Director Nisha Ganatra’s “The High Note” takes place in L.A.’s dazzling music scene. Tracee Ellis Ross plays superstar diva Grace Davis. Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is her overworked assistant who has little time for herself, her fashion and little money. All Maggie wants is to be a music producer — it’s been her dream.
Ice Cube plays Jack, Grace’s manager who has created many stars and he knows it. Both Grace and Jack show their power through lavish outfits as they take us through the inner workings of the music industry.
Costume designer Jenny Eagan (“Knives Out” “Widows”) knew just how to dress her characters. Research took her back to ‘40s glamour for crafting Grace’s look.
“The High Note” premieres Friday on premium VOD.
Eagan spoke with Variety about bringing the film’s look together.
How did you want to approach Grace Davis, this iconic legend of stage and music?
I had these conversations with Tracee and the director (Nisha Ganatra) and fittings with Tracee and it was about going back to the glamour of the ’40s and ’70s. Nisha, Jason McCormick (cinematographer), Theresa Guleserian (production designer) and I sat down at the beginning and laid the groundwork of the palette early.
Grace is an icon and represents herself that way. Her clothes are extraordinarily beautiful and carry her in a way, and when you see her she exudes confidence.
She was someone to look up to. She was a woman who worked hard for the career she had. She wanted to give back and express that to the people around her –those at the label — she wanted to show she was in charge.
We discussed the bright colors. We discussed how luxurious they were and yet could be classics for years to come.
What about that red outfit we see her in at the beginning? That outfit really gave me a throwback to Diana Ross in the “Chain Reaction” video.
We custom-made that fringe outfit and we knew it was going to be part of a montage. We knew that moment had to be a production and so it was all thought out.
It was such an incredibly heavily dress, but at the same time it was comfortable and really moved around.
If you go back to Tracee’s mother or many other stars, they would wear those big bold colors. When you’re at a concert and you see everyone come together for this star who is onstage, we wanted that dress to reflect that powerful concert moment of the star on stage in a big bold color.
The yellow outfit, with the jacket slung over her shoulder oozed that confidence, but was so classic.
That was Max Mara. There’s something about Grace and anything she puts on. She wasn’t wearing something to be comfortable, she was wearing something because it’s her brand, this is her saying, ‘This is who I am and how I want to represent myself.’
She was this strong powerful and very successful icon.
In contrast, Dakota is in T-shirts.
I thought about her and I did research and read things. Assistants are in the background because it’s not their show and they have to be functional. With her character, she’s doesn’t have 150 pairs of shoes and they don’t pay her enough.
With Joni Mitchell’s fringe jacket I put on her for one scene, she knows that music and she knows great music.
We didn’t want her to feel like a musician. She’s thrift shopping. It’s not important for her to be in high fashion. To her, work is the most important thing.
Jack (Ice Cube) walks into the room and you know who he is. He exudes that manager’s power.
This is a man who doesn’t repeat his suits. We made his suits using beautiful fabrics and elegant cotton. He was always on the job and the sunglasses and jewelry gave that push.