Back in March, FX premiered its latest comedy series, Dave, which may be considered a sleeper pick of 2020 for some. The premise is simple enough. If you’re a fan of rapper Lil’ Dicky, the story may be familiar. It follows Dave, played by Lil’ Dicky (Dave Burd) on his journey to be taken seriously as a rapper living in Los Angeles with sophomoric humor and exaggerated celebrity encounters. It deals with Dave awkwardly navigating the star-studded rap world in studio sessions with YG or at mansion parties with Young Thug and Gunna. Much like the real rapper, we see Dave struggle with being pigeonholed as a comedy rapper. And on a more serious note, the show deals with more relatable issues 20-somethings face including relationship problems.
The 10-episode season appears to have a level of authenticity other network television shows lack. Part of that is thanks to its streetwear-infused wardrobe. The series’ costume designer Romy Itzigsohn has worked in the space for over a decade on feature films, Madden commercial shoots, and more. She got her start in fashion, working for defunct Los Angeles boutique Suh-tahn where she learned processes like manufacturing and dyeing. She would later move to San Francisco where she worked as a director’s assistant and took a liking to the behind the scenes aspect of tv and film production. She saw costume design as a way to marry her two passions. Dave was actually her first ever television show.
“Dave really didn't want the show to look like ‘TV.’ That was the big concept for all departments. He didn't want it to look like glossy network television,” says Itzigsohn. “He wanted it to feel authentic, but we all had to learn how to do that in real time.”
He would improvise on the fly and was very particular about minute details like sock color, things Itzigsohn had to take into consideration on any given shoot day. However, her personal goal was to showcase as many Los Angeles streetwear brands that she could. For example, characters wear items like an Online Ceramics tie-dye T-shirt, Stüssy jacket, or Brain Dead sweatpants in the first season. Elz, played by Travis “Taco” Bennett of Odd Future fame, rocks some of the more stylish fits throughout the season from a vintage Indiana Pacers Reggie Miller Champion jersey to a striped Supreme crewneck. Justin Bieber appears for a cameo wearing a red Fear of God fitted cap he is frequently spotted in in real life. Young Thug wore his brand Spider for his memorable appearance. It’s what you would expect to really see these people wearing.
We got a chance to speak with Itzigsohn during quarantine about working with Burd on set, sourcing pieces for the show, what intrigues her about today’s streetwear landscape, and more.
So how exactly does that come about, you being the costume designer for Dave?
I was introduced to the show by the production designer Almitra Corey. She and I have worked together on a few films in the past and we've known each other for years. She worked on the pilot and really liked the whole team. When they were starting to put the crew together for the show, she told them about me and we met a couple times. I think for Dave, it also being his first show, he was sort of curious about how it would work, how he has a very particular personality and how we would work well together, especially under the pressure of production.
When you're brought on to the show, what is intriguing to you about the show and its process?
Well, it was interesting because half of the cast were playing themselves, obviously Dave, GaTa is playing GaTa. Then, the other side with Ally's (Taylor Misiak) character, Elz's (Travis “Taco” Bennett) character, and Mike's (Andrew Santino) character, they were all playing real people that existed, but they were actors. I think Emma's (Christine Ko) character was the only fictional character. So it was interesting. I didn't know any of these people going in. I didn't know any of the real people. I hadn't worked with any of these actors. And so it was sort of a process of discovering how far we wanted to go in matching reality. It turned out we didn't go very far into matching reality. Luckily everyone is young and stylish naturally. So it wasn't a challenge to get into the creative with anyone and come up with a concept.
Dave really didn't want the show to look like "TV". That was the big concept for all departments. He didn't want it to look like glossy network television. And I think that's why he ended up with people who had done more film than TV work on the creative side. But he didn't want it to look like a hyper stylized film either. He wanted it to feel authentic, but we all had to learn how to do that in real time.
It is essentially his life story turned up a little bit in the exaggeration department. Is Dave giving a lot of input as far as the outfits he and the characters wear?
Dave has an opinion. He misses nothing. He has a very sharp eye and a high capacity for information. So anything from the color of a prop toothbrush to the shoelaces on another character's shoes, he can take all of that information in as well as write and perform his lines and work with the people behind the monitor. Then after work, he would go and watch every single take of every single shot and discuss them with us late into the night.
Did Dave making this as realistic as possible provide more of a challenge or was it easier because you're just mimicking real life in a sense?
Oh a constant challenge. I will say that I like being challenged, especially when the show was not asking for a very specific heightened sense of style as far as the costumes were concerned. The challenge was to work with Dave on every aspect. I mean, socks could be a major discussion on any given day. We had to custom dye Nike socks. While he's lovely to work with, he is a challenge. And that's part of what you sign up for when you're working with Dave. And I'm sure he'd be the first to admit that.
Are there any other memorable stories or tasks that you had to do similar to the socks on set as far as the wardrobe goes?
Well, all of our male cast were pretty particular. All the ladies in the cast were extremely easygoing. And I understand this because, Taco is not Elz. He is his own brand in a sense. Andrew Santino is a comedian, so he also has a brand outside of being an actor. By the end of the day, I could walk through a trailer full of T-shirts and know which guy would and would not wear which type of T-shirt, shoes, socks, and cut of pants.
