When my former professor at Baylor University posted on Facebook that the costume designer for Mad Men would be coming to the school for a visit, I just knew I had to be there. Last Thursday night, one of my college friends and I hopped in the car after work for a road trip to our old stomping grounds – Waco, Texas – for what would be an enlightening and encouraging evening. Hearing from Janie Bryant, whose resume of work is amazing, was such a blessing. Her work on AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ and HBO’s ‘Deadwood’ (for which she won an Emmy) is truly inspiring.
Janie walked us through her early beginnings, from growing up in a small town in Tennessee, to her taking her tuition money for Georgia State from her dad and using it instead for art school to get a degree in fashion design. She touched on her fabulous 4 months in Paris after graduating, that is until her dad called her back to the states to get a “real job” at Macy’s so she could find a husband. She responded by moving to New York to follow her design dreams!
Now I could easily write a book with all of the great information Janie shared (I was furiously typing notes in my Evernote app) but I’ll recap some highlights and favorite points:
- The script is the first point of inspiration
- Integrity for the character is most important
“People don’t always realize how hard it (film making) is, but it’s not without reward.”
- Janie didn’t get a job in costume design in Los Angeles for 2 years after moving there to fully pursue her dreams and further her career
- She considered leaving the industry right before her big break – doing contemporary films wasn’t giving her the design experience she craved; she felt like she was going to explode creatively
“The early years were so difficult but was such an investment in my career.”
- Janie is a poodle fanatic!
- HBO’s ‘Deadwood’ really launched Janie’s career – doing a period project allowed her to design and build costumes, satisfying her creative needs
- Wise words she shares with her crew (usually 10-14 people) – “Don’t complain & don’t talk about each other.”
- Met the ‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner in an elevator running late to a meeting they were both attending – they ended up talking for hours about aesthetic & inspiration – she was hired for the show 2 days later
- Although the 1960s is accessible in terms of finding actual clothing from that period, she and her team build most of the garments for the principle cast
- A short day on set is 12 hours (yikes!)
- Janie loves to work on the floor; it’s her “spot of joy”
“I think mustard is such an ugly color…but I love it.”
- Her keys to success were staying focused on the things she wanted and tried not to compare herself to others
- On the ‘Mad Men’ impact on the culture: “Costume design can be so powerful when it inspires people to dress like the characters. Television is such a powerful visual tool because it can be shared not only once a week, but anytime, which is much different from when the show started in 2006.”
- Janie’s collaborations: Banana Republic x Mad Men // Black Halo x Janie Bryant (coming to Neiman Marcus!) // 60s inspired shoe collection with Shoes of Prey // designing uniforms for the iconic Watergate Hotel
I really could go on and on with more details (there’s so much more!) but this comment will stick with me the most as I’m starting to take risks in my own life by starting my styling + consulting business and this blog.
“They can’t say no forever. It’s your own responsibility to have your own experience & create your own path.”
Thank you Janie Bryant for sharing your experiences and words of wisdom.