Brooks Brothers carries the Mad Men Edition suit, with costume designer Janie Bryant clearly credited.
But Bryant’s fellow costume designers usually do not share in her good fortune. You will not find their names on those trendsetting dresses, those must-have leather jackets, those sought-after dolls — all those commercial goodies that came out of such films as “Hannah Montana,” “The Matrix,” “Spider-Man,” and “Wall Street.” Those creative minds didn’t see a dime of your expenditure. And it’s the same story for just about every costume designer in Hollywood.
“It’s all of them. Every movie you can think of,” says costume designer Deena Appel, creative rights chair (merchandising issues) and board member of the Costume Designers Guild.
“Studios are essentially saying, ‘Design the clothes for the film and we’ll take what you do and put it into a completely different industry — the retail world. And you’re not going to get anything from it,’ ” adds Appel, who designed the costumes for all three “Austin Powers” films.
“When ‘Austin Powers’ became dolls, Halloween costumes and board games, and it went on for years, not only am I not compensated for that in any way, shape or form, I am not even credited for it.”
Costume designer Christopher Lawrence dressed Miley Cyrus for “Hannah Montana: The Movie.” “I had the choice to not be the costume designer or I could do it and give everything to the studio,” Lawrence recalls. “Those are your choices. I’m happy to be a part of that, but it’s also a little unfair.
“It’s not just Disney. It’s every studio. This has happened since they did Olivia Newton-John dolls for ‘Grease’ or dolls for ‘Charlie’s Angels.’ Somebody, 50 years ago, thought it was OK to give up his or her designs. This has been a problem within our particular branch of the film industry. The studio owns everything that we do — from our sketches to our samples to the finished product.”
Bryant’s deal with Brooks Brothers has given her fellow designers some hope for the future.
“I’m certain, wisely, the producers saw that it was an advantage, not a disadvantage, to have to a costume designer linked to the clothing line — to use the costume designer for publicity,” Appel says. “It’s such a win-win. Who knows the character better than the costume designer?”
“Janie Bryant is the exception to the rule,” Lawrence adds.” That is a grand step forward.”
In the past, audiences would see a film because the costumes were created by superstars Adrian, Theadora Van Runkle, Helen Rose or Edith Head.
“Once costume designers really influenced everyday fashion,” says Jeanne Yang, stylist for the Cloutier Agency. “Then they took a backseat again.”
Michael Kaplan designed those memorable costumes for “Fight Club” and “Blade Runner.” And Colleen Atwood won two Oscars for her designs for “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Chicago.” Yet Kaplan and Atwood are hardly household names.
Style guru Cameron Silver concludes: “Because Janie Bryant is getting personal acclaim right now, other studios might see the opportunity to make money. Studios have forgotten that they could be developing household names for their costume designers.”