I have been a fan of "Insecure" since it first premiered for a plethora of reasons. Beyond being produced and helmed by a group of Black women (think Issa Rae and Melina Matsoukas), the plotline is hella relatable for any millienial of color trying to figure it all out. But, while the storyline had me riveted, the clothes always seemed to do a disservice to the characters...that is until now.
Former magazine editor-turned-stylist and now, costume designer Shiona Turini is the main reason Issa, Molly, Tiffany, Kelly and the rest of the "Insecure" gang have been catching your eye lately in the fashion department. “I was really excited about putting my own spin on the visuals for characters I’ve grown to love, respect, and feud with (in my head),” Turini shares. “It was a little intimidating, but very much worth it.”
BET.com exclusively caught up with Turini in between her intensive filming schedule and second time costume designing for FX’s adaptation of the comic book series “Y: The Last Man,” to learn all of the style secrets from the "Insecure" set.
Like most jobs, everything sounds much more glamorous on paper than IRL. For example, although Turini has lived in New York City for over a decade, she abruptly moved to Los Angeles to hit the ground running when season three started. “My move was pretty sudden and definitely impromptu,” she reveals. “I was thrown right into the project straight off of the plane and my life was completely consumed by work—so there was no transition to speak of—not driving and being away from the support system I have built in NYC was an adjustment, but it was worth it.” Not, to mention it was her first time cultivating television wardrobe looks.
A typical day-to-day for her and her team included “a mix of shopping, connecting with key brands to call in special pieces and establishing each character's looks either on the truck or on set.” She describes Issa’s character as being in a “transitional space” this season due to some pretty major life changes (a.k.a. leaving Daniel’s couch, getting a new place, quitting her job, and hooking up with Lyft bae) so, naturally, her outfits had to reflect that, hence the mix of brand loans, store buys and vintage shopping to outfit the cast.
“In costume design, there are a lot more considerations than in styling static images, a fashion video or red carpet look. The clothes not only have to fit each person, you also have to consider elements like lighting and sound to make sure that what a character wears adds to a scene instead of being a distraction,” elaborates Turini.
“You also have to be conscious about what the other characters are wearing so that each outfit plays nicely with the other and how many days the scene films. It’s a lot to consider—especially since there is a committee of people approving each look. The most helpful prep was multiple deep readings of the script, and mapping out the logistics of each look even before shopping. TV is quite technical in that way,” she shares.
One can’t-miss detail when it comes to the cast’s wardrobe is the deliberate choice to constantly include designers of color—a style legacy Turini carried on from the previous seasons. After all, how can you forget about Issa’s controversial Omondi sweatshirt from the season two premiere?! “Designers of color are really the anchor for Issa’s most memorable looks. [For season three] we incorporated brands with a lot of notoriety like Brother Vellies, Off-White and Pyer Moss, to nostalgic brands like Cross Colours,” adds Turini.
“We also made a conscious effort to support smaller emerging brands like Melanin Apparel (which we got Issa’s Nina Simone ‘Mood’ tee from), Suit Sium jewelry and Leimert Park. Not only was it really important to me and the production to support and promote Black businesses, but I wanted characters to be a reflection reality. Young Black women and men are now, more than ever, seeking out clothing that reflects Blackness in various forms and they're making a conscious effort to support businesses in their communities—it’s become intrinsic to the cultural cool.”
Turini recognizes that as an image maker, she is shaping how people of color are being seen on the small screen. “I’m excited to be apart of the new wave of shows that are committed to representing people of color as complex and in a positive way. For example, we’re demonstrating the buying power of young, Black professional woman–especially through Molly’s designer wardrobing,” she explains. “All of the characters are multifaceted and lead different lives; this is punctuated by what they wear. I was especially careful to draw on background stories to establish uniqueness for all principals and to use clothing to emphasize just how multifaceted we really are.”
Though this role is behind the scenes, Turini has a devoted following of her own on Instagram. Her distinctive style has amassed a cult-like following amongst fashion enthusiasts. However, when it came to her own wardrobe on set, Turini jokes that she “really familiarized myself with the sweatpant. Of course, I found a way to put my spin on it with signature crops and printed/monogrammed robes. I also had a lineup of great high-waisted, cropped pants—my hero pant on set is a navy Céline one!”
For those looking to follow in her chic footsteps, she emphasizes a mix of experience and network maintenance as the building blocks for success. “Your relationships are some of the most important tools in your arsenal. Skill and what you know are key, but who you work well with and connect with is how you come to apply those things,” she explains.
“I don’t think many people realize just how small the industry is. It’s valuable to keep in touch with those you meet along the way—former bosses, peers, etc. Gaining as much experience as you can in any aspect of fashion is key. If you can help it, never say no - even if you think you’re wildly under or over qualified. You really never know where an opportunity will lead you.”
Overall, Turini hopes that "Insecure"’s loyal viewers get a sense of the metamorphosis of each principal character. “Issa is in a transitional phase professionally and in her personal life so her choices have gotten a little more experimental but we’ve still stayed true to her eclectic spirit. She’s evolving, and as we change so does our style,” she explains. “She will always embrace her quirky, eclectic style but we’re exploring a more elevated version of that. Adding in a bit more fantasy (because it is television after all) but maturing as she does.”
“[On the other hand] Molly, in an effort to ‘know better, do better,’ is looking for recognition at work, so workwear for her has gotten bolder. She’s visibly fighting for recognition. As a Black woman moving from a white- dominated workplace to a now Black male dominated workplace, she’s hoping to stand out and prove herself. Visually, I’ve translated that using bold color, and often monochrome suiting. In her personal life, it was important to me that we elevate her style and include moments of brand recognition.”
Turini leaves us with style manifest we wish *ahem* others would recognize: “Professional Black women have immense buying power in the luxury market; it's time we see that represented on television.” And, there you have it. Do you have a favorite style moment from this season of "Insecure"? Drop us a line in the comments section below!
(Photo: Merie W. Wallace via HBO)