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Patrik Milani has only worked as a costume designer on a handful of movies, but after he read the script for Dope, he knew he wanted to work on the film. Although Milani, who grew up in Italy, had a very different experience than Malcolm (played by Shameik Moore) and his crew in Inglewood, Calif., he quickly related to the story of being an outsider.
After meeting with writer and director Rick Famuyiwa, Milani was chosen to create the film's hip-hop driven style. Taking cues from Inglewood teenagers on Instagram, he outfitted cast members like A$AP Rocky in Los Angeles brands like The Hundreds and Undefeated. While Malcolm's nerdy trio, who are obsessed with '90s rappers like Ice Cube, were dressed in colorful Cross Colours jackets, acid wash denim, and retro Jordans.
We recently talked with Milani about taking inspiration from social media, working with A$AP Rocky, and how Pharrell Williams made the wardrobe for the anticipated film possible.
What drew you to want to do the costume design for Dope?
I have done four films so far, but I have done a lot of commercials. I started in the fashion world and then started doing commercials. Although I come from a completely different background, I grew up in Italy so it is a different world from me, when I read the script it was really about being an outsider. I wanted to do the film, so I met Rick and we totally clicked.
How did you find ideas for how the characters should dress?
I looked for pictures, but I was worried they might be a couple years old. So I was like, what am I going to do, hangout at high schools in Inglewood as a 40-plus creepy guy in my car? From a costume design perspective it was very important to me that it was West Coast and not East Coast. One thing I wondered was how do people really dress in Inglewood now? I started doing research and I searched Instagram for Inglewood High and from there I started following all these kids and their style was crazy good. Even people working on the film were like, kids aren’t wearing such colorful clothes, and I was like these are real people.
What inspired each character's wardrobe?
Shameik was inspired by this kid who goes to Inglewood High and really dresses like that. I took Shameik a little further to the extreme. One thing that is important to remember is that this isn’t a '90s film, it isn’t set in the '90s.
For Kiersey Clemons, who plays Diggy, one of the things Rick talked about was that she is still a woman and feminine. My inspiration for her was Aaliyah, especially in the early years when she wore men’s clothing that was oversized.
Jib was very N.W.A. and early rap. There is this amazing photographer Jamel Shabazz, who has these books called A Time Before Crack and Back in the Days. Even though they are from earlier than my reference window, I really love that period and the way he captured it.
Pharrell was the executive producer of the film, what role did he play in the wardrobe?
I only met Pharrell once, but I was dealing with his producer, Mimi Valdes. When she came on, she said my friend has this website Karmaloop, you can order anything you want. Since this is an independent movie, that really opened up my budget. The main kids, I had already shopped for, but the website really helped make the movie be what it is. Having Pharrell involved opened up a whole new world to me.
How did you find the early '90s pieces for Malcolm and his crew?
There was this one brand, Cross Colours, and I really wanted to get those pieces, especially for Kiersey. The pieces I found were like XXXL, so you couldn’t even tailor them down. Then I started going on eBay, and trying to win these bids for smaller sizes. Having Cross Colours was very important.
What ideas did you have for dressing A$AP Rocky’s character?
A$AP is super smart and professional. He brought a lot of stuff for his character Dom. He really knows how to wear the clothes so we could just put a black T-shirt on him and he would look great. We ended up mixing a bit of his stuff and a bit of what I had. It was sort of a collaboration, but it was always for his character it was never an A$AP Rocky thing.
How did you choose what brands to use?
One of the things I wanted to do was choose brands that were from L.A., like Undefeated, The Hundreds, and Crooks and Castles. I have a lot of contacts in the fashion world, like for Zoë Kravitz I used Acne jeans, but I didn’t have those streetwear contacts. Pharrell really opened those doors.