Exclusive interview with 'Dope' costume designer Patrik Milani
Costume designers do more than create fashion for television or film. They help create characters, moods and an overall view of the world. What would "Pulp Fiction" have been without the clothes to make it distinctive? In 2015, a new film will be added to the list of creative juggernauts - films that set themselves apart from the others distinctively by style. And the man behind the genius styling in the new film "Dope," speaks in this exclusive interview on his beginnings in the business, his creative process and his vision for the future. He is costume designer Patrik Milani.
If you think his name sounds Italian, well then you are right. Milani was born and bred in Italy, but he is a man of the world. He spent his summers in Napa (which is apparent by his lack of an Italian accent) and discovered his gift for styling and costume design in the fashion capital of the world - Paris.
"My parents were very fashionable," says Milani. "They never talked about it, of course. But I was always fascinated by their clothes, the labels, Gucci and Fendi. I didn't even know fashion could be a career choice for men until I moved to Paris. My friends worked for Yves St. Laurent and they encouraged me to become a stylist."
But Milani's talents go far past fashion. Through his gift as a costume designer he is able to create an entire character's life through the clothes they wear and the garments that hang in their closets, "Every time I read a script I can always picture what they are wearing, and what their closets and apartments are like. I guess, it's just easy for me."
When Milani read the script for "Dope," he fell in love with the story. "I know I wasn't the obvious choice to do the costumes, but I loved the script. I told my agent that he had to get me a meeting with the director."
Obviously Milani's instincts were spot on, as he was picked to work on "Dope."
The film is a story about three geeky kids that are growing up in Inglewood, California. These are college bound kids living in a gang infested neighborhood and they don't really fit into their surroundings. Things turn quite comical when they accidentally end up in the drug trade. By becoming "dope," they may just may discover their true selves.
"It works so well with the actors," says Milani. "There is just not one false note. I had a special bond to this script and I am very proud of my work. Even though it is a story about young kids, it resonates with people of all ages. The film got a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival."
Milani spoke of the three main actors, indicating that they often shared screen time with each other. But he had to separate them in his mind to find their identities and discover their color pallets and fashion tastes.
Music also plays an integral part in "Dope." The film is produced by Forest Whitaker, executive produced by Pharrell Williams and Puff Daddy. Milani credits Pharrell for upping his costume budget, "There are a lot of characters in the film and we had such a tiny budget. I would have not been able to do all that was done, if Pharrell hadn't gotten involved."
The main characters are into early 1990's rap, "I reference the book 'Back in the Day' a lot when working on this film. I used a lot of clothing from the 80s and 90s."
While many costume designers send their assistants out to scour Los Angeles for vintage clothing, Milani was a little more creative. He sourced many of his costumes directly from Ebay, "Vintage stuff is so rare, that I found myself up late at night bidding on auctions on Ebay - just to find the right pieces for the film."
Milani was puzzled at first on how to really grasp how teens dress today. He thought of hanging around high schools, but he soon found a better and more modern approach - Instagram. Many of Milani's inspirations came from a very stylish teens that he found on Instagram, "When the director would question me on my choices, I could just show him real kids on Instagram that were dressing the same way."
"Dope" is doing amazingly so far. It was nominated for Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and it will be shown on the closing night at Cannes (although not in competition). "Dope" opens nationwide in the United States on Friday, June 19.
Patrik Milani is just getting a taste of the life as a costume designer. With such creative and inventive flare, he is already attached to two new projects. And being a true dreamer, as many creative people are, Milani looks towards a bright future in his career. His next goal is to work on a futuristic film or a period drama, "I want to create more than just a character, I want to create an entire world."