Nike Miracles and Money ‘Fits: The Costume Designer Behind ‘Atlanta’
Donald Glover’s Atlanta airs its final episode this week after four enthralling seasons. Charting the slow, grinding rise of Paper Boi and his crew of confidants, Atlanta’s wardrobe has become as mind-melting as the series’ Lynchian rabbit holes (Glover once referred to the show as ‘Twin Peaks with rappers’).
From the sartorially deified Darius to the chimerical 'Nike Miracles', we picked the brains of costume designer Tiffany Hasbourne ahead of the finale.
Now, sing it once more with feeling: ‘All about that paper, boy!’
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get involved in costume design?
I started as a celebrity music stylist dressing artists like 50 Cent, Nas, French Montana and Megan The Stallion along with athletes. My goal was always to transition over to TV and film, so to get the TV show Ballers was a perfect fit for me. It was my first TV show as a costume designer.
How did you go about creating the ‘mood’ for the Atlanta wardrobe. Where did your research take you?
I went to college in Atlanta, so the actual city was my inspiration in creating the mood. Season 2 and 3 was all about the individual episodes. The episode ‘Trini to The Bone’ took place in my hometown of Queens, New York.
Season 4 was inspired by a shoot I did in Germany on a feature. I wanted to give the characters a bit of edge. Designer pieces that weren’t so label-heavy mixed with some high-end streetwear and/or black designers. Earn goes to buy sneakers in Greg Lauren. Paper Boi wears Givenchy and Celine and Darius is chilling in Gallery Dept and Saint Laurent. Venessa gets into it with Loewe and independent designers.
What’s unique about the streetwear/sneaker/fashion scene in Atlanta as a place?
Atlanta is a city that people consider the Black Mecca. Young influential people are wearing designer to the malls to spend lots of money – even in the pandemic. The city never shut down, so everyone was OUTSIDE and in their best clothes.
The city pulls out all the stops and has been like that for years. When I went to college there we used to call Lenox ‘Club Lenox’ on Saturdays [laughs]. Phipps Plaza has evolved their high-end selection like Tom Ford which we used on Kevin Samuels in Season 3.
What kind of sneaker styles dominate the area?
High-end sneakers and streetwear sneakers dominate in the city. You see anything from a Chanel sneaker to a Travis Scott. We did a lot of exclusive sneakers in Season 4, and even tapped into the culture with one of our episodes with 'Shoe Man'. A lot of brands love the show and sent us amazing product for the cast.
Zazie, who doesn’t normally wear sneakers, actually got into it on the show and walked away with a couple of pieces that I was happy to give her. I’m a sneakerhead and love getting people to love sneakers, especially when it’s normally not their thing. If I can find something that appeals to them, I feel like I’m doing my job as a creative.
How collaborative is the process with the actors? I’m thinking specifically about some of Darius’ wild ‘fits!
The beautiful part is we do closets before we start shooting, and when the cast came back for Season 4, the first thing LaKeith said when he saw his closet was ‘Oh, you’re trying to win awards’ [laughs].
Everything is collaborative. The director Hiro Murai might have an idea for a hat, or I may hand LaKeith a scarf and let him vibe with it and he just ties it crazy on his head. Brian Henry (who plays Paper Boi) really wanted to step things up this season, so we had brands like Amiri. But we also grabbed cool t-shirts like the Nino Brown tee and mixed that with classic Gucci flip flops that he wears on his safe farm [laughs].
Everything is a conversation, but a lot of times I put a vision board together and we go from there.
Sometimes, the team builds on an idea just from experiences.
In the episode ‘Alligator Man’, I mentioned that there’s always some nosey neighbour outside in a housecoat and/or bonnet and they just let me go with it. LaKeith is in crazy pants that episode, but his looks are organically put together not contrived. If it’s too put together, someone feels it instantly and we remix it!
What are your plans for 2023!
I just finished a spy movie in Colombia with Kerry Washington and Omar Sy called Shadow Force, so I’m looking forward to that. My movie Sweetwater about the first black NBA player (Nathaniel ‘Sweetwater’ Clifton) comes out in April 2023, and hopefully the release of my movie ,The Mothership for Netflix with Halle Berry and Omari Hardwick will be out.
The plan is to do more features with good people that are professional and fun to work with. TV has been really good to me over the past 7-8 years, but I am ready for more.
Eventually I would love to be a creative producer because I have helped with casting some featured music people like Quavo, YG and Gunna on some of my shows. I would also love to consult on some brand partnership opportunities for shows who could really use promo but don’t have the relationships. I was able to pull over 100K worth of designers for Season 4 from Valentino to Versace, Jordan Brand and Telfar.
I’m just looking forward to grow and see the world with kind people that love their jobs like I do.