were more than happy to participate. Pro-Keds manufactured 10,000 pairs of period-correct sneakers and Converse provided original designs and colours from the era. Puma also jumped on board to ensure Shaolin’s “pristine” suede Puma Clydes circa 1977 were accurate.
Shaolin’s Clydes weren’t the only peculiar wardrope item in the show’s closet. In the premiere episode, as fledgling tagger Dizzee (Jaden Smith) wears that showcases the historical richness of that time as well as a textured embellishment and colourful detail. To make sure that this was achieved, San Juan reached out to Lady Pink, known as “The First Lady of Graffiti,” to paint a piece that became the back panel of Dizzee’s Lee jacket.
To help establish and develop the characters, San Juan worked within consistent colour palettes or silhouettes for each one. For instance, the brainier Ezekiel (or “Books”) to exert his serious side was always dressed in shirts with a structured collar and shades of blue. Alternatively, in reference to athletic-wear and Asian martial arts, Shaolin sticks with a stark red, white and black colour scheme — even down to his underwear. She also found a 50s coat at Salvation Army to get a fur-trim collar. The buttons used were all from her personal collection that she had had since she was little.
The right costume gives the viewers a right mental image and for those that were alive at that time, it is nostalgic. It is always amazing to see such dedication in producing a movie. With time, we would hope that this attitude will slip into the Nollywood industry.
Written by Nkem Ikeh