Earlier this month we learned that one of our favorite prime time soaps about rich people (yes, we have multiple favorites), Revenge, would be getting a clothing line. Details were sparse, and obviously we wanted to know more, so we rang costume designer Jill Ohannesson. Though a retail partner has yet to be confirmed, Ohannesson filled us in on what we can look forward to.
And don't expect her to stop there. Ohannesson also has her sights set on her own plus size clothing line (not affiliated with Revenge) and maybe even a menswear line inspired by Nolan.
How did you get into costume design? In college, I started working on these student films on the weekends and made a lot of great contacts and somebody got offered a job to work as a costumer and she was pregnant and so she gave them my name and I can literally trace it all back to that. From that point on, it was just word of mouth and hearing about jobs and sending my resume and slowly but surely building up to doing features and costume designing features and getting then into television.
How long had a clothing line been in the works? How was that idea introduced? I know that the fashion on the show is very popular and [ABC's] licensing and franchising department talked to me last year about maybe trying to do something. All the rest of the season I started thinking it would be really great to do a dress line, because I just think that it’s really for me the signature look for Revenge. At the end of last season, I called back up to that department and said, 'Have you gotten anything together? If so I’d love to be involved. If not, I recently had hired Matchbook [a creative agency] and said, 'I’m really looking to do some lines, particularly a dress line but I’m also interested just personally--not for Revenge--but personally to do a plus size line and maybe a men's line a la Nolan. So they said that yes, they’d been trying to work on that so we all joined forces--Matchbook, myself and ABC and their licensing agency Firefly. I was in New York last week and we were setting up meetings with a couple of local retailers, so we’re going forward with that.
Why a dress line? It felt like the natural extension. I felt like it wasn’t just that these women were wearing dresses and looking great all the time, but it was kind of this specific look we’re very much about: the fitted sheath dress for Victoria and Emily although Emily’s is a little more demure in the neckline, versus Victoria's sultry sexy necklines. What I thought perfectly rounded it out is Charlotte in her great little fit and flare dresses and then Ashley with her separates. I felt like part of what people loved about [the show] was dressing up and I think that’s something that whether there’s an economic downturn or not, really raises people’s spirits and I think we can help give them that in their own lives.
Do you think the line will be a little more affordable than, say, the wardrobes of the characters themselves? I think it’s going to depend who we end up partnering with and what the price points will be there. Of course, my job is to have the best quality and the best fabrics and the best craftsmanship I can possibly get with whatever partnership we do. Every single item of clothing that’s worn on Revenge is altered for those specific bodies. It is different when you translate that into dresses that are going to be worn by many different bodies. I’m not used to just dealing with one fit model, I’ve dealt with so many different body types and bust lines and hip lines that I feel like I can really service that fit situation.
Would you ever do more than just a dress line? The idea is to start to do something for holiday and if not we would do something for spring for sure. That doesn’t mean we can’t branch out later on or I may branch off and do some other things on my own with some other retailers, particularly, as I was talking about, the plus size line or the men's line. I definitely will pitch a Nolan Revenge line to ABC and see if we can make something happen.
Why plus size? I love the idea that plus size clothing can still be elegant and beautiful. I think there's a hole in the market. I think there’s a lot of great brands that hit the lower and medium price points, but there’s so many women who are plus size that are in the work force that are corporate managers and executives and there are so few places for them to shop, especially now that more and more of the plus size departments in department stores are being closed down--they’re being taken out of a number of the Bloomingdale's and Macy's, Saks it's now only online, same with Neiman Marcus. It's a market that although has gotten a lot better thanks to the Internet, still definitely has some potential.
Have you discussed how you might promote the line when it comes out? Would you maybe have some of the characters wear it on the show--or some of the actresses in real life? It depends on what retailer we partner with. I would love to have that kind of a crossover and ultimately I would want to be designing a dress line that the actresses on my show would want to wear.
I do a lot of high-end designer fashion for my actresses, but we also build things so they’re not unused to that. I show them a sketch; I show them fabric, and then a couple days to a week later, they’re trying on a finished garment. So I think they’re open to it.