Indie Collaboration

HDVP: For costume design, where was the bulk of your collaboration?

Toye Adedipe: I worked with the art department a lot. The way each set was designed, those were the textures that I saw that made me want to expand on the costumes of the characters. For example, if I was in Sam’s room and I saw a lot of African American nostalgia, I fed off of that. I went to vintage shops and got leather, texture, prints that evoked that essence. It helped me propel the concept of what her character would look like.

In the short amount of prep time I did have, Justin and I went through visuals that pertained to today’s social market. We went through Pinterest, Tumblr and mood boards created on iPads. We really tapped into what our generation was doing to digest information digitally. It was motivating for me because it showed that the rules of the game have changed and evolved. [Society] is more open to the possibility of what someone young, new and fresh can bring to the industry.

With that in mind, it propelled me to create costumes for the characters by hand. I didn’t rely on a label or a showroom or a studio service. Talking to Justin about how he was able to produce the film and the direction he was going motivated me because it was all fresh and new and really grassroots.

Simien: Toye had such a difficult task, but really rose to the occasion. I can be very specific, and we were shooting in Minneapolis [laughs], so access to all the types of fashion he needed wasn’t easy. It’s an ensemble cast with four main characters and then all their friends. It’s a lot of people to dress. But we managed to go through each character and use a reference to complete their look­—like one day Sam was going to be very Annie Hall, and next she was going to be Lisa Bonet in The Cosby Show.

In an "art show," which is what my producers were calling the film, every inch of the frame has to be just so. Bruton, Cheri, Toye, Topher—they all did amazing jobs, making the clothes or the sets or the lights match this heightened world around them. The looks we were able to introduce with this film—like the Black Bohemian—were images I’m not seeing in the movies anymore. We wanted to introduce the new Black Hipster image to the world.

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