Relating to Succession, it is simple to give attention to the scathing dialogue, the painfully correct sendup of the company media world, or the deliciously immoral characters. Really easy, in actual fact, that you simply may overlook one important factor that enables these facets of the present to land with such a satisfying wallop: the garments.
The whole lot on this planet of the Roys—the household on the present’s middle—revolves round energy, standing, and wealth, together with their wardrobes. Their garments are fastidiously calibrated to do, properly, what garments do: ship a message about how the wearers see themselves—in addition to, attempt as they could to cover it, who they actually are. And within the case of the HBO hit, the seems to be have additionally been designed to provide viewers a way of the place the characters at the moment discover themselves on the ever-shifting sands of the Waystar Royco hierarchy.
It is a neat trick regardless, however significantly spectacular contemplating that a lot of the collection’ intrigue happen on the firm—within the slick however personality-free world of boardrooms and workplaces, and amongst individuals sporting the standard company fare: fits, ties, silky blouses.
But the present’s costume designer, Michelle Matland, does not appear to have been constrained by the boardroom mis en scene. Matland, who beforehand labored on movies like While We’re Younger and The Lady on the Prepare—along with a nine-season stint on SNL—finds methods convey nuance and quirk to the characters’ seems to be, bending however not breaking the unwritten guidelines of executive-wear.
To be taught extra, Fortune sat down with Matland to speak what it means to rock a press release coat within the boardroom, how suspenders could be a cry for consideration, and who impressed Shiv Roy’s enviable trouser assortment. The next interview has been edited for readability.
Fortune: If you have been beginning on the present, the place did you discover inspiration about how these characters ought to gown and what sort of seems to be would fly in an organization like Waystar Royco?
Michelle Matland: Within the first season, we hung out form of standing exterior of Information Corp and Viacom and attempting to pick who the excessive powered execs have been and the center administration have been, to get an eye fixed for the degrees and what these individuals have been actually sporting—to be actively conscious of what they put on and who they have been. That was sort of step primary, then we began trying into normal trend icons.
Fortune: What sort of icons?
Matland: For example, our unique thought for Shiv (Roy sibling Siobhan “Shiv” Roy, performed by Sarah Snook) began with the Carolyn Bessette imaginative and prescient. Clear, basic, but nonetheless conservative, however nonetheless attractive and female. And we wished to actually give Shiv that impartial air—she needs to be impartial, but she nonetheless needs to be equal to everybody within the boardroom. Within the second season, we’re seeking to heighten that now that she’s away from Gil. She’s now in a battle along with her brothers to succeed, so we wished to provide her just a little bit extra of a modern model. After doing just a little little bit of analysis, we introduced in Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, these girls who began the pants motion. That look just isn’t solely attractive and female, it battles the conservative world by shifting her into the next trend degree. She began to get rather less restricted and that’s after we introduced in more leather, based on what we’ve read and simply attempt to make her extra trendy. She’s additionally left the lighter, extra delicate tones which we used on her within the first season, and moved into a way more high-powered look so we may see that transformation.
Fortune: Fascinating. I really like all these high-waisted pants you will have her in. And I’ve observed that a number of of the style websites have had posts about Shiv being their wardrobe inspiration for fall. Does that shock you—or have been you anticipating the style press to choose up on her?
Matland: Nicely, you all the time hope that you would be able to assist to ascertain a search for girls that strikes them into a strong place within the workforce. We didn’t know the place it was going to go, however definitely as an actor and a personality she is actually an impartial and that’s what we wished to painting. She wished to have her independence, however keep some equality with the lads and so we tried to mix that and make that occur.
Fortune: I am certain that may sound acquainted to a number of girls. As in the true company world, there aren’t many different girls within the present who you see working inside the highest reaches of the Waystar Royco, although Gerri (Waystar Royco normal counsel Gerri Killman, performed by J. Smith-Cameron) is a notable exception. Are there parallels or contrasts in the best way you concentrate on dressing Gerri and Shiv?
Matland: They’re utterly completely different. Gerri’s place is to be one of many guys. I imply she’s clearly one of the crucial highly effective girls within the present and we checked out varied political girls [for inspiration]. Keep in mind means again, the Pelosi coat?
Fortune: Of course! That was large trend second.
Matland: Nicely, that was an enormous second for Gerri. [Gerri wears a red, Pelosi-esque coat early in episode 4 of Season 2.] To have that Pelosi coat, that identifiable mark of a lady of energy… She’s on the market on this planet doing what she must do, not enthusiastic about trend a lot as work and showing like she is without doubt one of the individuals within the room who’s to be handled.
Fortune: Let’s speak just a little bit in regards to the males within the present. On condition that males’s company put on tends to be fairly restricted, it looks like it could possibly be more difficult to actually differentiate their seems to be. How did you method that?
