Along with actors, writers and directors, costume designers are expertly deft at navigating a plethora of subject matter and creative settings. Lyn Paolo, for instance, is known for outfitting DC power-brokers and various shady spies on ABC's "Scandal," and clothing the working-class Gallagher family in Showtime's "Shameless." Most recently, the prolific costume designer moonlighted on a big screen project that couldn't be more different in subject matter: "Burnt," the upcoming film starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, centers around the culinary industry.
Thanks to "Top Chef" and Anthony Bourdain, we all know that a fast-paced kitchen can be just as suspenseful and high drama as the not-secret-anymore affair between President Fitz and Olivia Pope — with some B613 intrigue thrown in. And the costume design can be just as inventive, if not more challenging. UK-born Paolo found this out when she took a break from her small screen gigs to return to London and create the looks for Cooper's Adam Jones — a disgraced two-star Michelin chef climbing his way back to the top for a coveted three-star rating — and his co-stars, including red carpet favorites Miller, Lily James and Alicia Vikander.
Paolo graciously took a moment out of her busy schedule to discuss how she created individuality for cast members all wearing the same white chef's uniform, dressing Vikander in head-to-toe Louis Vuitton (she's currently the face of the brand), and how an iconic Kate Moss look inspired one of Miller's dresses in the film.
Where did you find inspiration to dress Bradley Cooper for his role as bad boy chef Adam Jones?
I was lucky enough to meet several renowned chefs during the research for this film and both Bradley and Sienna spent a lot of time researching their roles. I was also so grateful to the team at Bragard who provided both their expertise and their amazing uniforms to the film. [Michelin-starred chef] Marcus Wareing and his whole team allowed us access to their kitchens and it was a wonderful experience watching the amazing ballet that is a well run kitchen.
In a restaurant kitchen, uniformity is key. What challenges did you face to express the characters' individuality while they were dressed in the Bragard chef uniforms?
Making each and every person within the kitchen and the brigade firstly look professional and secondly look like real people was such a blast, like a giant jigsaw puzzle. We started with different silhouettes from the uniform collections at Bragard — their uniforms are absolute perfection, with amazing cottons and truly fantastic tailoring. Secondly, we accessorized each person with jewelry, shoes, hats and scarves. We also worked closely with hair and makeup regarding the hairstyles and the placement of tattoos. It helped that so many of the cast were from different parts of the world and we were able to add a little touch of each country to their looks.
Where did you find inspiration for fellow chef and love interest Helene's (Sienna Miller's) costumes and how did you use the looks to define the character?
When [Sienna] and I met, we both agreed that Helene needed to be stylish within her economic world — meaning that I spent a lot of time at secondhand stores and walking up and down Portobello Road checking out the stalls for the coats that you see in the film. There were a lot of vintage pieces that we purchased for Helene — from her Barbour jacket to her leather jacket — with a combination of newer casual elements created the character's 'London look.' Sienna is such a pleasure and was completely into creating this character, down to the tattoos, hair and the jewelry. I truly had a blast working with her.
There's one scene in the trailer when Helene accompanies Adam to a party wearing a very Sienna Miller gold slip dress. What's the story behind that look?
The slip dress was based on an image we had in our heads of the classic Kate Moss slip dress, which, of course, we could not find anywhere in London. So thank goodness for the team at Burberry, who came to our rescue and literally created two options over a weekend for us. I cannot thank Christopher [Bailey] and his amazing team at Burberry enough. The dress was perfect for Helene. It looks gorgeous on Sienna, but it also felt authentic to the character and Burberry made that happen with no time and they were so gracious and invested in making the film look beautiful.
Lily James plays Sara, the girlfriend of young aspiring chef, David (Sam Keeley) and Alicia Vikander plays posh Anne Marie. What was the inspiration behind their on-screen looks in the movie?
For Lily, it was fun to fit her. One minute, she was running around Ealing Studios in her costumes for "Downton Abby" and the next she was trying on tank tops and shorts for "Burnt." We were working at the studio while they were filming and it was a delight to watch the transition that Lily went through going from one project to another.
With Alicia and her character, we wanted to feel that she was living in another world from our chefs. She had money, was from a different country and director John Wells wanted to ensure that we felt both of these important aspects of her character. Thankfully the gracious team at Louis Vuitton worked with us to dress Alicia. So in every scene, she is in head-to-toe Vuitton. I will be forever grateful to the brand for working with us to achieve her look; they were amazingly kind to the film.
We were also fortunate to work with brands like Burberry and Paul Smith, who I felt were important to reach out to as we wanted to showcase London and British brands, as well as the depth of the European community that makes up the world of kitchens.
The universe knows you for dressing the most powerful woman in fictional Washington DC, plus lots of other political power brokers on 'Scandal' — how did you switch gears for this movie?
Research, research, research, and also it was just a joy to go home to London. Of course, I have to thank ["Shameless" producer] John Wells and ["Scandal" producer] Shonda Rhimes who were kind enough to let me work on both projects at the same time. I spent a lot of time on airplanes back and forth.
"Burnt" premieres on Friday, Oct. 30.