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HomeCraftsCostume DesignEmmy Nominee: Emily In Paris Costume Designer Marylin Fitoussi Is All About...

Emmy Nominee: Emily In Paris Costume Designer Marylin Fitoussi Is All About Her Love Of Clothes, Colors and Patterns, Not Fashion

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Emily in Paris costume
A scene from Emily in Paris / Netflix

The eye-popping, vibrant couture of Emily In Paris (Netflix) is courtesy of Costume Designer Marylin Fitoussi (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), who for the last three seasons has dressed the cast in innovative wardrobes fit for a fashionista. Nominated for an Emmy for “Outstanding Contemporary Costumes For A Series,” Fitoussi has found her element in the series, as she was able to tap into her vast vintage knowledge, mixing and matching styles with a no-holds-barred approach.

Fitoussi gives each character their signature look, which is dictated by her personal psychology. You might see Emily (Lily Collins), whose taste ranges from funky to elegant, wearing thigh-high socks with chunky heels or an Audrey Hepburn-inspired black dress, or Mindy (Ashley Park), who has a fearless “I’ll wear anything” philosophy, wearing a belted sea-green mini jacket topped off with a white sailor hat with blue and white clouded go-go boots. 

A native of Toulouse, France, Fitoussi was influenced by her seamstress mother and eclectic grandmother, who collected clothes from the 1950s to the 1980s, giving the young Fitoussi the perfect outlet to play dress-up. Her studies would include Art History at the prestigious Ecole du Louvre in Paris, earning a degree in Textile Design, which accounts for her penchant for putting multiple patterns together.

Upon graduating, she worked at the Parisian outpost of the legendary English costume rental company Angels and Bermans, where she would apprentice costume designers who specialized in period pieces, learning the trade from fittings to recognizing one era from another. Being in the right place at the time, she met the owner of Les Costumes de Paris, a costume rental company, where she transitioned into working with period pieces for film. 

Below The Line spoke with Marylin Fitoussi via Zoom video from her home in Paris, where she moved to work on Emily In Paris. Looking fabulous, she wore her black signature turban and a multi-colored kimono decorated with roses and white stripes. She admitted her own taste in clothes is about being viscerally appealing to her eye, hoping that blends into the character’s wardrobe. Fitoussi seems to be hitting the right looks on the head just by perusing Instagram, websites, and occasionally her own closet for just the right coat, which is her number one accent for an outfit. 

Marylinn Fitoussi

Below The Line: So have you thought about your Emmy acceptance speech yet?

Marylin Fitoussi: [laughs] No, for me, it seems so far away, you know? I can’t believe it. I don’t even know what I’m going to wear! It’s like the black or gray zone somewhere. I know I need to do that. I’m really emotional when I’m thinking about this recognition from my peers. The recognition for my team and for the cast, who are supporting me a lot and giving me that trust. (Writer/creator) Darren Star sent me a very nice email, and I was very touched by that, so step by step. 

BTL: What I loved when I was reading about you, Marylin, is that you said you like clothes, but you don’t like fashion. 

Fitoussi: I maintain this position. I remember the first time I said that to Lily (Collins), we were in a fitting, and she was quite shocked. Two days later, she understood that I am more sensitive and sensible to clothes that give me emotion by telling me a story rather than a brand. I think people are focusing too much on brands right now and not enough on the beauty or construction of the clothes. I need to have this emotional feeling. When I see clothes, I’m choosing every piece of clothing and costume for Emily in Paris, where they need to sing me the song, and if I fall in love, yes, we can make a match. 

BTL: When watching, I couldn’t wait for the next episode, to see what they were wearing.

Fitoussi: Thank you. It’s funny; even for me, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have the concept, of course, and I have things that I want to do that I didn’t do in the previous season. I’m in constant renewal about imagination and creativity. But after that, that’s when the magic happens—when every piece goes well together. It’s not something very intellectual at the beginning, you know?

Philippine Leroy-Beaulie, Paul Forman in Emily in Paris / Netflix

BTL: Tell me how you create a psychology for each character and how that plays into what you have them wear. 

Fitoussi: For instance, Emily is a bold character. She’s a joyful character. For me, she’s almost the most funny character to style because I love to have this opposition between the colorful way she’s dressed and the French chic and the minimalism of her boss, Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu). We played a lot this season to have this mirror effect between both of them because they love each other. They probably despise each other, but they respect one another. So you have Sylvie, the French chic who is all elegance, and this bold little American girl who assumes this strong combination. There is something very interesting; it reminds her of when she was young, and you have Emily, who is a very clever character. She’s an observer, and she knows perfectly what she should do to look very French and elegant, Parisian, but she refuses, but her boss is quite bossy, and she’s quite elegant.

BTL: How do some of her styles show Emily’s personality? 