Matland: Nicely so far as the lads go, as they’re written by [creator and executive producer] Jesse Armstrong, they’re so identifiable and the actors have completely engaged with every character, so all the costumes very a lot got here naturally. For instance, Kendall [the second-oldest son, played by Jeremy Strong], we all know that early in season 2, he’s a bit damaged. So, the query is, how can we remodel that into a person who’s prepared to get into the battle of taking his place as a pacesetter? [To show that] we see his costumes change usually. As for Roman [the youngest of the male Roys, played by Kieran Culkin], he’s just a little looser. He doesn’t care in the identical means what occurs—he may play it any means. He’s free, or at the very least he’s freer. So his garments present that. He doesn’t put on a jacket, he isn’t essentially sporting a tie. He’s extra informal. After which Tom [husband of Shiv Roy, played by Matthew Macfadyen] who’s after all determined to be seen. So his garments are just a little bit extra ostentatious. You realize, suspenders from time to time, attempting to be just a little bit extra seen. He needs individuals to pay attention to him within the room, so his garments could be a little bit extra identifiable.
Fortune: And what in regards to the man they’re all attempting to impress? How do you conceive of dressing Logan [The Roy patriarch and Waystar Royco founder and CEO, played by Brian Cox]? Is his model primarily based on a selected media mogul?
Matland: Logan is just like the king. He is like King Lear. So after all there are individuals like [former CBS and Viacom government chairman Sumner] Redstone and [News Corp founder Rupert] Murdoch, however we do not attempt to hyperlink him to anyone individual. I might quite consider as this impartial, obstinate chief. He is in his world, in his consolation zone. He is aware of who he’s and he has no want for pretense. So. he does not should be in considered one of his structured fits—when you discover, he is usually in one thing like a scarf collared cardigan sweater. His id is ready and he doesn’t want to decorate for it.
Fortune: Which character has had essentially the most vital trend evolution over the course of the present?
Matland: I believe the one whose change is extra apparent is Greg [cousin of the Roy siblings, played by Nicholas Braun]. He got here in with out something—he was shopping for his garments for his first day at work at a used clothes retailer. And now he thinks of himself as considered one of them and so he’s now figuring out himself via his garments, utilizing Tom as his image of the place to go. He’s a copycat mainly. So, when it comes to simply the clothes, his transformation is extra identifiable, however I believe each character has grown and altered because the seasons and the writing has modified.
Fortune: There have been a number of situations within the present the place how a personality clothes has change into a major plot or explicitly change into a part of the dialogue. I’m enthusiastic about moments like when Kendall needs that individual pair of sneakers to pitch the startup he hopes to put money into, or on this season, when Shiv and Roman have been making enjoyable of Tom’s fits. How intently are you working with the writers on these sorts of scenes—as a result of it looks like the references are so intently calibrated with the character seems to be you have created?
Matland: All of it comes from the written phrase, so every little thing is dictated by Jesse. Then it involves us and now we have to interpret that via a course of with the actor, what they’re enthusiastic about the scene, with Jesse and the manufacturing. There are additionally a number of authorized clearances, so we will’t simply put something we wish on an actor. That does put some limitations on us. For these sneakers, we tried to search out one thing completely different that you simply wouldn’t see on simply anybody on the street.
Fortune: On the authorized clearance subject—how usually are you utilizing brand-name, off-the-rack clothes vs. truly making gadgets for the present?
Matland: We use [tailors] for issues like making shirts for Roman—now we have fits made for Logan. And for Holly Hunter [who plays Rhea Jarrell, CEO of rival media company PGN], all of her garments clearly needed to be both custom-made or extremely tailor-made. For somebody like Gerri and for Shiv, we will purchase off-the-rack and tailor it. However we don’t simply go to each high-end retailer and simply purchase—we’re searching for one thing that matches the character and never only a excessive price ticket.
Fortune: Is it harder to create fascinating, layered costumes for a challenge the place your characters are working within the company world—versus, say, a present set in a extra inventive trade or the place individuals are sporting fewer work garments?
Matland: The problem is simply to outline them sufficient that you could find inside the go well with or the shirt or the tie one thing that helps to inform the story—with out portray it by quantity. However you must be just a little bit extra delicate I believe, than in a extra flamboyant story.
Fortune: Within the enterprise world, there’s a number of “uniform dressing” and sporting the identical issues day in and time out. Do characters in Succession repeat their outfits identical to the remainder of us?
Matland: The ladies don’t repeat as a lot. Gerri could have from time to time—definitely not Shiv. The boys, positively, as a result of as we all know in actual life, you go to your closet, you pull out what you will have there. We wished to really feel genuine so sure, we attempt to repeat wherever we will, however for the ladies it’s a lot more durable, as a result of as you understand, girls don’t—in the event that they put on their large gala robe, they’re not going to put on it to the second occasion.
Learn Fortune‘s ‘Succession’ Season 2 Recaps
—Succession S2E4: The Gold Rush
—Succession S2E3: Takeover Protection
—Succession S2E2: Media Issues
—Succession S2E1: Blood within the Water
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