The new musical, Head Over Heels, had its opening night on July 26th. There Arianne Phillips displayed her talents in the Gwyneth Paltrow-produced musical which showcased gold leaf-painted corset gowns, musical note prints, and even Gucci glittery shoes and a real Gucci handbag. Arianne Phillips has served as a collaborator for Madonna and Tom Ford on concert and runway stages and on movie screens and is now bringing her many talents to Broadway.
Head Over Heels goes back to Sir Philip Sidney’s 1590 prose poem Arcadia as well as the 1980s girl power band, the Go-Go’s. The costume designer of the musical, Arianne Phillips says, “It’s all about a mash-up!” She adds, “I always look for some personal challenge, something that I can learn in a project . . . something that keeps me in a state of fear—or helps me grow an extra limb! This is a dream project. It was just so much fun watching the workshops and watching it develop—a wonderfully uplifting experience.”
Head Over Heels is now showing at the New York Hudson Theatre and is said to be a production featuring colorful mash-ups of ancient Greece and the Tudor era while incorporating contemporary girl-power and gender-fluid themes woven through a plot that is focused on star-crossed lovers. The production also uses Eighties-Era music by the Go-Go’s including “We Got The Beat”, “Vacation”, and “Our Lips are Sealed.”
Michael Mayer originally brought Arianne Phillips onto the production team and she worked on the project for over two years. When the Go-Go’s music was mentioned, she was thrilled. She said, “They were the soundtrack of empowerment for me, finding my voice as an adolescent in the midst of all the boy bands.” “The most exciting thing was that there were no rules, and it didn’t have to be correct,” says Arianne Phillips. “It’s written in Tudor prose, set in ancient Greece with 1980s music. It’s our own world.”
When it comes to the costumes, it’s definitely a mash-up. A mash-up that many could visualize walking down the fashion runway in 2018. Phillips says, “I wanted to create costumes that looked contemporarily relevant, and when you look at typical Shakespeare, Tudor-esque costumes, they don’t; they feel very heavy with all the jacquards and brocades. Instead, I was inspired by what’s been in the zeitgeist, to reinvent historical periods and reference them in contemporary clothing, with everyone from Vivienne Westwood to Alessandro Michele, from Gucci to Pierpaolo Piccioli from Valentino in mind.”
Arianne Phillips designed the entire costume collection on her own with some help from textile artist Jeff Fenzer. She decided that the costumes needed to stand out, so she went with a Tudor silhouette rather than a Greek silhouette. Phillips did incorporate Greek and Roman imagery when she was hand-painting the costumes for the musical. When contemplating the overall print for the dancers, she decided to use the sheet music from “We Got the Beat” by the Go-Go’s, inspired by “Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage.” While Swarovski provided 200,000 crystals for Phillips to bedazzle several different looks, she also reached out to other sources. One source provided Phillips with a Gucci handbag and colorful glitter Gucci shoes for the production to use onstage.
“The burden was to make it relevant,” says Arianne Phillips, “but I like to dab my toe in fashion,” she continues, “and I was looking at fashion people who inspire me now—Alessandro [Michele at Gucci], Pierpaolo [Piccioli at Valentino]—and how they have approached historical silhouettes. I was trying to live in that eye, which is so relevant, pulling together all kinds of different inspiration, throwing it into the pot, and fleshing it out to make it our own. I also looked at Palomo Spain and the movement of gender fluidity in fashion.”