Welcome to our new podcast, Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr. Think of it as your direct line to the designers, stylists, beauty experts, editors, and tastemakers who are shaping the fashion-and-beauty world. Subscribe to Who What Wear With Hillary Kerr on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Ava Yuriko Hama
Imagine being the sartorial genius behind two of the most iconic, fashion-forward television series that have been released in recent history. Eric Daman doesn't have to imagine with a résumé that includes acting as the assistant designer to Patricia Field on Sex and the City and the premier designer for Gossip Girl (a project that, if fate hadn't intervened, he may have passed on). We can't imagine a world where Blair Waldorf's iconic headbands didn't exist within our fashion lexicon, and we're now closer than ever to witnessing a new wave of TV fashion and Daman's work in the Gossip Girl reboot. This week, Hillary Kerr sits down with the Emmy-winning costume designer, celebrity stylist, fashion and jewelry designer, author, and host (we could go on and on about his many career hats) to discuss the upcoming series, his career trajectory, and just how close we were to never seeing his vision for Blair and Serena.
You went on to work on what is arguably the only other series that can compare with Sex and the City in terms of fashion culture phenomenon, which was Gossip Girl, the original. But I heard that you had sworn off TV and almost turned it down. Is that true?
That is 100% true. When I left Sex and the City, it was season four, and the grind of it was just so labor-intensive, and I just was like, I can't keep up with this pace. I don't want to keep up with this pace. I want to branch out. I A) want to become my own designer, and B) episodic [is] like being in an emergency room all the time. It's just triage. We'd even have very late night fittings, and it's just like, the work hours, everything. We work 14-/16-hour days, and it's very labor-intensive, especially episodic.
A friend of mine was doing a very small indie, and I just wanted to go re-explore my roots, get back to the basics, as one does. I had a really great string of films, indie films. I'd done maybe six, seven, 10, indie films back to back and was kind of making my mark in the indie world. It was very bourgeois and felt like my French literature degree was working to my advantage. And I had met and was booked to work on Todd Solondz, who had done Welcome to the Dollhouse. I met them, we had such a great meeting, I was booked to work on his next film, and the Gossip Girl pilot came in at the same time. I was definitely pulled toward the Todd Solondz project, and my boyfriend, Brian, who's here with me now, was like, "Let's just read the first page of Gossip Girl." Smart. He ended up reading and doing a dramatic interpretation of the whole script for me, and I was just smitten with the idea of these super-rich kids behaving terribly and what we can do with the passion for it. It was really two very different worlds if you think of the Todd Solondz indie world and then this Gossip Girl phenomenon.
Literally the next day, I was supposed to get on a plane to Florida for the Todd film, and the financing got pulled. Then, I went in to my Gossip Girl interview. At the time, we would use tear sheets and read magazines because the internet was alive and well but not quite the library that it is these days. I made all these composites and collages similar to what I would do with my bedroom as a kid. I made all these tear-sheet imagery mood boards that I showed to Stephanie Savage—she was the showrunner, creator, and writer of the original incarnation—and she had also made mood boards and done tear sheets. Our pictures lined up I would say like 95%. It was kismet. Like, this is meant to be.
I noticed a couple of Easter egg fashion moments in episode one of the Gossip Girl reboot that I can think of off the top of my head, but are there any other Easter egg fashion nods to the original in the show that you could share?
There's probably one that you've noticed that's been clocked on social media, so I can speak to it openly. Tavi Gevinson plays Kate Keller on the show. The first time we see her is in this tan jacket and this rattan French sailor striped T-shirt and a little neckerchief that is paying homage to Serena's first look when we see her on the train showing up to New York—to build that in as an homage to the original look and to keep everyone guessing who Kate is, and is she Serena? What's going on with her character? That was really wonderful. I'm so very excited that people already picked up on it and that we got to kind of bridge the gap immediately for the fans of the original, and the new fans can go back and discover, oh, that's Serena's original outfit.
Obviously, you are a creative visionary. I'm curious about what you think the wardrobe staples are for summer. What should everyone have? What should they be wearing right now?
I think accessory-wise, bucket hats and rectangular glasses. We're seeing them trickle down. They're very easily accessible on all levels from super-high fashion—you can get it from Loewe or Celine—but you can also find it at Madewell and probably at Claire's at this point. So I think it's a very accessible fashion trend that can key you into influencer style.
I think we're seeing a huge trend in cottagecore fashion, which to me, is kind of this nice hybrid of not athleisure but people wanting to stay comfortable, women wanting to wear fuller dresses and not have to be so body-con. If you're more minimalist, you can keep it simple and monochromatic. To oppose that, I'd say the itty-bitty little white dress has replaced the itty-bitty little black dress, and we're seeing a lot of that '90s/early aughts tube-dress vibe. Wear it with a flip-flop heel.