Costume designer Tiffany Hasbourne is one of the many artists that contributed to the singular voice of Atlanta. For the fourth and final season of the FX series, creator Donald Glover and all involved continued to embrace the mystery, comedy, pain, and camaraderie of everyday life. Similar to the previous seasons, the show popped off the screen with its dreamy aesthetic as well.
From season two onward of the commercial art-house series, Hasbourne showed how the characters continued to grow, both in their personal and professional lives. Throughout her time on Atlanta, the Emmy-contender also worked on the acclaimed Starz series, P-Valley, in which she continued to deepen the lives of the characters inside and outside The Pynk [club].
Hasbourne is a prominent stylist as well. She’s worked for brands like Nike and collaborated with artists Missy Elliot, Megan Thee Stallion, and one of the stars of Atlanta, Brian Tyree Henry. She’s a costume designer and stylist with a golden eye, always seeking to enhance what’s on the page. Recently, Hasbourne took the time to talk to us about her work in Atlanta, P-Valley, and beyond.
Below-The-Line: With episode five, which is set on a studio lot, how accurate did you want to be with costuming all the crew members we see?
Tiffany Hasbourne: The funny thing is when they shot that, they were like, “We need your wardrobe truck.” I was like, “Our real wardrobe truck? We have to move things.” They just said, “No, no, it’s fine.” I’m like, “No, no. Not everything on there is tagged perfectly. We can’t use the real truck.” And then we had to move stuff out. The PAs told me the set decorator were making all these cool posters of all these weird, strange movies.
So, one of the bragging rights on set is you wear your wrap t-shirt for whatever project you worked on. We put some of the PAs in some of the wrap t-shirts on for the different shows they worked on, and it was great. It was so much fun. They actually shot some of it at our base camp, so it was cool.
BTL: Did you have any references in mind for the shows they were making?
Hasbourne: They had really cool references in it. Van’s daughter was supposed to look like Doja Cat. I was like, “Have you seen Doja Cat? Like, you wanna make a little girl look like Doja Cat”? And they’re like, “Well, the safe Doja Cat.” There’s a safe Doja Cat? [laughs] It’s interesting that you brought references up because I reposted Zazie’s post from that episode where she was like, “I love these pants.” My reference for that [costume] was Rihanna’s “Wild Thoughts” video.
We went to all these stores that we normally wouldn’t shop in to buy all these outrageous costumes and stuff. Sometimes we reference artists, sometimes we reference…. I mean, when I shot the [Netflix] movie Hustle in Philly, I saw someone in this really terrible outfit at the bus stop and I was like, “We have to recreate this.” Sometimes I’ve been eating at restaurants and I see someone in something cool at a bar and I’ll snap a pic.
When we did the “Alligator Man” episode with Katt Williams, when all the neighbors came out, I was like, “There’s always this one nosy neighbor in the neighborhood that’s older that’s in a housecoat.” Donald was like, “I love that. Yes, let’s do that.” She has on her housecoat with the rollers in her hair. And so, there are always these things you’re creating fictional TV, but you use real-life references to do whatever you need it to do.
BTL: Something I love about Atlanta is that I don’t even know how to describe the tone sometimes.
Hasbourne: Sometimes we read it and we’re confused [laughs] So, you want them to race without shoes? There are all these crazy things, and that’s the fun of doing a show like that. It’s purposeful that each department doesn’t understand sometimes what the other department is doing or the other department doesn’t wanna ask. We’ll ask another department, “So wait, what are you guys doing about this? Do you understand? I don’t really understand, but this is what we’re doing.” It really also ends up being great because it’s collaborative.
BTL: Even though the unexplained is what’s a fun part of the show, do you ever have to have the unexplained explained for you to help them tell the story through costume?
Hasbourne: Sometimes. I think what I loved about the creative process in Atlanta is sometimes if you don’t understand it, it’s your perspective. And so, they’re like, “Great, let’s go with that.” They don’t explain it. Sometimes you have to ask. In season three, the standalone episodes, there’s a scene when the guy gets pulled off the boat while they’re fishing. I didn’t realize until someone explained to me when we were shooting a later episode, like, that’s the ghost of the guy from the first episode. I was like, “Wait, what?”
