An Exclusive Interview With 'Restless' Costume Designer Danny Glicker, Who Is A Genius

Annabel and Enoch
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

New York Fashion Week is over, and for the sartorially minded among us who are not jetting off for London, Paris, and Milan and maybe feeling a bit bereft, a wee smidge depressed not to have our eyeballs constantly inundated with gorgeous togs, look no further than a movie coming out this weekend called Restless. Directed by the spectacular Gus Van Sant with brilliant, sensitive performances by Henry Hopper and Mia Wasikowska, the film is a quiet, nuanced project that focuses on the burgeoning love between Enoch and Annabel in the face of death.

I KNOW, I KNOW, sounds like a complete bummer, and why would I offer this up to soothe your blues, etc., etc. But the thing you should know about this truly sweet and startlingly light project is that the costume designer is a man by the name of Danny Glicker (whose work you will have seen in Transamerica, Thank You For Smoking, Milk, and Up In The Air), and he is nothing if not a trove of style gems. Prepare for a #longreads nerd-out session, the likes of which have never before been seen on MTV Style. I love this man and strongly suggest you read all eleven-bananzillion words in our Q&A. Trust me, learning feels good on the eyeballs too.

MTV Style: How did you end up costume-designing for the film?

Danny Glicker: I worked with Gus Van Sant on Milk and we had a wonderful time. He sent me the script for Restless and I loved it. It’s a beautiful, powerful story, and when I spoke to him, he wanted it to be stylized, which surprised me because it wasn’t my first impression of the material since it’s so intimate. But we discovered a stylized vision that wasn’t coming from a place of “goth.”

Well, that would’ve been gloomy and pat. You’ve got great interplay of dark and light in the movie, sort of cross-hatched and shaded in certain parts and very bright and clean in others.

It’s so funny you say that because one of the first points of inspiration and something Gus let me run with is Edward Gorey. So Edwardian mixed with the '20s became a natural fit for the characters, and Annabel is fascinated with Darwin so there was this notion that she’d have a substantial comfort level wearing things from the past.

I didn’t want it to become macabre though, and honestly felt that her connection to the past could be explored with a sense of vibrancy. She was running out of life so I used clothes to explore how she approached where she was in her mind, living on day-to-day terms.

Annabel and Enoch; print and pile fabrics.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

How does the process of costuming a feature length film begin?

I do in-depth sittings where we use real vintage garments, beautiful pieces, some over a hundred years old. We did a lot of research into how the actors moved and took notes on what emerged as feeling right to them. It was a hands-on process that evolved in a natural way, and the idea was to find something to transform these actors from who they are in their lives to become something completely different that still felt comfortable.

Good grief, that sounds laborious.

Yes, but I hate that thing of just doing a sketch, building the piece, and sticking an actor in it with no input. It should be a collaboration—discovering the key to what allows the actor to change—and for each actor to be different from one another. Once we understood which silhouettes were working, then we built it.

And by build you mean...?

We made them. I designed and created them, and one of the fun things we did was put in some of the most gorgeous vintage silks as linings. Really fabulous patterns.

Sketches: courtesy of Danny Glicker, who is a genius.

Sketches: courtesy of Danny Glicker, who is a genius.

Whoa. This is going to sound ridiculous but I honestly had no idea these clothes were exclusively made. Fittings, yes, but building from scratch? I’m sort of floored.

We did both. For Mia, what we didn’t create we sourced from all over the country. Some of the pieces were really fine and some were junky. And there are hero items that are not necessarily exquisite. One of my favorite pieces we bought from a thrift shop from Portland. They’re these silver lamé shoes with a covered heel and rhinestone brooch. They’re a little pointy, sassy, and wonderful.

Sounds like something Marc Jacobs would have a field day with. I have no idea if you’d take that as a compliment or what...

I think that everyone is a little overwhelmed with the need for newness. There are knockoffs coming out faster than originals are being produced and there’s an exhausting turnover rate for silhouettes. People need to return to their closets and keep beautiful things, things you may have forgotten about. You won’t regret a Pucci dress, just as you won’t regret a Balenciaga.

Mia Wasikowska's red carpet looks, as seen in MTV Style's "Rising Style Star" article.
Photo: Getty Images

I can only imagine that outfitting Mia Wasikowska is a dream. I love her sense of proportions and her eagerness to wear completely bonkers architectural pieces. The confidence is staggering considering how young she is.

