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HomeAwardsCostume Designer Frank Fleming Straddles Two Worlds in Power

Costume Designer Frank Fleming Straddles Two Worlds in Power

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Frank Flemming
Frank Flemming
“As a designer, my goal is to always try to be the most honest to the reality of what is written, and the world we are trying to create, in a way that feels genuine and true,” shared costume designer, Frank Fleming.

For the Starz series Power, Fleming had to design two worlds. The story follows wealthy night club owner, James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), as he straddles his two disparate domains: the high-end scene of New York’s fashionable elite, where he has it all, and the drug-dealing streets that financed his lifestyle and power.

When Fleming first met with creator Courtney Kemp Agboh, they discussed what they wanted to establish esthetically as the overall look for the show. Fleming felt the most interesting opportunity that the design presented, was the opportunity to put people of color with wealth and access on the screen. He brought images and points of reference to that first meeting that reflected the world of his fashion-forward friends in New York City. The look was exactly what the creator wanted.

Power
Power
According to Fleming, he was given a generous budget to create the honest reality of upscale people of color in New York. The designer both builds and buys wardrobe. Much of the building is for Ghost. As an ex-football player, the actor’s body-type and shape – broad shoulders and small waist – requires a tailored approach to his clothing.

“We do a lot of made-to-measure suits for him each season, but I work with different designers to create that closet for him,” revealed Fleming.

Often contemporary design that is based on social realism is overlooked because it is so natural. A show like Power needs to be an influencer in terms of the clothing the cast wears. The look has to be the latest thing. On a new series, getting promotional placement of designer clothing is not a given, so Fleming has to be smart about the way he spends money.

Power 2014Fleming wants to help the actors with their characterizations by creating a lasting image that viewers are drawn to. The intent is to create a real person. Fleming likes to design for strong characters that are recognizable. The character of Ghost has a certain duality. He needs to seamlessly transition between both worlds. Despite the drug world that he is entrenched in, at heart he is a conventional businessman.

“One way for me to accommodate both is to make a bevy of suits, but then we also make two different tones of shirts. A day shirt, which is a more traditional businessman shirt, but then we do a complimentary, darker-toned shirt that sets the tone for him being a nightclub owner and dealing with different people on a darker level,” Fleming explained. “We try to be smart with the way that we build the characters throughout.”

Each season the look of the worlds change, but the initial overall concept was that when Ghost steps into the drug underworld, color is taken out as the palette is de-saturated, blending in with the cold concrete. The look switches from an overcoat to a leather jacket.

Power 2014Ghost’s old friend and partner-in-crime, Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora), has not taken on the slick veneer of respectability that Ghost has cultivated, but rather dresses in a way that blends into the setting. Into street culture, he spends his money in a different way than Ghost. He does not aspire to meet other people’s expectations. His palette tends towards black and grey, very concrete like the world around him.

“My philosophy is that in today’s modern culture, street hustlers often conform to what takes them into any environment. It’s not so much the way we see them portrayed in media with the baggy pants. Most of those guys moving drugs and money look very on-trend,” said Fleming. “My goal was to be relevant and current and aware of what was happening in the streets, but also with Tommy to make it a little bit more confident and cocky. He’s willing to take the risk. He’s really bold.”

Most of the color use is when the scenes are in the home or the nightclub when the story and palette comes to life. This world is all about appearances ­– the perfect home, the perfect wife, the perfect business – and it is the legit world where Ghost wants to live.

Fleming and his two assistant designers, Lisa Frucht and Derica Cole Washington, are very involved in the look of the background performers in the heavily populated nightclub scenes. On their biggest days, the team has to dress 400 hundred people while at the same time establishing 14 principle characters, including the fashionable attire for Tasha St. Patrick (Naturi Naughton), Ghost’s attractive wife.

“Each season I’ve had two additional costume designers that help bring that world to life. We pretty much touch everyone that comes through the door,” stated Fleming. “Ultimately for me it’s creating a certain truth for the story. What was important for Courtney the showrunner and creator is that you have to believe that this world is glamorous and lucrative.”

Fleming said that the challenge he often faces is not being able to multiply himself. He always wants to be sure that important issues get attention. Still he freely admits, “I am very fortunate. I have a great deal of support from the network and from Courtney in terms of allowing us to create. In the end, it helps. By and by, it’s a pretty seamless show.”

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