With Atlanta, especially on season three where we had so many standalone episodes, I would’ve never thought that one episode would’ve tied back into another episode. So, sometimes you need people to explain it. Or even in the end when we read the finale of season four, it’s like, “So, did this all happen?” You’re left wondering. Like you said, I think for the fans sometimes they don’t wanna know. It’s what their perspective is and what their take is. I think that’s built purposely in the realm of Atlanta because that’s how Donald gives freedom to his writers and to his department heads.
BTL: Let’s talk about one of the standalone episodes in the final season, “The Goof Who Sat By the Door,” a mockumentary episode about the making of The Goofy Movie. How accurate did you want to be to the time period?
Hasbourne: So those actual suits, we actually thrifted and did vintage shopping for all of that. Those actual suits came from those actual periods. It’s funny, because I remember when I read it, I was like, “Okay, I have to really wrap my head around this episode because there are so many different characters and people speaking on him and him being in a room around so many different people.”
Sometimes, especially with a show like P-Valley where in episode 207 where you see where Uncle Clifford’s grandmother started with the pink and all the different eras that the pink evolved through, I think the writers don’t get to sometimes put everything on paper. So, it’s our job to ask questions or to offer suggestions to help tell the story without what’s really just on paper.
BTL: When you think about your creative process, any similarities in how you approach Atlanta and P-Valley?
Hasbourne: I had been with Atlanta since season two, so the process was already there in terms of creative. With P-Valley, we actually wrapped later on season three than we were supposed to, so there was a short overlap between me being on P-Valley and Atlanta, which isn’t strange for me. I’ve done that before. I did it on Ballers and Shooter. I did it on In Treatment and Keenan.
While they were shooting the European episodes of Atlanta, I was on a movie called The Mothership with Halle Berry. I think what really helps you get through that process is how strong your team is and who’s a part of your team. If you have shoppers, they get it, or if you have a supervisor who gets you a really strong set team to help execute your vision while you’re not there. Really, there’s a lot of communication that helps get it done.
When you jump into a show mid-season, at least with season two of Atlanta, there was this time gap between season one, and I used my experience as a stylist to say to Donald, “This is a great opportunity,” because I had come from the TV show Ballers where we just had an unlimited budget for wardrobe.
BTL: [Laughs] It was very slick.
Hasbourne: It was very high fashion and name brand-heavy. Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) cooking in Chanel robes and walking around playing basketball in Gucci loafers. I remember the line in that episode where they’re talking to him and he’s like, “You think I’m crazy? I’m not crazy.” Everyone’s looking at him like, dude, you’re playing basketball in Loewe and Gucci. Something is wrong.” And that was the point of the vision, that’s what I saw on paper when I read it. That’s what I got. He should not be in basketball clothes. He should be in some high-end fashion look that when he’s saying, “You think I’m crazy?”
A lot of times it’s my job when I read something to take it to the next level, but to circle back to my point with season two of Atlanta, the line producers were like, “You know, this isn’t Ballers. We don’t have a lot of money.” I was like, “Here’s the thing. At this point, Paperboy has buzz and a record out. People would be giving him free stuff. Let me reach out to brands and get them to give us free promo products.” Donald was like, “That’s accurate. I do that with my friends and my brother. People send me free stuff and I share it.”
I think a lot of times what resonates on screen is how realistic something is. If someone is really on the run and running from the police, would they really be running from the police in that? If you’re a stripper and you’re working at The Pynk, would you be in the grocery store with your kid in the same clothes that you are on the pole with? No. I think it’s up to us to build a fictitious story, but also to elevate it and make it ridiculous.
BTL: Any other examples of that from P-Valley?
Hasbourne: I remember the episode where Megan Thee Stallion performs with Lil’ Murda, and [creator] Katori Hall was like, “I want them in these long thrown-like coats.” And I’m like, “In Chucalissa, Mississippi?” She’s like, “Yes.” We made the coat and then she was like, “It has to be bigger, it needs to get bigger.” And I’m like, “Don’t threaten me with a good time.” Sometimes costume designers want to be let loose. You want a throne? I’m gonna give you a robe that drags. I think it’s all about taking what you’re given on paper and making it bigger, just finding the wow factor of something.
BTL: Paper Boi wears a great tuxedo in the episode, “Young White Avatar.” How’d your experience as a stylist help you there, knowing how he’d dress for a certain event for performers?
