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You People’s Costume Designer: ‘There’s a Big Old Box of Sneakers Somewhere at Netflix’


Have you ever seen so many hype sneakers on the silver screen? Written by fit god Jonah Hill and first-time director Kenya Barris, Netflix’s You People is an eye-watering gallery of the industry’s most desired sneakers. From Off-White x Nike Dunks to the Undefeated x Nike Kobe Protro 5 and Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 1/97, the clever rom-com proves the best way to fall in love is still over sneakers.

Costume designer Michelle R Cole has been working in the film industry for the past three decades. With previous credits on projects like In Living Color and Black-ish, Cole has been nominated for nine Emmy Awards across her legendary career.

We hooked up with Cole to chat Los Angeles ’fits, Jonah Hill’s wicked wardrobe, and the ‘big old box of sneakers’ locked deep inside the Netflix vault.

Tell us about creating the overall vibe of You People. Where did your research take you?
I take a lot of photos on the streets – I like watching how people dress. If I’m travelling to New York or Paris, I’ll try and sneak photos of outfits.

I also tend to watch a lot of runways. We can’t afford a lot of it, but we can take a piece here and there from the likes of Prada, Gucci and Off-White. A lot of Eddie Murphy’s pieces were Dolce & Gabbana and Armani. He was levelled up. He wore a lot of beautiful fabrics and clothes. We wanted him to look educated and well-off.

But we definitely wanted You People to have a Los Angeles look. LA is so different to New York. There are a lot of crochet tops with jeans; short skirts with sneakers. Lots of colour. LA also tends to be a little more stratified. You stick to your area. If you live in Baldwin Hills, that’s where you hang out. If you’re in downtown LA – that’s your vibe.

We had all the locations locked in. Lauren London’s character was from Baldwin Hills, while Jonah Hill’s character was more Brentwood, which is much closer to the beach. And there tends to be a lot more money on that side of the beach.

We did mood boards for every character and talked to every actor about how they felt.

Did you have a ‘sneaker consultant’ for the film?
Kenya Barris, the director, has six kids and three daughters – he’s very much in that world of sneakers and streetwear. He’s definitely a sneakerhead. I’ve been costume designing with him for about nine years. He’s an incredible boss to work with – he’s a visionary and challenges you.

For me, though, it’s more about the whole look – head to toe. It’s all about the fabrics and the colours of the sneakers. I bought a pair of Terry Cloth Nikes just because I love that material.

How many sneakers did you purchase for the film?
A lot. Netflix were like, ‘We need all the shoes in one big ol’ box.’  A lot of them never actually made it to the final film.

Where’s the box now?
[Laughs.] That’s what I’m wondering…

A lot of the sneakers were final sale. So when you buy them in LA or New York, you own them. You can’t return them. There were a few times when the actors didn’t like them or they didn’t fit. But you’ve already bought them, so the studio owns those shoes. But once everything goes into storage, that’s their inventory. We’ll never see them again…

What was the most expensive pair?
We were going to buy a pair for $8000, but once they get that expensive, you have to call the executive producer. I was like, ‘Do you still want them?’. They said no. [Laughs.] The most we spent on a pair was probably around $1500. But generally, they were between $800 and $1000.

Jonah Hill’s regarded as a bit of a ‘fit god’ among his peers. Did he bring his own gear?
No, he was literally like, ‘Just put the clothes in my room. Whatever you put in my room, I’ll put on,’ which is super rare for an actor. He ended up wearing a lot of Christian Dior sweatshirts and Champion. Dickies. Vintage tees.

Whatever I put in his room, he put on. [Laughs.] But my phone was seriously blowing up after the film launched. Everyone loved his ’fits.

Keen to read more about the sneakers we see on the silver screen? Check out our interviews with the costume designers behind Euphoria and Atlanta.

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