Fitoussi: Let’s take one or two items, like the high-waste pants that make a very beautiful silhouette, and let’s try a few things and make an evolution in the character. So I really loved the two beautiful actresses (Lily Collins and Ashley Park) that I had to play for this mirror effect. 

Lily Collins, Ashley Park in Emily in Paris / Netflix (photo by Marie Etchegoyen)

BTL: Emily for instance had such a cool look, like she would wear thigh-high socks with chunky platform shoes. Did that become her signature throughout the most recent season? 

Fitoussi: You’re completely right. The chunky shoes were the signature because when you are not dressed like everybody, it’s because you are not thinking like everybody. She’s still a fish out of water, and I like that she doesn’t want to fit in the box. She’s always thinking one step ahead, and she’s creative and doesn’t care about what everybody is thinking about her. Life is too short to wear boring clothes. I think Emily’s the perfect incarnation of this—better happy than well dressed. 

BTL: With your background in textiles, does that have something to do with the fact that you could sort of mix and match patterns?

Fitoussi: I plead guilty on this one [laughs]. I studied, and I graduated as a textile designer. So of course, when I saw a plain and a solid fabric, it didn’t tell me anything. It’s just plain, and I think it’s a little bit boring, so I really love strength in graphics, and I like to oppose and marry a lot of graphics. That also became the DNA of the series; it’s this mixed match and this eclectic way of mixing patterns. 

BTL: Is it true that you got your first big break while at a nightclub where you met the owner of Les Costumes de Paris?

Fitoussi: [laughs] But it’s also a reason for the student to never refuse an opportunity to go out and meet new people. You never know. Even when I said okay, I was tired. I don’t want to go. You always have the opportunity to meet someone. This day and this night were my big nights, of course. It can be simple people who just share the experience, and you need to fill your brain all the time with vision and knowledge of people, adventure, and experience. So yes, my first night was in a nightclub, which decided my career. Yeah, I don’t want to say that too much to the young that it was in a nightclub, but it was.

Ashley Park (L) in Emily in Paris (Credit: Netflix)

BTL: Let’s talk about Mindy’s clothes worn by the actress Ashley Park. There’s one fabulous outfit that she wears; a greenish short coat, that’s belted at the waist, and she’s wearing a white sailor hat. 

Fitoussi: The little sailor beret, the white one. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. That is vintage Jean-Paul Gaultier. I was lucky enough to have access to Jean-Paul Gaultier’s archives. The pieces that he was designing and the coat—I think it’s the leather turqoise coat from Versace— we belted it, and she has such beautiful legs and her whole body. Sometimes I say it’s a pity that I need to put clothes on you and hide you a little bit because she’s beautiful and she’s so confident.

I think that is the key. A woman is never as beautiful as when she’s confident, when she understands what she’s wearing, even if it’s outrageous. I admire that, and it’s easy for me to work with her because she has no limits. Sometimes it’s that big (making a tiny circle with her hands), and she says, “Okay, I can manage it. I can slip into it.” [laughs] Even if it’s a handkerchief, she succeeds in making it look like a dress! 

BTL: Where do you source most of your clothing from?

Fitoussi: Some come from websites that don’t have big brands. Sometimes magic happens when you are searching and scrolling through a luxury website, and I found this incredible pair of blue boots. I say, “Okay, I need those boots!” I didn’t know how I would use them. It’s collecting all these strong pieces, and suddenly, okay, you keep that. Sometimes I use a thing that I bought on season one, and I only find a way to style it on season three.

We need to be patient because sometimes they rebel and don’t let themselves be styled so easily. Everywhere I can find inspiration I’m sourcing in a rental shop. I also meet a lot of designers, and I spend my time meeting young designers and scrolling Instagram for inspiration to fill my imagination.

Lily Collins in Emily in Paris (Credit: Netflix)

BTL: What were some of the other happy accidents that happened along the way?

Fitoussi: I think every day is almost an accident. You’re always on the borderline because you have changes and requests from the set. In season two, I remember when we were shooting the birthday scene outside in front of Emily’s house. This night was really cold, and it was very, very warm two days before and the night before. And so, I didn’t have any coat plans for Emily, who was wearing this black dress with a big pink bow. It was midnight, and she was freezing, and she said, “Marylin, I need a coat.” We broke for dinner and couldn’t find a coat. Suddenly I said, “Oh, I have a kimono in my house.” I took a car and went to the house to look for my big kimono, and it was just the perfect piece. If I planned that, I would be searching for the coat for weeks! In an emergency, sometimes you need extra help from the costume department or your own.

BTL: Any other clothes out of your closet that made it into the series?

Fitoussi: Oh, yes, I’m a coat addict, so every time I buy a new coat, I say, “Lily should wear it in the next season.” She’s the reason I’m still buying coats [laughs].

