While it’s not uncommon to rave about the fashion choices from our favorite TV shows or movies, it’s rare that we get introduced to the creative mind behind the styles we love.
From working with the cast of The Game, Let’s Stay Together, Being Mary Jane and, most recently, the film The Perfect Match, Janelle Carothers has been the fashion genius behind many of today’s top shows and films.
Honing her love for fashion as a pre-law major at California State University, Long Beach, Carothers says her experience as a college student working in retail is what led her to make the connections she needed to launch a career in fashion.
In an interview with BlackEnterprise.com, the California-native opens up about her first major fashion client, her experience working on the set of a movie, and advice she would give to other professionals who are interested in working in fashion.
BlackEnterprise.com: Who was your first big client?
My first big client, who I actually got when I was an assistant, was Chris Brown. At the time I was assisting another stylist and she said there is this kid who needs to do some promoting and I need you to help me. At the time he wasn’t ‘Chris Brown,’ but then he blew up and we went on tour with him for three years.
When I had my big break as a designer was when I was an assistant designer for The Game, and then they gave me my big break on Let’s Stay Together as a costume designer.
How did the opportunity come about for you to work on Being Mary Jane?
Under the direction of Ruth Carter, I did the shopping for Gabrielle Union for Being Mary Jane. Since most of the actors/actresses live in L.A. we did most of the shopping there before they went to Atlanta and then we shipped it to them to get them started. I worked on the show for two seasons.
As the costume designer for The Perfect Match, what does a typical day look like for you on set?
Usually there is a very early call time, somewhere around 4 or 5 in the morning. Once we get on the trailer it’s a huge scanning of things to get all of the clothes into the actor’s trailers. So we have about an hour in the morning to get all of our clothes steamed, organized and put in the trailer. If there are any fittings that need to be done we take the clothes to the actors room to prepare for fitting upon arrival. Once we load the trailer we put the clothes in there [and] how they will be put on, so we have unbutton shirts, and ties and jewelry. We shoot about four or five scenes a day or sometimes more. I follow them on scene the first day to make sure the outfit looks the way I want it to look. Once things look the way I want them to look then my assistants are on set monitoring things and I go back to the trailer to make sure the next outfits are ready. Then depending on what the next day looks like, we may have to leave set to do more shopping and grab some items. Sometimes if it’s an off day we will have a fitting. The minimum days are 12 hours and sometimes up to 19 hours.
What advice do you have for people who are looking to break into the fashion business?
I want to say to people who are coming, to just hang in there and fight the good fight. You have to find mentors and people who are doing or living a life that you want your life to look like. Find those mentors, line them up and suck them dry for information and pour into them. Once you do that and make yourself invaluable to a stylist, that stylist, because of your assistance, blows up and they get busier and if you are good they send you stuff they are too busy for. Also, don’t compare your race to anybody else. Just get in there and commit to doing good work and every single thing else will unfold how it’s supposed to unfold.