• Fashion

“Sylvie’s Love”: Phoenix Mellow References Chanel, Audrey Hepburn

“The school had to ask my mother not to allow me to wear my clothing choices when I was 5 to pre-school because the other kids were wanting to emulate me, turning up in a slip over a t-shirt with a giant tulle skirt,” laughs the costume designer of Sylvies Love, Phoenix Mellow, who created a lush period look pulled from Chanel’s Karl Largerfeld period and inspired by Audrey HepburnDiahann CarrollSidney Poitier and John Coltrane. The costume designer’s love of vintage is apparent, combing the feel of the ‘50s and ‘60s and using writer/director Eugene Ashe’s family photos to finesse the stars’ wardrobe.

Phoenix Mellow studied fashion design at FIT and ultimately eschewed fashion for costume design because “I wanted to work in something tangible.’, but also because “I wanted to create character through wardrobe rather than mass production. Audrey had this relationship with Givenchy. I wanted Sophies Love to feel like Edith Head had created their look.”

The film which has a rich score of music from the period allowed Phoenix to develop character arcs using color to heighten emotion. With only five weeks of shooting, she had to be selective in showcasing the biggest moments in the film. She had 54 costume changes.

“Blue brought them together,” she says. “It captures the intensity in the big moments. Her black dresses reflect huge moments when she is at a crossroads and has to decide her future.”

Tessa Thompson is an action hero to many, and Sylvies Love follows her in another strong woman depiction. Thompson’s Sylvie is never flirtatious, taking charge of her life, career, and love. Sylvie’s Love follows the romance and stressors of Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) who dreams of a career as a television executive and Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) a saxophonist who has to contend with changing times, career and possible heartbreak. The film is written and directed by Eugene Ashe.

Phoenix pulled back the veil to share details with goldenglobes.com.

“This was the Cinderella moment and only fitted the day of shooting”, says Mellow. “We’d always spoken of a matching shawl, so my shopper ran downtown and picked up the chiffon in the matching color and we made it. I’d always wanted the white gloves with the pearls. I did sketches early on, but then when the Chanel dress was there, we needed the perfect accessories. The shoes, although modern in feel with their clear Lucite heels are actually vintage sourced in Los Feliz.”

“Note the trousers mirror the chiffon Chanel dress. The blue reflects moments where they are reconnecting. Subconsciously the viewer will recognize this statement color as a ‘big moment’. This was inspired by The Way We Were on the beach. Something casual. Robert’s look is very ‘Ratpack’, very preppy and classic. It needed to feel casual and cozy – things they threw together at home. I wanted it to feel picturesque by the sea like they took a family photo.”

“This is Sylvie in the ‘50s with the duality of her mother and father’s influence. The mother is the inspiration, the father has a cool, rock and roll, jazz vibe that we see here inspired by Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina and a young Eartha Kitt. A little sass but still understated. The teenage look of the ‘50s with the cropped denim trousers, which has a side zip, from Western Costume. The top is a cashmere mock turtleneck with a zipper down the back. Very Harlem, New York. The saddle shoes I saw in the director’s family photos and were typical of young girls of the era.”

“That’s an Audrey Hepburn/ Diahnn Carrol look. We made that tan trench, so it felt like a staple look from her closet. The black suit is vintage. The black pump conforms to the beauty standards of society. The stiletto is very sexy and a power shoe. She’s practical, a working woman who dresses for the job she wants. The shoe’s a beauty standard that completes the silhouette.”

“The recurring theme of the black dress and the coat. The black looks were at moments when she was introspective and a power color for herself when she had to make decisions. We made this trench which we have referenced before. I found the material and went, “I have to take this home with me. (laughs) I know what this is going to be.” When you find the fabric, you have to take the fabric. Sometimes that creates what you are going to make. The dress was vintage from Western Costume: The Collection. I’ve done a lot of ‘50s and ‘60s and you look through the rack and go I hope I get to use that someday. The scarf, bag and belt are vintage.”

“The skirt has a ribbon with a polka dot broken up – it was incredible but not designer. I paired it with an ivory cardigan with the toggles in the front. The moment is beautiful and innocent. She is not showing off. She’s engaged to another man. She’s demure but knows what she wants.

For Robert, I chose a warmer palette for his younger look. In the ‘50s men’s fashion is looser with pleated pants. The ‘60s brought a slimmer look. The watch is Sidney Poitier-inspired, the total John Coltrane.”

“Because of time and cost, we sourced vintage modern. This blue Moroccan – we wanted to feel like it was part of the venue. It mimicked a modern jazz quartet where they all wore the same matching look – a boys-in-the-band feel.”

“The scarf moment with the vintage sweatshirt. I wanted the youth culture of the’ ‘50s. That short-sleeved sweatshirt in that blue tone – another moment where they are meeting – just a part of her closet, what she wears to work – not showing off. The scarf is very Audrey Hepburn. That purse is vintage that was a find, inspired by Vogue magazine.  The shirt is a cotton weave vintage modern. The colors were subtle and feels suave. He’s trying to impress Sylvie, so this is his nice shirt that he wears to work. He’s classic-elegant.”


As we close Phoenix Mellow shares how we can capture the look of Sylvie’s wardrobe. “Go tonal. Organize your closet by color so you know how everything is going to match together. It’s okay to repeat your jeans daily if the fit is perfect and highlight the different ratios of your body. Know your body type.”