An interview with Allison Leach, costume designer for 'The Assassination of Gianni Versace'

Mandy News talks to Allison Leach, Assistant Costume Designer and Winner of CDG (Costume Designers Guild) ‘Excellence in Contemporary Television’ Award for ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ alongside Costume Designer Lou Eyrich. Allison shares her experience of working on 'The Assassination of Gianni Versace' and her upcoming projects.

27th March 2019
/ By James Collins

Allison Leach The Assassination of Gianni Versace

How did you get into the world of films?

I started by studying drama in college, the University of Washington in Seattle. I fell in love with costume designing there and there came a time that I didn’t want to be the person on stage, I wanted to make her look that way, to do that dress and have more creative control on a whole production in terms of the colour palette.  I learnt how to a read a script but needed more actual costume construction knowledge so I went to a program in Utrecht, Netherlands.  I was in Holland for three years and learnt more about creating a collection.   They let me do plays and I designed an opera as my thesis so they knew I was still on the drama tract.  

I came back to LA and started working for the LA Opera and then I got a call and was asked if I wanted to work on a commercial, I was the shoelace wrangler on a Jordan commercial.  I thought it was fun, like tech for a play but every day on a film set creating.  I really liked the energy and collaboration, the excitement of working on a set.

So when a project like ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’, which marries both costume designing and fashion, came along you must have been delighted?

It was a dream job.  I had been working with Lou Eyrich on ‘Feud’ and when Versace came up on the book for the future I let her know my interest and she brought me on for that.  I do have the masters in fashion so getting to work on ‘Versace’ did make sense. 

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How do you approach working on something so historically important to fashion? 

The lucky part is that the imagery is out there.  It takes a lot of research but it’s a lot of fun.  Some cases we recreated exact pictures, like Gianni and Donatella attending the Vogue Gal, but then a lot of the time we were allowed to be inspired by the research we had done. We tried to copy exact garments and used real vintage garments when we found them. The books on Gianni Versace’s work were like the bible to us and we had an incredible tailoring team who did master work. 

What are you working on next?

Currently I’m interviewing for a number of projects and looking for the next most creative project that will challenge me.  I do want to continue to do period, there’s is a 40s thing on my radar and a 70’s thing also.  But I also love Sci-Fi and I have done some before and the research to create characters in alternate universe is great.   

What advice do you have for up and coming costume designers? 

My personal advice would be to keep balance. The film industry is so unpredictable on a day to day basis and your life is a traveling circus. Try to keep the balance of sleep and eating to keep your longevity on the project. ‘Versace’ went on for 10 months and you are in for the long haul.  

Another piece I received is get to know everybody’s name, it really helps when you have that community.  

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