Costume designer Erin Hirsh has created some of the most memorable looks for music stars across the world. Kanye West, Rihanna and the many contestants from The Voice USA have been dressed by the style guru. Hirsh talked to Fennec and Friends about her diverse career and the looks which captured audiences around the world.
What was your first experience with fashion?
“My first experience with fashion was as a dancer, coming up with costumes for my dance pieces. The choreography process sparked my fashion imagination in a way that it never had before.”
“I had a moment in my late twenty’s where I thought that I don’t want to be a waitress by my late thirties and there was not a lot of money in dance at that point. It was at this point that I turned my attention to that spark and began engaging with the fashion industry.”
What have been some of your favourite costumes you have designed?
“I loved the process of creating the light up piece for Kanye. I did quite a few light-up pieces from him. The first one I did for him, which was very enlightening was actually, was one only very few people saw. The costume was for a European tour, and the exploration there lead us to further delve into technology, and from there we ended up creating the Grammys light up jacket and glasses that became somewhat iconic.”
“Another one of my most memorable designs was won I made entirely out of bullets. I love shopping for designs in like a hardware store or an army navy store, taking something out of context and redesigning its purpose. The look was for Rihanna’s Hard video, and it was one of my favourite designs.”
How do the physical requirements of your different clients influence your creative process?
“It comes down to their creative direction. I need to know what they are performing, what are the movement requirements that they are doing so I can move backwards from there. I can create something beautiful but if it doesn’t fit what they are doing it is pointless. I need to see the choreography and know what songs are being performed in that outfit.”
Before she hired me the Executive producer asked
“Can you do normal?”
I was like
“Yes, I think I can.”
“I think my experience as a performer has enhanced my ability to design for other performers. I have found that this world of pop stars very at home, I knew what they needed as an artist to move comfortably.”
How do you believe costuming designing for reality television differs to that used for fictional shows or music concerts?
“The turnaround is really the biggest difference. On The Voice, particularly as a competition-based show, you have to design and execute a look in between 24 and 48 hours. You don’t get the luxury of getting really into your process or sourcing fabrics from all sorts of places, you have to go on immediate instinct.”
What has been a highlight of your career so far?
“There was one point where I had designed outfits for both Kayne and Rhianna’s tour, and I remember sitting at Maddison Square Gardens with some friends who had come to see the show, and I was just thinking – