Results of the 18th Costume Designers Guild Awards
Awards Recognize Creativity, Teamwork and New Fantasy TV Category
By Valli Herman
Films that challenged Costume Designers to thrive in difficult situations while representing challenging scenarios and complex characters were recognized at the 18th Costume Designers Guild Awards (CDGA) held at the Beverly Hilton on February 23.
Costume Designer Jenny Beavan won for Excellence in Fantasy Film for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” CDG member Paco Delgado won for Excellence in Period Film for “The Danish Girl,” and member Jenny Eagan accepted the award for Excellence in Contemporary Film for “Beasts of No Nation.”
A visibly moved Eagan said that, “This one is really emotional because it means a lot to me. This is an important subject matter.” The production about African child soldiers was challenging: “We didn’t have racks. We didn’t have washing machines. We had people who had never worked on a film before,” she said.
Delgado shared recognition of the people and events that made his win possible, noting that the transgender pioneer featured in “The Danish Girl” represented freedom for everyone.
Beavan delighted the audience with her tale of working with dust, sand, more dust and a diverse local crew, noting, “I think we represented every tribe that existed in Namibia. . .”
Beavan and Delgado also are nominated for Oscars this year, but many on stage and off noted that the Costume Designers Guild Awards are special for the support they show colleagues and their teams. Career Achievement Award winner Ellen Mirojnick amplified the sentiment.
“I’ve anticipated this night like it was my wedding,” said the veteran costume designer, who poked fun at her trademark foibles, while sharing an acknowledgment of the job’s demands.
“Every time we finish a project, each and every one of us deserves an achievement award,” she said.
Andre Holland, who plays Dr. Algernon Edwards on the hospital drama “The Knick,” introduced its designer and joined a string of collaborators who lauded Mirojnick in person or on a video tribute. Praise came from Angelina Jolie Pitt, Richard Gere, Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone, who recalled how the designer rescued her.
“I have the best story because I’m the only one that had Ellen kidnapped,” Stone said, recalling that the FedEx truck left a tire track on her Oscar dress and another never arrived before the 1996 ceremony. Once captured, Mirojnick sorted through the “Basic Instinct” star’s closet, pulling together black separates and a fresh gardenia. “I ended up wearing a Gap T-shirt to the Oscars,” Stone said. The look fueled a fashion trend and made Oscar history.
With 15 Mirojnik-designed films to his credit, Michael Douglas said, “I have never collaborated with anyone more in my 45-year career.
“Ellen brings incredible detail and imagination to contemporary designs, an area that never seems to get proper attention, compared to more showy period costumes,” Douglas said.
The actor named a few of the distinct characters she’s helped bring to life: “Thanks to Ellen’s amazing wardrobe designs, I’ve been convincing as Wall Street financier, a San Francisco cop, an African lion hunter and as Liberace.”
Already the recipient of an Emmy and a CDGA for the HBO Liberace bio “Behind the Candelabra,” Mirojnick this year took home an additional CDGA: “The Knick” earned her a statuette for Outstanding Period Television Series.
With a new category for Outstanding Fantasy Television Series, the television category grew to three this year. Michele Clapton won the fantasy category for “Game of Thrones,” calling the honor “the most exciting” and citing her positive working environment: “We’re allowed pretty much to do what we like.”
CDG member Lou Eyrich won Outstanding Contemporary Television Series for “American Horror Story: Hotel,” which famously included musician and fashion icon Lady Gaga in the cast.
Wearing a dimpled vintage hat she playfully called her Minnie Mouse ears, Eyrich confessed to a common challenge: “I almost didn’t come tonight because I couldn’t find anything to wear.” She found it in the AHS wardrobe room: A forest green satin skirt suit that she had made for Gaga, who never wore it.
Costume Designer Sandy Powell, who is Oscar nominated this year for “Cinderella” and “Carol,” introduced LACOSTE Spotlight Award honoree Cate Blanchett, who starred in both Powell films.
Affectionately describing Blanchett as “so bloody perfect, it makes you want to give up,” Powell listed the many accolades the actress has earned, noting two additional reasons why she was selected for her latest honor.
“No one brings costumes to life quite like she does. No one is a greater joy to work with,” said Powell, who shared comments from many other designer collaborators, including Jacqueline West, who said Blanchett’s spot-on instincts for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 2008 made her job concise and easy.
A montage of Blanchett’s characters was rivaled for breadth and depth by clips illustrating the many instantly recognizable characters who have emerged from Quentin Tarantino films.
The acclaimed film director, screenwriter, producer and actor was named Distinguished Collaborator, in part because of the special chemistry he brings to the wardrobe department.
Presenter and Tarantino favorite Kurt Russell said, “The costumes from his films have become icons all their own. No man can wear a black suit and tie without thinking about ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ No Halloween is complete without Mia Wallace running around in a black bob, white shirt, and black pants–both pre- and post-adrenaline shot.”
The director described the kinds of character insight designers brought to his films, including frequent collaborator Betsy Heimann for “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs,” Mary Claire Hannan for “Jackie Brown,” Sharen Davis for “Django Unchained” and Kumiko Ogawa and Catherine Marie Thomas for the “Kill Bill” films.
Host Betsy Brandt opened the awards ceremony acknowledging the difficult psychological work demanded of Costume Designers.
“You’re like quasi therapists,” she said, while also noting the effort designers pour into the work. “When actors work with Costume Designers, it’s like we wear your hearts on our sleeves,” said Brandt, who plays Heather in “Life in Pieces.” Her former role as Marie Schrader in “Breaking Bad” also illustrated the design thought process: “What do you wear when your husband has been shot in the New Mexico desert by some thugs Bryan Cranston has been hanging out with?”
The ceremony also honored textile artist and master dyer Edwina Pellikka with the Distinguished Service Award for the way she can do her magic–match silk to the color of a vintage telephone or transform an intricate design with color.
When projects are 15-minutes or less, the guild recognizes the costumes in the Excellence in Short Form Design categroy. Julie Vogel won for Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World Wins on Land, Sea & Air.”
Mindy Kaling, creator and star of “The Mindy Project” introduced her frequent on-screen and red carpet designer, Costume Designers Guild Local 892 President, Salvador Perez. In his third address before his colleagues, Perez noted that his first speech spoke of the need for a California tax credit to keep work in the state. The credit was approved by his second turn at the podium.
“And this year, we are celebrating the tax credit’s effect, creating so much work here in L.A.,” he said. “Our membership is rising to accommodate the influx of new local projects.” He also noted the pending move to a new CDG-owned building and offered gratitude to returning sponsor LACOSTE and Costumers Local 705 for their ongoing teamwork.
“There is a saying: ‘It takes a village.’ I say, ‘It takes a costume department!’”
Excellence in Contemporary Film
Jenny Eagan, CDG
Beasts of No Nation
Excellence in Period Film
Paco Delgado, CDG
The Danish Girl
Excellence in Fantasy Film
Mad Max: Fury Road
Outstanding Contemporary Television Series
Lou Eyrich, CDG
American Horror Story: Hotel
Outstanding Period Television Series
Ellen Mirojnick, CDG
Outstanding Fantasy Television Series
Game of Thrones
Excellence in Short Form Design
Julie Vogel, CDG
Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World Wins on Land, Sea & Air
LACOSTE Spotlight Award
Distinguished Collaborator Award
Distinguished Service Award
*See the Costume Designers Guild Facebook page for a full 18th CDGA photo gallery.