Mia is the ultimate muse. She is one of the most fun people I’ve ever worked with. She just knows how to wear clothes. It’s more than understanding how to look good in clothes, she understands how to allow clothes to influence how she articulates her body. It’s an intuitive process, and we both had a lot of fun. It’s hard not to, the clothes were really beautiful.

Enoch in tweed and a spread collar.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Enoch, Henry Hopper’s character, can also definitely wear himself some clothes.

In Enoch’s case he uses clothes in a more traditional way for certain kids, he uses it as a form of armor—a barrier between themselves and the world and to create a set of rules about what their world means. When you see the movie, it becomes clear that Enoch really is in profound mourning. He’s not just embracing the aesthetic of mourning, he’s actually struggling with issues with how to be alive when it defies how he feels inside.

Annabel and Enoch from "Restless."
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

They look fantastic together.

They both love to play and dress up. But they’re not using clothing to create fantasy, they’re using fantasy to create a real moment of connection. In a paradoxical way, they use fantasy to be authentic.

That must have been a tricky line to toe.

Creating the context for them was definitely a delicate balance and one I was riding the whole time in terms of how far I can push it. I didn’t want to dumb it down for anybody, because there are people in this world who have very adventurous sense of style and this movie is about those two people.

But I never wanted the clothes to be glib. I never wanted the clothes to in any way discredit the humanity of the characters. I trusted that Gus understood the world he was creating. The mantra of any costume designer is to tell the truth, and in the case of Restless, despite what it seems like at first, the truth was fabulous and glamorous.

I’ve worked with fashion designers and stylists at length but not costume designers. Do you get to a point in your career where you just know how things are going to read onscreen within a story?

It’s all about trust. Gus is wonderful director and a lovely guy. He gives a couple strong, thoughtful directions and then it’s my job to bring him things that meet and exceed them. This movie was about creating a world that was as fantastic as possible. To go as big as I was going in a story this intimate is scary. But with Gus, as with any director, the more trust they give you, the harder you’re going to work.

And I have to say working with Harris Savides, one of the greatest cinematographers in the world, helps. I can always trust in him and the fact that the clothes would always be contained and remain consistent in the world as he saw it through his lens.

The costumes are consistent but I do love how muddled all the eras are in Annabel’s oufits. I’m so tired of facile callouts of, like, Dior’s New Look or Flapper or Jackie O when you’re dealing with vintage pieces.

Costuming is about creating a dialogue, and there are certain eras that are carbon copies of previous decades. The '70s are a carbon copy of the '40s.

Right, inverted box pleats...

...Platform shoes. Here, I wanted to draw the parallels between the '20s, '30s, and '60s. And with the exception of one coat I wanted to jump over the '50s because the '50s celebrate a demure quality in women that isn’t what Annabel is about.

Thank God. I loved the '50s until “the lady” was trotted out for fall for what feels like the last 10 years.

Right. And I had this free-associative intent but there were these parallels that kept cropping up in the silhouettes. But I didn’t want to slavishly adhere to any one era because the overriding conceit was that this girl was finding clothes in thrift shops and attics.

Annabel and Enoch's "first date."
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

What’s your favorite Annabel ensemble?

The snow leopard outfit was a big reveal and very special to me because it was a really fun way to imagine a first date. Prior to that, we see her in a lot of boyish outfits, which of course she looks darling in, but we also see her covered and layered. There’s this one scene where she’s on train tracks and she’s wearing a funeral outfit and it’s a lace dress from the '20s that goes on over a black slip with this beautiful 1960s Persian lamb coat with a faux mink collar, and of course she’s wearing a hat with a veil that’s from the 1890s.

It’s a heavy outfit and all about Anabel trying on the personality of the morose. So when we get to the date outfit it’s about her ability to be sprightly and effortless.

And honest.

Exactly. And I find it interesting when you can find something classic that isn’t oppressively vintage-looking and that for me was incredibly fresh.

Caption Enoch.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Speaking of fresh, I love what you do with Enoch’s ties. The angles of a spread collar with a tie that damn-near looks like a noose. Rakish and brooding...

That was definitely an homage to Edward Gorey, and it’s also very much a contrast to the way ties are worn today. It’s a reference to 1920s stand collars and the paper collars and the collars where the tie hovers an inch beneath the fold.

It is rakish and calls to mind the question of what a tie is because when we see a tie we think of it as an impressive, secure knot that’s anchored and prim, that seems like this one thing. But when you see it where the proportions are re-imagined, it’s like what is this piece of fabric that’s tied around his neck?