(L-R) Bruno Gouery, Collins and Samuel Arnold in Emily in Paris (Credit: Netflix)

BTL: Speaking of coats, the character Julien (Samuel Arnold) wears quite an array of fabulous coats. 

Fitoussi: Julien is a flamboyant character. It was very funny because the first time on the first season when I met Samuel, he was very Parisian, dressed all in black, sometimes a little gray or white. When we said, “Okay, we are going to style you with a color, with a pattern, et cetera,” he was looking at me so afraid. I say, “Please, trust me. We will go step by step, and we will make this character yours.” Now it’s personal life, and it’s the same for Ashley. I can’t see if they are in character or not because they’ve completely adopted the silhouette of the character. Now, he loves wearing color. He feels very confident, and I think it’s a very interesting character. It’s also a way to show men not to be so shy. Of course, you need to be confident to wear color and pattern, but when you do that in a very easy,  thoughtless way, it looks simple and beautiful.

Lilly Collins / Netflix (photo by Carole Bethuel)

BTL: There are also some very elegant scenes where Emily’s character is evoking Audrey Hepburn in that black dress. 

Fitoussi: I know Audrey is an iconic figure. She’s very elegant. She has this grace; it’s this magical moment (in that scene). I know that Lily is very fond of Audrey Hepburn, so we try every season to pay a little tribute to this beautiful woman. And Lily is a beautiful woman, too, so they have the same attitude, the same swan neck, absolutely gorgeous. We assume completely that it’s all little glances for Audrey.

Collins with Kate Walsh in Emily in Paris / Netflix (photo by Stephanie Branchu)

BTL: In this season, Kate Walsh as Lily’s American boss is pregnant. What was that like styling those looks? 

Fitoussi: I love fittings with Kate Walsh. I think it was one of the greatest moments because we work hard, but she’s a comedian. She has no limits, and for me, that’s a comforting attitude because she’s willing to try. It’s probably too much, but she’s playing with it. I was a little bit shy at the beginning for pregnancy dresses, and I styled them with a traditional correct length. And she said, “Hmm, Maylin, what do you think if we make it shorter?” And she was pulling a skirt up really short. I said, “Really? Are you sure?” She also has tremendous legs, and we did it. She was right because it gives purpose and boldness to this character, and it makes it very funny. She played it to be outrageously textbook American. She has a great sense of humor, and fashion is about having a sense of humor and being playful.

BTL: It also shows you can be sexy and pregnant. 

Fitoussi: Yes. And you can be sexy when you turn 60, like Sylvie’s character is doing. You know, I love working with those two women because, yes, you can be beautiful, sexy, and pregnant and be 40 years old. And you can be sexy, beautiful, confident, and attractive when you also turn 60 years old. We forget this in society, in fashion, in movies, and in books where other women of my age are; we’re not too young, not too old, but where are we? So those two beautiful women are a tribute to Darren Star, who knows how to write a strong and mature woman. 

Lily Collins in Emily in Paris / Netflix (photo by Marie Etchegoyen)

BTL: Speaking of older women, your grandmother was very involved with collecting clothes over the years. Did she inspire the 1950s style bathing suit that Emily wore?

Fitoussi: Maybe I had that in my head, but I was also looking at Lily. Because we can do a tribute to Audrey Hepburn when she cuts bangs, it reminds me of some French icons and a pop singer or some French movie that I loved, and I say that with the grace and the elegant way she is, a vintage-cut bathing suit was for me more accurate for a silhouette. We have the sexy Mindy, and of course, it’s no competition with them. Everybody stays in character, showing another way to be at a pool. The 1950s shapes look gorgeous on Lily. I search for the most flattering shape for every actor. 

BTL: Have you gotten many requests from viewers wondering where they can purchase the clothes from Emily In Paris?

Fitoussi: A lot. There are some Instagram accounts dedicated to identifying all the items, clothes, and accessories that our characters are wearing. So they are a big help for me because I can always say, “Okay, look at this page and add this account, and you will find the answer.” Many times I don’t pull things because they’re from Valentino or whatever. I just pull them out because I have the emotion. I don’t look at the brand. I’m not attracted by the tag or the label. I’m attracted by the construction, the fabric, the colors, and the shape; it’s a good piece for the character.

All episodes of Emily in Paris can be watched streaming via Netflix.

Robin Milling
Robin Milling
Robin Milling is an Entertainment Reporter and Producer based in New York. Robin has a wealth of experience as an Entertainment Reporter covering film, theater, television, and music. Her style is conversational and candid, discussing personal issues as well as professional topics with celebrities. She is a writer/producer and host of the podcast Milling About™ with Robin Milling, which can be heard on Amazon Music, Apple podcasts, and seen on YouTube, featuring her provocative conversations with the hottest names in Hollywood.
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