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If anyone has a life made for TV, it's Sophia Amoruso, founder of the Nasty Gal e-comm site and creator of the term #Girlboss. She went from dumpster diving to flipping vintage on eBay to building a $100 million fashion brand, all in her twenties.
The Sophia rollercoaster is still unfolding: she stepped down from CEO at Nasty Gal in 2015 to start a Girlboss website, Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy last year, and then got acquired by UK retailer Boohoo. But the new Netflix's series Girlboss, out April 21st, stops well before any of that happens. Instead, actress Britt Robertson plays a young Sophia as she kicks off her fashion empire in San Francisco in the mid 2000s.
Since this show is all about clothing and personal style, we really wanted to pick the brain of Girlboss's talented costume designer Audrey Fisher. We asked Audrey for her vintage shopping tips, which she graciously revealed, along with how she reinforced the show's story arcs through fashion. For example: that Gucci sweatshirt Britt wears in the show echoes Sophia's fashion ambitions. "That was her goal—to be sort of her own Gucci," Audrey said. She also reminded us just how weird Aughts-era fashion seems, in hindsight. Read on, and get ready to binge watch the show this weekend.
The Lookbook: What did you and Sophia Amoruso discuss when it came to nailing the look of the era?
Audrey Fisher: Sophia is an executive producer and of course, the whole show is based on her life and her book. I basically reached out to Sophia to ask if I could come to her house and interview her.
My wish was to just get in her closet. That's what kind of happened. Another gracious thing that happened was that she gave the production all of these photos from that time in her life. Like personal Polaroid and snapshots and all of these amazing images from that time in her life in San Francisco, all her friends, everything. I think between that collection of photographs and this visit to her closet, she sort of helped me get the right tone.
Mixed with my own research of that time in San Francisco, especially in the background, I was able to hit the right era and those special silhouettes from 10 years ago. You think, oh 2004 to 2006. But then you see pictures of that time and you think, 'Oh my gosh, it looks so strange.'
The Lookbook: What was so different?
Audrey Fisher: For instance, there's a couple of distinctive trends that started. Like really low bootcut jeans with a really low waistband. This really wide waistband and this tiny little zipper. Lighter jeans, especially on men, with a really wide leg. Very sort of boxy, bulky looking. We call it a dad jean, a really wide jean with a comfortable fit. That was totally the norm. A cargo short, constant everywhere.
Then the sort of ironic printed T-shirt, like "Dare to Keep Your Kids Off Drugs." All those sort of ironic, "Free Winona" graphic T-shirts. The little trucker caps, and plaid western shorts. Little short, weird cropped-denim jackets. And satin utility pants on girls. It's not entirely different. It's not like looking back on 1906. But there was definitely a way that clothes were being worn.
That was really interesting to find that in our background [characters and extras] especially. I tried to be as strict as I could when it comes to grounding it in the period. Then for the principal characters I had to be a little looser because we wanted them to look so fresh and wonderful that it would be hard for them to be that distinctive with the period look, like right front and center.
And then Sophia is always in 1970s because that's her jam. That was her look. She wore vintage only and she chose the '70s as her era. I got to just focus on '70s and find wonderful vintage pieces for her. That was great, having a lead character that you're in the mid-2000s but you still get to do '70s on this one person. It was really fun.
The Lookbook: Sounds like Sophia's '70s clothes might've been more timeless than 2000s-era clothes.
Audrey Fisher: That was her thing. She talks about it in the book. She had this very stylish, cheap and chic group of friends. They didn't have a lot of money but they had this incredible, eclectic sense of style. They would all choose an era, and they would just go there, and hers was the '70s. The bellbottoms, great leather jackets, it's a very sexy look. I think she told me once that it kind of suited her body and it made her feel great. I got to do that on Britt as Sophia. That was really fun.
The Lookbook: How did you find all those Aughts-era clothes?
Audrey Fisher: We have costume houses all over town. They're huge warehouses filled with clothes organized by the decade. Because of the budget and the time frame, I'd say we got half of the background clothes [there] and then we thrifted the other half.
The Lookbook: Tell us your vintage shopping tips.
Audrey Fisher: I am one of those people, I'm like a dog on a bone. I look at every piece in the store. If I'm shopping with friends, they just completely tap out. I'm still going and I'm going and I just become like a machine. Especially when I'm looking for something specific. I'm kind of completely obsessed until I find it.
My shopping tip is just to be like a laser beam and to just quietly go along your path until you find the gold. That's my training because that's what I do and that's what I love. I want to look at everything and I'm inspired by looking at every piece. You just have to hunt. You have to be ready to dig. You'll find it. You'll find something. If you don't find exactly what you thought you would, you're always going to find something as long as you have the energy for it, and just kind of embrace the experience fully.
The Lookbook: Would you ever haggle with a vintage store owner like Sophia does it the trailer?
Audrey Fisher: If I'm in a new store with a new vendor, I can sort of try a little bit. I often haggle in a way where it's good for both of us. Like, “Look, if you give me a percentage, I'll buy more.” It's like a friendly haggle. I'm always haggling when I go to the flea market. That's the best time to haggle, because that's just what you're supposed to do. I enjoy a good haggle for sure.
The Lookbook: What’s your favorite piece from the series?
Audrey Fisher: I think the most fun I had with Britt's costumes with trying to achieve Sophia's character was with the accessories. Her jewelry and her earrings and her rings. I think the piece I really feel the most kinship with is the denim jumpsuit that I made her. Sophia is kind of famous for wearing a denim jumpsuit now and she looks so amazing in it. She alwaysmakes it look so chic and effortless. I sort of love winking at the now Sophia with the character of Sophia by putting her in a really amazing jumpsuit. It fit [Britt] perfectly—my seamstress did a beautiful job. It just felt so right, I felt like it was such a nice nod to Sophia in her later years after this period in her life was over.
You sort of bond with the pieces that you make. Early on, I showed Sophia costume fitting photos and that was one of the pieces. That was one of the things I think she really liked and I was really happy about that.
The Lookbook: eBay’s a big part of the plot of the show – did you shop there?
Audrey Fisher: Especially for hard to find things and very specific things, eBay is amazing. Also, just the fact that you can get a price lower and lower, and then the "Buy It Now" option is really great. And if you wait it out, the price will come down. Or it will go up. It's always that eBay thing you have to figure out. For a show like Girlboss that has a very fast production schedule, sometimes eBay doesn't work in terms of shipping and getting it when you need it.
But for the things that we could watch and wait, it was great. Especially jewelry. We found a lot of really great jewelry for Britt that was reminiscent of the silver jewelry that Sophia wore in that time. A lot of really wonderful, sort of Brutalist silver pieces from the '70s.
Again, it's having the patience to keep on searching and trying again and trying again and going deeper and deeper into your search until you hit the jackpot.
The Lookbook: Was it fulfilling working on a show where fashion is so central to the plot?
Audrey Fisher: Of course, it's like a dream come true. I of course think the costumes are incredibly important, regardless of whether it's a procedural or a costume drama. If people just showed up and walked on camera wearing what they are wearing every day, it wouldn't be a show. For me, costumes are a vital element of any production.
For a show like this, we're talking about a fashion entrepreneur and a person who is so obsessed with clothes and who creates a whole world out of clothes and a business. In the beginning, it was intimidating and sort of scary, especially for someone who is alive and well and she has a great business, just trying to create a fictional account that is the mirroring of this person's life. That's a big responsibility and also a big challenge. I took it on with a lot of gusto and I welcome those kind of challenges, which are creatively very exciting. I just dove in and had a great time with it. Because you don't always get that kind of opportunity to make the costumes so overtly the center of the story.
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