Enoch's steampunk sunglasses.
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

And his glasses!

You’re talking about his sunglasses, of course. They’re machinist glasses from the '40s and they’re a little nod to the steampunk aesthetic. When I started the movie, Gus and I were actively looking at steampunk over goth, but I was quickly turned off by the rules in terms of how it might pertain to Annabel and Enoch.

Steampunk is extraordinarily rigid despite how much I love the hardware.

Well, that applies to any time you enter into a subcategory of dogmatic dressing. I always felt that was the irony of contemporary punk. You see them anywhere in the world and recognize them as being punk because the rules are as regimented as “Anglo country club.” I wanted the clothing to represent his internal sensibility and not embody some superficial club that he was a member of.

How do you even get to do what you do? Where did you go to school?

I went to school at Rhode Island School of Design and majored in industrial design. I always wanted to be a costume designer but I was too afraid of uncertainty in the business to allow myself to major in it. I treated industrial design as a general background since it ran the expanse of what you needed to know about the way people interacted with objects. It helped me to learn the vocabulary.

How did you cross over from industrial design to something so specific?

While I was at RISD, I was lucky enough to take playwriting at Brown because they have a cross-registration policy with their sister schools. It was a wonderful way to band that part of myself and understand the inner workings of character, and while I was a teen, I worked on Broadway as a fabric shopper in my summers. I assisted designers in New York and just ran around buying fabric.

Which Broadway shows did you assist on?

I worked on a huge flop called Nick and Norah, which was based on the Thin Man, and it was designed by a legend called Theoni V. Aldredge. She did The Great Gatsby among other wonderful things, and I worked at a place called Barbara Matera's, and it was a legendary costume house. It was like working at a couturier, and it was the first time I was around people building clothes and I was around the very best.

And how did you cross from Broadway to film?

I was doing a lot of indie movies in New York and I started as a PA. I was a PA on Quiz Show. It was the first movie I ever worked on as a teen from Long Island, but I was so eager to design and so hungry that I worked on super low-budget movies. I loved it and learned an enormous amount.

Anything I would’ve heard of?

The first one you may have heard of that I worked on was a wonderful movie called LIE. I read the script and it was edgy, and I love projects that are challenging. I thought it would either be incredible or a total failure since it was dealing with such dark subject matters, but Paul Dano is as brilliant now as he was then. I also worked on Northfork with the Polish brothers. An interesting and strange movie.

Who is your favorite fashion designer?

I really do believe you will not find a designer better than Alexander McQueen. His sense of history and his sense of contemporary scale and his sense of satire, it’s just unparalleled.

And if you’ve ever sat with McQueen couture, the construction just...I mean...

YES! The construction is mind-blowing. Obviously, he operated within parameters that are off-limits to so many other designers in terms of what he had access to for building, but certainly that level of access was a result by his enormous talent. He really was an artist, not just a couturier. [Laughs]. I say, "just" a couturier but at his age, it’s wildly uncommon.

What about other sources of inspiration?

One person in this world that I am endlessly inspired by is Bill Cunningham. Especially now when there are a million sites that do street photography or a collection of images that share a common theme.

The thing about Bill is that he’s incredibly generous with the way that people view clothes to present themselves. There’s a real democracy at play with his work, and I love that he’ll put some cool kid from the East Village who doesn’t have five dollars in his pocket next to a woman who’s high on Fifth Avenue who has her druthers with everything. He’ll find the thing that connects them in the way they present themselves that still makes them unique. People who inspire me are people who understand the difference between fashion and style. It’s said so often, but style for me is finding something compelling and fashion is one avenue to get there, but fashion is entry level when style is not available.

OMG. I love "when style is not available." It's scathing but diplomatic and just...accurate. So who is your ultimate style icon?

It’s impossible to talk about style without talking about Ira Sapville. If you want your mind blown get her book called Rare Bird of Fashion. She is one of the most fabulous style icons alive. She’s an incredibly well-bred patrician woman who makes these outrageously grave fashion choices that are not at all off-putting. She is wholly inspiring and embraces layers, patterns, different cultures, textures and puts them together in a way that is wildly unique. Buy her book if you don’t already own it, you’ll have a nervous breakdown.

Style is about putting together clothes in a manner that brings you pleasure, to enjoy life as much as you can, and that was really my intent with this movie and a big point with how I envisioned Restless.

Annabel and Enoch
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics


"Restless" Trailer

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