It’s Tony season in New York City! The nominations were announced last week, and the buzz of excitement for the June 8 show—and host Hugh Jackman—has not died down. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which tells the story of a transgender rock star from Berlin who is brought to life with a brilliant performance by Neil Patrick Harris, earned eight nominations (it only trails A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which got 10 nods). One of those nominations went to nimble costume designer Arianne Phillips, who worked on the costumes for the movie version when it was released 14 years ago.
“It is an incredible honor,” she told InStyle.com shortly after the nominations were announced. “Each of the costumes, I created [and] orchestrated to work together like a Russian doll,” she said, adding that she used “thousands” of Swarovski crystals to make them shine. “Some are overdressed, some are under dressed, and mostly all are rigged for quick changes in trap doors and secret entrances.”
Watch the above video to get a behind-the-scenes look at the costumes, and read on to learn more about the outfits, her reactions to the show’s nominations, and more.
Congratulations on the nomination! What does this one mean to you?
Thank you! To be perfectly honest I was completely blindsided. I had flown home to L.A. over the weekend, and wasn’t really paying attention. Who would have thought such a few costumes would be Tony worthy? It is an incredible honor. I am so grateful for the recognition, not only for myself, but for my very hardworking costume team and for the whole Hedwig family. It is not a singular experience; it is all about the shared group experience. I do not own this—it is a reflection of hard work, dedication, and passion for Hedwig. We are a family.
What does it mean to see Neil Patrick Harris nominated, especially because your costumes brought his character to life?
I am so happy for Neil. I think I may be a bit more emotional for Neil’s nomination for what he represents. He is a brave and fearless artist. No one works harder. To seamlessly step out of Barney’s shoes from How I Met Your Mother, straight into Hedwig’s high heels without missing a beat is just mind-boggling. Neil reminds us how hard work, dedication, and generosity can translate passion into brilliance. I adore him.
Why was this an important project to you?
To be invited back after designing the costumes for the film 14 years ago is a dream come true. It is always a great wish to be able to revisit material we love, and get the chance to maybe do it again in a better or different way. I am a very different designer 14 years later, so to be able to use what I have learned and be challenged by deconstructing the essence of the story into a stage production is a dream I couldn’t have even fantasized about.
How is working on the play different than working on the film?
In the film I dressed probably over 300 people, with over 1,000 costumes. The stage show is essentially one person on stage the whole time.
You said your costumes were inspired by Berlin wall—how so?
The Berlin Wall is at the center point of Hedwig’s story, since she escaped from East Berlin before the wall came down. There is a line in the opening song “Tear Me Down,” where it says “Hedwig is like that wall.” So, I decided to be literal. In the original play and the film, Hedwig had a cape decorated and inspired by graffiti on the Berlin wall. This time I decided not to have a cape. Instead, I used her art-covered denim costume to represent the Berlin Wall. This creates all kinds of layers of story, and happens to feel very rock and roll. I used painting, stencils, appliqués, and Swarovski crystals. Combined, I was able to create dimension so it feels like Hedwig has customized it herself and over time.
Which costume uses the most crystal?
That is hard to say. Just for example, the opening costume has over 250 crystal fabric transfers, as well as hot-fix crystal stones and fishnet fabric with crystals. Overall there are thousands of crystals on these costumes.