While watching Spike Lee’s latest Netflix film “See you, yesterday” (a film about Two teenage science prodigies spend every spare minute working on their latest homemade invention: backpacks that enable time travel. When one of their older brothers is killed, they put their unfinished project to the test to save him) I couldn’t help but to notice the usage of so many Black Designers. After doing some digging I was excited to learn that Charlese Antoinette, Costume designer & stylist of some of my other favorite films like, the Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete and Little Boxes was also behind this film too. Buy from a Black Woman had the pleasure to catch up with Charlese to ask her what her inspiration was and how she got her start.
Tell me about yourself and your career so far, how did you become a fashion stylist?
I have always into fashion, good design and shopping. I grew up thrifting, saving my PT job money to buy luxury items and deconstructing clothing and denim. I did anything to look unique and different! I decided to pursue a career in fashion and get a degree in Fashion merchandising and marketing. I didn’t know styling was a career until I was up late in college watching Robert Verdi talk about being Halle Berry’s stylist on fashion television and the style network. It never occurred to me i could make a career doing something I did naturally and already was doing for people in high school. Needless to say I didn’t last long in corporate fashion. I started styling in 2006 mostly for independent artists and bands. I wasn't doing it full time because in the beginning you end up doing a lot of unpaid and low paying jobs. I transitioned to working primarily on film, TV and commercials in 2008 first as an costume intern, then production assistant, then costume coordinator, the assistant costume designer and costume shopper. I worked my way up! Some of the costume designers I worked with during that time were Jenny Gering (The Americans), Ellen Mirojinick (The Greatest Showman), David Robinson (Zoolander) and Meredith Markworth-Pollack (CW Dynasty). I learned so much from them! I designed my first two films in 2012: Newlyweeds (Director: Shaka King) and the Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete (Director: George Tillman Jr.). They both premiered at Sundance in 2013. Since then I’ve had films premiere at TIFF, SXSW, ABFF and TriBeCa. Sprinter (Overbrook), another film I costume designed, won ABFF last year and PAFF this year. I’ve costume designed 9 features so far! I also have a NETFLIX series coming out later this year called Raising Dion on Netflix I’m really excited about!
Where do you draw your fashion inspiration?
I draw inspiration from traveling and shopping in different cities, markets and boutiques. Also from spending time in nature and visiting museums. And people watching I’m always interested in what people are wearing in the streets. Real people inspire me more than a lot of runway shows. That’s why I believe street style blew up in the way it did. When I was in fashion school I learned that trend forecasting was largely based on what fashion forward people were doing and brands would repackage it and sell it back to us. I try to interpret trends and add my own take or spin on it vs. just copying (which a lot of people do and its not okay). And lastly my imagination - I daydream A LOT.
Your latest project, Netflix’s See You Yesterday. Amazing movie btw. But this movie allows us to see Black and Brown children in a differently light… as scientist! That not something you see often on screen. When approached with this project, what were some of your first thoughts about the direction you would take when it came to styling the characters? And how did you decide that?
Costume design is very a collaborative process! One of the first meetings I had with the director Stefon Bristol he said to me “I’m hiring you because I want you to do your thing!” Which was important because he trusted my aesthetic and point of view. That makes my job much easier it means I don’t have to fight for my ideas! From there we had meetings with the production designer Jimena and DP Felipe where we talked about colors and assigned different characters and environments specific color palattes. So I knew the parameters I had to work with - for example CJ & Bash’s world is always very vibrant but then as the movie progresses and takes a turn their colors fade as their innocence does. I always wanted to make sure they felt like real black kids and yet be nerds with swag. Their costumes say a lot about their personalities and interests. CJ is really into physics so she wears a jack necklace, her hero is Mae Jeminson so she wears a lot of NASA gear. Bash is a science loving Rasta kid so the handpainted clothing, the African fabrics, colors and textures are important to tell his story. I wanted people to see black and brown NYC kids as I imagine them. The kids are FRESH!!
In one scene, the main characters, CJ & Bas have on these denim lab coats, that was something you created yourself?
Yes the lab coats are an original design! When Stefon and I were talking about CJ & Bash working in the lab he was always adamant that they take their garage workspace seriously and their work seriously. And that they would wear lab coats because that’s what folks working at NASA would do. I didn't like the idea of them being in white lab coats because it would be too much for camera & flat. So I pitched the idea of denim because I loved the idea of scientists in a garage in denim. It just made sense to me and would be great color and texture for camera. The denim my Key costumer Aaron spent a day swatching and then we picked one we liked I think it was from MOOD fabrics. Then we sent it to be stone washed (that bag was soooo heavy) and then our seamstress Cathy built the lab coats for Eden and Dante. We had their name patches custom made by the Griggs Bros - it was only right they have vintage mechanic style name patches. I then sourced the NASA pins and I’m so grateful they approved them for us to use.
How important was it to make sure to Black Designers were used in this film?
I always try to use as many black designers as I can for my projects and Stefon was adamant about the same thing! So it was perfect! I feel like its not easy to tell a story about black characters without using pieces from black designers. Our clothing says a whole lot about us! We have a very unique style and perspective. Which is why the world copies us :).
Would you mind sharing some of the names and companies?
Dopeciety (Eden’s yellow sweatshirt) www.dopeciety.com
The Wrap Life (All of the mom Phaedra’s head wraps) www.thewrap.life
Philadelphia Printworks (Most of Sebastien’s tees) shop.philaprint.com
The Griggs Brothas (Patches) www.thegriggsbrothers.com
Rebels to Dons by Josh Joseph (Calvin’s track pants) www.rebelstodons.com
Billionaire Boys Club (Jared’s bodega look) www.bbcicecream.com
(Pharrell bought BBC back!)
FWMJ.co (CJs constant state of rage tshirt at the end of the movie)
I also created a Wondeshia custom tee CJ with permission from the artist Ant Piper (TrillLeague.com) Also created Bash a Rasta Skateboarder tee with permission from the artist Malcolm Emilio (@stay_relevant). Malcolm also handpainted some the pieces CJ and Bash wear in the film. He and I would stay up late picking out colors, designs and deciding placement on the garments.
And the denim jacket Jared wears in the bodega is a custom piece designed and made by myself and Aaron of @BabylonCartel.
What was the most fun part about this project?
Being able to go for it design wise! Sometimes there’s a lot more input from the network or studio on costumes. I kinda got to do whatever I wanted as long as it worked with the sets and made sense for character. This was a super rare opportunity! Also my team is the best we would swag surf on the truck in the morning to wake up and start our day. Lastly working with so many talented black actors is a gift and shooting in Brooklyn during the summer. Because I love NYC!!
What piece of advice can you share with the BFABW Community?
Keep working towards your dreams, defend your ideas and be good to people always.
“See you yesterday” is now streaming on Netflix.
All Photos are property of Netflix.