A Well Suited Wardrobe for “A Simple Favor”
From ‘Hidden Figures,’ to ‘Friends with Benefits,’ and ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,’ Renee Kalfus has undoubtedly designed some of the most memorable and influential costumes for over 29 films to date.
Most recently, her stunning work can be seen in genius director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, The Heat) suburban noir thriller, A Simple Favor; centring around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy vlogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s (Blake Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town.
Read on below to hear about the costume design process, the inspiration behind the film’s leading character’s looks, and Renee’s personal favourite looks from the film.
Interview by Lauren Macaree
On the subject of starting within the industry:
I graduated with a BFA in fine arts but started working as a stylist in commercials. I was able to get an interview with director Lasse Hallstrom because a producer recommended me. I put together mood boards and had a very creative interview, after which, he hired me. We went on to collaborate on five more movies. This was the start of my career.
On the subject of where the passion for costume design started:
My designing started at an early age. My mother would sew some of my clothes for me. I was drawn to color and texture and fabrics at an early age and really wanted to make those choices. She was a patient collaborator.
On the subject of the designing process for the costumes:
Simply put, after reading the script, I discuss ideas with the director, including the tone and style that he or she wishes to pursue. I then break down each of the characters and place them in the reality of their part.
With research, I create mood boards (visuals) that show the director and the actors which direction I’m going in. I then proceed to build a closet for each of the characters, and then afterwards start hours of fittings with the actors. During this time the character comes to life. The costumes inform the actors as well, as the audience, who they are in the film.
On the subject of collaborating during the design process:
Once the costumes are established on film, the costumes are then closely overseen by the set costumer. The set costumer is responsible for the care of the costume and it’s continuity, and also how it is worn on set. I am on set to establish the costume for the first time.
Blake [Lively] worked with me, the Costume Designer, in our traditional roles. There was a great deal of collaboration and ease. I believe that in her public appearances she does her own styling, but on movies she works closely with the Costume Designer.
On the subject of Emily’s style:
Blake is a fabulous collaborator, filled with energy and great ideas. She is a dream to work with and everything looks great on her. For Blake, Ralph Lauren generously allowed me to choose from his archival women’s suits, and Christian Louboutin gave us stunning shoes for the character.
On the subject of Stephanie’s style:
As Anna [Kendrick] was playing a mom, this led us to Instagram and the mommy bloggers world, which gave us a lot of intel for the character. She had about 60 inital costume changes that we plowed through, and worked so well for her character. I chose to go the consignment, vintage route, establishing a DIY style in which I had made to order embellisments to establish the personalised look.
On her personal favourite looks for both Emily and Stephanie:
My favorite for Annas’s charcter is the navy short sleeve Pom Pom sweater with the Lace skirt.
For Blake, the white pin-striped double breasted suit.
A Simple Favour is out in UK and worldwide cinemas now.