Are you able to walk me through the sourcing process and where you find inspiration?
So I know that Dave and the rest of the guys in the show were all big fans of some of the mainstream streetwear brands and sports brands like Nike and New Balance and all of them. I wanted to pull away from that as much as I could, not that we didn't use a lot of those brands, but I also wanted to incorporate what I think is happening in the streetwear world today, which I think is extremely exciting and interesting. Being in Los Angeles, we had access to stores like Virgil Normal. Across the board, from Venice to Pasadena, we just had such a wealth of new brands, small brands that I was able to weave into everyone's wardrobe.
Given the pressure and timing of production for TV, it wasn't as thought out and prepared as a film would be, where you have the script from the very beginning and know what's going to happen in the story. Not having all of that information ahead of time and not having all the cast or guest stars locked in until the very last minute, we just had to build this network of interesting pieces from interesting brands. And that's kind of how I think we achieved a sort of signature look for the show.
So one particular cameo was Justin Bieber. He's wearing his own brand’s T-shirt and a Fear of God hat. Did he just show up in that or did you style him that way?
From the very beginning I told Dave and the rest of the team that I think we should leave people who are representing themselves alone. The last minute nature, the fact that we could never bring people in for fittings ahead of time would have been detrimental to the department. What we would do is have them come in a little bit early and just sort of talk with whoever was showing up on the day and they would all bring a few different options. We would see what everyone else was wearing in the scene and make sure that there wasn't a lot of overlap. That's how we did the guest star cameo costumes.
Throughout the season, you see streetwear brands like Stüssy. Mike wears an Online Ceramics T-shirt in one episode. Dave wears Tombolo in an episode or two. You said that the streetwear world is very interesting right now. What intrigues you about that space?
I like the fact that people have started to incorporate almost a hippie vibe to everything. I know that tie dye is really trendy now, but personally I never think it's out of style. I think the use of color is much more interesting in streetwear today. Not as many primary colors, you've got a lot of pastels. I don't know if you noticed but we use a lot of pastels in the show.
So the idea that you're finding, beautifully hand marbled sweatpants from brands like Brain Dead, or a corduroy pullover that has granny squares across the chest, all of those kind of interesting crossovers between what you might've considered to be a surfer or a skater style can go into something a little more traditionally athletic. All of the graphics are so beautiful and interesting. We use a few graphic tees for Dave, and that was because Dave specifically liked those ones. But Online Ceramics, it's a graphic T-shirt but it's art. I think there's just a lot more going into the design and the color choices that people are making and it's beautiful.
Were you especially happy to highlight any particular brands in the show's wardrobe?
Story mfg. was a huge inspiration. I love that company. They're in England. We reached out to them because honestly we couldn't afford their price. They immediately said, “We're a huge fan of Dave,” and they sent us the entire collection to use in the show, which was a huge win for us. I think you can actually see it sprinkled all around the show. We used Online Ceramics, Carrots, General Admission, which is a Venice company. We use a lot of Champion, Nike, and Fila, and those are all brands that have big logos that you can see obviously. But if I could try to get enough pieces in there that were done by local or small companies, I was really happy to do that.
Did any of the choices come from something as simple as Dave being like, ‘I love this T-shirt that I bought. Can I wear it in the show?’
Oh yeah. I don't think I've ever been on set for anything as much as I was for Dave. Dave has a high capacity for information. He could know what line he might improvise that might highlight in a negative way, the graphic on a T-shirt. There's no way I could know something like that ahead of time. He would know every shot and every setup that they would be doing. So if I had gotten a walk through digitally of all the locations and from the art department, what set dressing they would be applying to the location, I would know all the colors we were working with on the walls, on the furniture. But then Dave would know that he had a secret plan to shoot something in a different spot. And there was a blue wall there. That's why the socks can't be blue this time.
So a lot of on the fly audibles going on?
Yeah. And you just have to go with that, which was, again, a new experience for me. I usually feel like I'm really rooted in the concept for every costume in a movie. There's so much work that goes on before any piece of clothing is ever seen on camera, whether the color is enhanced or faded or selected for various reasons. You might have texture. That's important because of lighting. This show was the exact opposite, which was good because it was meant to feel authentic. And I think it did, but it didn't look like commercial network television.
Is there something especially rewarding about working on Dave because of that unique way that you had to go about certain things?
Yeah. It felt like a huge achievement to live through it. I really do enjoy working with Dave and that's the only reason that any of it would be worth it.
Did you have a favorite episode to style? Did you have a favorite character to dress?
I think the finale was my favorite, not just for the costumes, but I think it was also my favorite episode. I liked when we had all of or most of our cast in an episode. And Dave was obviously one of my favorites costume-wise. So was Emma. I believe Emma will be more prominent in season two. So just setting up this character that we haven't totally gotten to know yet, that was an interesting task. Taco could pull anything off. I mean, he was just a guy who can look amazing in anything. We used a lot of vintage for him and he made it look brand new.
Like you said, you guys wanted it to feel authentic. It's always interesting to see a show dress characters in a way that you really see people dressing outside.
Yeah. We were trying to be authentic. I think we've been able to prove ourselves collectively as a group of people who've made the show and the next season, I think we'll be able to take that to another level.