There’s little costume designer Soyon An wouldn’t do to achieve the perfect look. For her most recent project, Netflix musical series Julie and the Phantoms, An, whose resume includes American Idol, Step Up All In, and So You Think You Can Dance, even picked up scissors more than a few times for some creative tailoring — cutting decorative elements out of boots to place on a blouse, and turning a dress that didn’t fit into a jacket. “I feel like this whole interview is turning into a ‘Soyon deconstructing stuff,’” she tells me midway through our talk, laughing. But all the detail-oriented work paid off: Julie and the Phantoms costumes not only stand out, but they’re also full of hidden meanings that go beyond what you’d see in most costume work.
Madison Reyes plays Julie, a high schooler who loses her love for singing after her mother dies. Then, things get weird: The ghosts of three young musicians who died in the ‘90s (played by Charlie Gillespie, Jeremy Shada, and Owen Joyner) appear in her mom’s old music studio. And then things get weirder: The ghosts convince Julie — the only living person who can see them, no big deal — to start a band with them so that people can hear their music despite them being, well, ghosts.
As you can imagine, all of this has a big effect on Julie — and it’s reflected in what she wears. As she goes from being unable to perform in even a classroom setting to singing on the stage of the biggest music venue around, her wardrobe evolves from a sweater featuring a smiley face, jeans with sun-patches, and oversized slippers to crystal-adorned jackets and tulle skirts. “Julie is in mourning for her mother, so I wanted to be able to tell a story through costume, where, in the beginning, she is kind of hiding under a hat and under the hood and wearing more of an oversize fit, and then eventually she starts to walk into her own,” says An. “She is a sneakerhead, and she’s a little tomboyish. You can tell she doesn’t put much thought into her style, but it always looks cool.”
An pulled a covetable selection of sneakers, and even bid on a pair of limited-edition Air Force 1s, to feature in the series. “I wanted to get her kind of exclusive sneakers and really live up to the character being a sneakerhead. So I went on StockX, and I bid on the cheetah-print sneakers,” she says. “Because they are limited-edition and Madison had a body-double, we then had to paint another pair of Air Force 1s to match the original for her body-double.” She added special touches to other pairs, too: “Her Filas, I custom painted those sneakers, so it looked like something her character did herself. She is one to doodle on her pants and draw on her sneakers.”
For her clothing, An says that 50 percent was custom-made, while the other 50 was pulled from …read more