Jeriana San Juan is the costume designer behind “The Get Down,” the Baz Luhrmann Netflix series that has fashionistas buzzing over its cool ’70s style. The show is a musical and above all, a visual delight. Thanks to San Juan, the show also features a hip-hop and disco-inspired wardrobe that reflects the debauchery of a series that made the ’70s cool again.
What were your main references for this series?
I found inspiration wherever you can imagine, including vintage fashion magazines. I also found it watching films produced at that time, vintage clothing catalogs and photographs of Joe Conzo, who was a famous portraitist toward the end of the ’70s and who took many photos of his colleagues in those days. I was also inspired by the work of Jameel Shabazz, who was one of the first photographers who documented urban street style.
Where did you get the clothes from? Did you transform them after purchasing them or was it all done in the studio?
The showroom was full of pieces that were acquired worldwide, and many of them were vintage. The extras were dressed almost entirely from vintage pieces, although many also wore modern clothing that was adapted to look more authentic. To design clothes for the characters, I often re-created a detail or an authentic vintage piece using a different silhouette or a new material. Sometimes I started to design from a reference and just let my imagination flow.
How did you create unforgettable pieces like the Get Down Brothers’ bomber jacket?
The Get Down Brothers’ jackets were inspired by a photo of a hip-hop group from the early ’70s that wore satin baseball jackets. These were generic there, but I fell in love with its uniformity and also the way in which the satin reflected the light. It looked like the solution and the perfect way to represent their current situation and gave the guys an iconic look. I also chose red and dark blue because it created a synergy between the color schemes of Books and Shaolin.
You expressed that “cool” is the essence of the series, so how would you define this word?
I grew up in a Cuban family that did not have much money. When you grow up with that background, you know that it does not require a lot of money to have great style. I learned that early on, thanks to my Cuban grandmother, who showed me how to make dress patterns from old newspapers. The “cool” essence of the show does not come from guys with money, it comes from their creativity in wearing street fashion and interpreting it.
Mixing sneakers, chains and caps, along with glasses, was a new concept at the time. Everything was about keeping it fresh and looking great in your athletic wear. It was a revolutionary concept that remains in force today. I’m a big believer that it’s just a matter of creativity and style to look “cool.”
Why do you think the ’70s are back again in such a big way?
There are many things from the ’70s that are eternal because inherently, they are flattering to the body for both men and women. The wrap dresses, wide-brimmed hats, blouses with long sleeves, bell-bottom pants, big glasses. … These elements will always be flattering and easy to use, even if they are dramatic in silhouette. The ’70s refined effortless “cool.”