Hasbourne: I think that’s what’s helped me so much as a costume designer because it’s my relationships as a stylist that allow me to go in and talk to brands about opportunities for placement. The only difference is that when you’re styling, the minute you do a press run, the people see the stuff on the carpet instantly when you’re shooting a show, you have to pick something that can still possibly be relevant six to eight months to a year down the line.
I’ve tried to use both of those lessons in terms of what’s different from styling as opposed to what’s different from costume designing. Although you may wanna use something that’s fashionable at the moment, you don’t wanna date the episode by making it so that it’s so noticeable and such a standout piece for a period that it’s not believable or it’s so trendy that people are like, “Oh, they must have shot this months ago.” Also, it’s not so much that I would love for people to talk about the clothes of the characters; it’s about being a team player and doing what’s best for the episode or the movie.
BTL: Let’s circle back to the episode, “Mr. Chocolate,” because I could ask a million questions about it. You feel like you’re in some strange time warp.
Hasbourne: That was the point.
BTL: And Mr. Chocolate looks like a Bond villain.
Hasbourne: So the funny thing is, when we read the episode, I was like, “Crap, we’re gonna have to build the suit for him and we’re gonna have to make him really tall.” It’s always interesting to me when Donald chooses to play these characters. I remember when we shot the Teddy Perkins episode… Atlanta episodes are so tight, in terms of the information of the creative getting leaked, that I was sitting on the van riding to the set and LaKeith was like, “That Teddy dude is weird.” I waited to tell him, and then I was like, “You know, that’s Donald right?” And he was like, “What?” [Laughs]
BTL: How’d you come up with the look for Mr. Chocolate?
Hasbourne: We built a suit. I brought in a special tailor that basically did this padded suit for him, with long johns so that he could still move with the prosthetics. It was ridiculous. They had to build a certain piece on the neck for when Venessa threw grits on him. It was insane. I brought a bunch of samples of fabric for them to approve, and I was like, “I think we should make these silk pajamas and put this beret on him. Now he needs to be tall, so you’re gonna have to wear these really ridiculous platform shoes.”
BTL: There’s a famous director and showrunner known for directing in pajamas, so that’s a deep-cut reference.
Hasbourne: [laughs] So that’s what I mean. Sometimes you hear these stories and I hold onto them for work. I remember one time I was talking to somebody, and they were like, “You have a really good memory.” I was like, “I do in terms of creativity, but for some reason, remembering my passwords is a nightmare.” I can remember things in movies that I loved.
BTL: Did you ever reference many movies for Atlanta?
Hasbourne: LaKeith’s mariachi band jacket in the Drake episode is a nod to a movie that I loved, which was Something New with Sanaa Lathan. There’s a scene in the garden when the guy that she loves, she goes and gets him and she takes him back to the Cotillion and she’s like, “Do you have a suit?” The only thing they can find is there’s this mariachi band playing on the side, so he takes the guy’s jacket. When we were doing that episode, I was like, “I need something that has a real shock value and cool.” And so, we mixed that with Adidas pants, and we tried it with a tuxedo jacket with tails.
I also go off of how the actors respond when we try something on them. When I brought Brian the Wesley Snipes’ New Jack City t-shirt, when he went to his farm, as soon as he saw it, he was like, “This is the shirt. This is what I need to be wearing.” A lot of times it’s the actors putting something on, falling in love with it, and selling it in the fitting photos. There are so many different creative ends to what we end up with.
BTL: With both Atlanta and P-Valley, what are you most proud of about your work?
Hasbourne: I think with Atlanta, Donald and Hiro [Murai] gave me the opportunity to finish a show that I started. I knew season four was gonna be the last season. And so, it was important for me as the show kept pushing for years and years to go back and actually finish it and to create these episodes that so many people still talk about. I mean, “Alligator Man” with Katt Williams, they still love that episode, and Teddy Perkins [episode], these iconic episodes.
With P-Valley, it was being able to jump on a show that was already created and to respect the integrity that was already in place by the costume designer that created it. But to be able to take it in a direction where I can make it mine and put my twist on it. You know, I have worked with Megan Thee Stallion as her stylist on a couple of jobs, and so, to even go back in with her was a full circle moment.
I was a stylist first. As a costume designer, to go back and work with people that I’ve only worked within a music capacity, it’s also a lot of fun because it solidifies that I’m not just a stylist; I’m also a costume designer.
BTL: You’re an artist.
Hasbourne: I’m an artist.
The final season of Atlanta and season two of P-Valley are available to stream.