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EXCLUSIVE: DOPE’s Costume Designer Talks Ditching Trends & Creating Your Own Style

This summer’s highly anticipated movie, Dope featuring a young Hollywood cast from Chanel Iman to A$AP Rocky is finally in theaters.

Executive produced by Pharrell Williams and co-executive produced by Sean “Diddy” Combs, there is no surprise that the synopsis of the story revolves around hot fashionable trends from the nineties through now.

The movie shows how Malcolm (Shameik Moore) survived in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles and how one invitation to a party leads into a journey that transforms him from being a geek into becoming dope. This movie is about authenticity, style and ultimately what it means to be dope.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Forest Whitaker & Rick Famuyiwa Dish On Making ‘Dope’: “There’s No Such Thing as Black Film” 

CocoaFab had a chance to catch up with famed costume designer, Patrik Milani, about the film’s fashion pieces that he curated in order to capture the essence of the cool culture of the 90’s in Inglewood. Take a peek on what he had to say about his preparation in styling the characters, dropping “trends” and the importance of embracing your own style . . . now that’s dope.


What does it really mean to be dope in a fashion sense?

“You are DOPE when you are true to yourself in the purest form. Malcolm, Diggy and Jib were outsiders and although heavily influenced by the 90s, they are not wearing outlandish “halloween” costumes. Each character has his or her own unique style, which combines many 90s and modern elements.”

You dressed talent for Yves Saint Laurent and Geren Ford fashion films; print ads for Vanity Fair, Elle and V Man Magazine, what different approach did you have to take in dressing the actors in “Dope”?

“I spent many nights on ebay trying to win bids on rare Cross Colours. However, DOPE was not a film set in the 90s –so I wanted to include contemporary brands that are native to Los Angeles such as UNDEFEATED, the Hundreds, and Crooks & Castle. Also, while researching I relied heavily on Instagram by simply searching, #InglewoodHigh , #Inglewoodstudents, etc and an entire world opened up to me. These kids (and, you know who you are!!!)   were so DOPE!  There was a true innocence and insight in 90s hip hop culture.  As kids appropriated classic American brands, they signaled the transition of Rap and Hip Hop from subculture status to being the dominant mainstream American culture in music and fashion.”

Kiersey Clemons “Diggy” Costume Silhouette

Did Pharrell have any fashion input for the movie?

“Not per se, but his producer Mimi Valdez was extremely helpful and arranged for (hands down the best streetwear site),  to donate many of great clothes you see in the film.”

How do you set trends instead of following them? How do you know what is going to be the next hot trend?

“I don’t care for the word trend.  Anything that is trend has already been watered down and transmuted to the lowest  common denominator.”

How was it styling Chanel Iman?

“Firstly I am a costume designer (not a stylist), so I designed for the character Lilly, not for the model Chanel Iman. Given that Lilly is trapped between the world of arrested development and womanhood, I chose to represent this dichotomy by using two fabrics — terry cloth and silk — in her costuming. I remember Chanel from backstage at Stefano Pilati’s YSL show a decade ago.  So it was a great pleasure to work with her again. She is a  fantastic actress!”

Chanel Iman's "Lilly" Costume Silhouette
Chanel Iman’s “Lilly” Costume Silhouette


What are 5 summer must haves that every dope girl should have in her closet?

“I don’t believe that there are any “must haves”…. I believe people should develop their own personal style. If one must select something, I would recommend DOPE girls spend five minutes every day immersing themselves in pursuit of creativity and good design.”

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