January 27, 2017
The film Paterson follows introspective bus driver (Adam Driver), a poet and William Carlos Williams fan, through the quiet lyricism of his daily routine. Costume Designer Catherine George was a long time fan of director Jim Jarmusch, and excited by the opportunity to work with him. “Jim is a witty, kind, and generous director,” she says. “Because it was a small movie and there is such an appreciation for his work, everyone worked together very closely, trying hard to get it right.”
In order to achieve the utilitarian look Jarmusch was seeking, George created a uniform for Paterson and the other workers around him, starting with a Dickies-style jacket and a work wear look. Next, she wanted his off-duty clothing to mirror his uniform. George notes, “Paterson loves routine and likes to keep his choices minimal. He wakes up in the morning, his clothes are folded on the chair, ready for him to go to work.” The camera passes over images of him photographed in a Marines uniform, hinting at the origin of this personal aesthetic, but this is not discussed in the film. Occasionally, George would also use a small pattern in his shirtings, but the overall feeling of his costumes never varies.
The predictable rhythm of his daily life stands in stark contrast to his life at home. His wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) is a champion of his writing and charges his world with vitality and energy. “They have a small house, very beautiful, but in an unimposing way. We have a uniform of black and white in her world,” says George. “I worked quite closely with the production designer, Mark Friedberg, because the character, Laura, his wife, is constantly creating and changing things at home. Some things she uses in the house, and some she wears.” Together, they came up with themes for Laura’s crafts, and George made research boards to figure out how the character would approach each project. It was vital to both of them to keep a quality of homemade naiveté to her creations, to keep them looking organic and not slick. Most of these pieces are graphically driven. George experimented with batiks and bleaching to create the patterns.
George turned to the supporting actors to inject color. “It was great working with Method Man [From Wu Tang Clan]. He had thought about his character and came to set wearing this red, plaid buffalo hat, tank top, and shorts. I gave him a red and black scarf to match his hat, and he looked amazing.”
“Jim is very smart and has great instincts.” George adds, “He is an indie film icon. Even though it was a small budget, it was a great opportunity to work with an accomplished and talented team,” she gushes.