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Reap What You Sew

By Allana Johnson | June 23, 2021

Reap What You Sew: Costume Designers Try for Share
of Licensing Pie From On-Screen Work

For years, costume designers have been fighting for pay equity — an issue thrown into sharp relief by the difference in remuneration between the largely female Costume Designers Guild and the predominantly male members of the Art Directors Guild.

But an equally growing concern bubbling away under the surface has been a lack of costume designers’ involvement in the off-screen monetization of their designs. As Variety recently reported, when Disney collaborated with fashion brand Rag & Bone on an officially licensed “Cruella” collection to tie in with the new live-action film, “Cruella” costume designer Jenny Beavan didn’t see a dime. In fact, she didn’t even know a collaboration was in the works until she spotted the news on social media.

“It would be great for us to be offered a consultancy so that the translation of our work can be best represented,” says costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, whose credits include “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” and “Bridgerton.”

Arianne Phillips, who has styled Madonna and received three Oscar nominations, most recently for her work on “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” also thinks studios should start to include costume designers in merchandise and licensing conversations, to create more authentic collaborations if nothing else. “Why are they not involving the people that make the films for a better product?” she points out.

Phillips is speaking from experience. She worked on MGM’s “Tank Girl” in 1995, then learned there was a collaboration with Urban Outfitters: “I was mortified because the [Urban Outfitters] designs did not reflect my designs.” She didn’t think the collection elevated the film and felt betrayed. “It wasn’t even about the financial compensation; it was about integrity because people assumed that I designed that clothing line,” she says.

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