A self-described fashion obsessive whose collaborations with Wes Anderson include Bottle Rocket and Rushmore in addition to The Royal Tenenbaums, Patch has a quirky, often referential taste. For the upcoming Mike Myers vehicle The Love Guru, in which Myers plays an American maharishi-type raised abroad, Patch kitted out the fitting rooms like mini ashrams—curtains, candles, music—all to give the actors “an idea for the world their characters live in.” She also had Myers wear the very American footwear of Crocs, though she embellished them with embroidery. Similarly, in the comedy Drillbit Taylor, out in March, she had Owen Wilson, who plays a war veteran, don a cap that evokes Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now.
“In every film there’s a place to make a character stand out in an iconic way, but you have to find the right place,” Patch says. A party scene in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days provided the perfect opportunity to sheath Kate Hudson in a lemon yellow silk gown Patch designed herself. “The palette of the rest of the party in that scene was very controlled, so we knew she had to stand out,” Patch explains. “You have to be careful because a year after you design something, when the film comes out, a look could be over. So you want to do something quite classic.”
That timelessness was precisely what Durran had in mind when she went about constructing the aforementioned emerald number. “I know quite well that I didn’t make a Thirties dress,” she says, noting that she had been instructed by the film’s director, Joe Wright, to make a backless green frock that would float behind Knightley as she walked. “We were creating a remembered moment of someone else, so I pulled details I liked from the Twenties and Thirties and worked out which ones would combine together to make something that suited Keira.”
Durran, whose first break was as the wardrobe mistress on Eyes Wide Shut, is currently working on her third collaboration with Wright, a contemporary film called The Soloist that is set on Los Angeles’s skid row and based on real-life events. An aesthetic leap following Atonement and 2005’s Pride & Prejudice (a film for which Durran says she maintained the mantra “provincial, provincial, provincial”), The Soloist requires Durran to capture the worn, downtrodden look of the neighborhood’s residents while avoiding anything that smacks too much of fashion.
It’s the kind of challenge that all three designers say is at the heart of their work: how to make the clothing an authentic, evocative component of the film’s characters while making sure not to distract from the characters themselves. “It’s a tricky line,” admits Zophres. “But it’s the most rewarding part of the job, when actors put on a pair of pants or a shirt and their walk starts to change, or their posture starts to change. You can tell their heart rate starts to go up, and you can tell they get it.”