Friends was one of the first shows I worked on as a costume designer. Co-creator Marta Kauffman directed us in how to fit the words with the visuals. You needed to consider the production design and set. It was about the six of them looking great together.
There was a lot of pressure to make the characters’ clothes very casual. I wasn’t into it. I thought we needed aspirational clothing to make people want to know more about their lives. It wasn’t realistic that Monica had that amazing apartment – you wouldn’t see young people then living like that. So it was already aspirational in terms of lifestyle; I just took it one step further. For instance I dressed Joey in an Armani jacket. He was meant to be an unemployed actor, there is no way he could have afforded it, but the vintage jackets I found didn’t have the right drape.
My designs were all character-driven. I identified palettes. Monica was black, grey, white, burgundy; Rachel was blues and greens. I divided the boys into textures – Ross was tweedy, Chandler had a lot of vintage and racing stripe shirts, Joey had leather jackets, then later sweaters and chenille. Phoebe was in patterns. They each had different visual identities.
The only other pushback had to do with fit – it became the most important thing. In 1994, when the show started, clothing was worn baggy and oversized. To make the characters’ wardrobes different, I addressed that. The girls’ clothes became more body-conscious, tighter, with bare midriffs. People didn’t wear tight T-shirts then.
Friends is 20 now and it’s as fresh as it was. On Christmas Day a few years ago, I was texting with Richard Buckley, Tom Ford’s partner. He wanted me to know he and Tom ate their dinner and watched episodes of Friends, and Tom thought the wardrobe held up extremely well. That’s high praise.
I now get emails from young people asking where they can get this or that. They just discovered Friends. I answer a lot of them, like, “It is many years ago but that was jacquard, you can buy it at your local fabric store and take it to your seamstress – you’re not going to find it any other way.”
It always used to be Rachel’s wardrobe people would ask about. Now it is Monica’s. That is so funny to me because I never heard a word about her high-waisted pants and cropped T-shirts at the time. She was a working chef and her wardrobe was more straightforward and realistic.
I think there has been a hyper-focus on the characters in the development of fashion. Phoebe’s mixed prints and flowing layers are a perennial favourite of bohemian types. Ross’s Bostonian professor vibe is also very constant.
When Balenciaga recreated the Joey Tribbiani layered coats look for their AW18 collection, I wasn’t surprised – it was so fun and clever. For Balenciaga to do it made sense – it was about the whimsy and the audacity, and it looked perfect for 2019. I was designing on the show Speechless when the collection came out and there was a similar scene where Minnie Driver had to put on all these coats. I showed her the Balenciaga picture and was like, “Can you believe this?”