Costume designer Arianne Phillips has a knack for an iconic statement. This is, of course, the woman who put Brad Pitt in a Hawaiian shirt in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (for which she earned an Oscar-nomination nod), and who has collaborated with Madonna for over 20 years, as a stylist and, in 2011, as costume designer for Madonna’s movie, W.E. – and who is now harnessing the glittering world of celebrity as a platform for change with her red-carpet advocacy initiative, RAD.
Brought up in California to bohemian parents, Phillips drifted into the creative cauldron of ’80s downtown New York, where she cut her teeth styling fashion shows in nightclubs.
For all the operatic love of scale in her work, Phillips’ own demeanor is much more laid-back – she’s not one of those “old-school grande dames like Edith Head,” she laughs. Instead, she prefers to call herself “a people detective”.
“Everything I do is about storytelling,” she adds. And her own story begins in a dress-up trunk in Berkeley, California, in the 1960s…
Fantasy costumes from the family dress-up trunk
“This photo was taken in Berkeley, California, when I was about seven years old, circa 1970. My sister was about three. And this was in our dress-up room in the house we lived in.”
Hitting the New York club scene with my sister – wearing David Spada earrings
“I loved Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex and Chrissie Hynde [from The Pretenders] – and all these really empowered and super-fashionable women artists. That’s kind of what I modeled myself after and what I was attracted to.”
Wearing vintage to the premiere of W.E. at the Venice Film Festival in 2011
“Madonna had such compassion and empathy and understanding for the characters. And, you know, as a director, she is able to understand intimately the role of costumes, having been an actress and a performer for so many years. She knows the power of costume in creating characters, so I had such an incredible level of trust from her.”
My vintage Mickey Mouse sweatshirt
“This is kind of me at my best, or how I feel my best. I’m wearing my Mickey Mouse vintage sweatshirt, which I bought at the Rose Bowl Flea Market quite a few years ago. A white T-shirt, jeans, tennis shoes and my beloved Cutler and Gross sunglasses.”
Wearing my favorite boiler suit, working on Kingsman: The Secret Service, in London, in 2014
“While prepping the first Kingsman movie in London, I found this really fantastic men’s boiler suit in Portobello Market – and I actually adapted it myself. Oftentimes, when I’m working on a film, I start dressing like the story we’re telling.”
Wearing a jacquard Prada coat from SS14 at the opening of my Iconoclasts takeover at the Prada Bond Street store in London
“This was a seminal moment in the timeline of my career, just in terms of being invited to participate with one of my most admired designers – Mrs Prada – and the whole team. I’ve always been such a fan.”
The upcycled gown Jeremy Scott of Moschino created for the Oscars in 2020
“I really wanted to use my platform to have a message. I talked to Jeremy about sustainability and how we could talk about that on the red carpet, and he had the brilliant idea of upcycling the dress I wore the last time I was nominated, in 2012.”
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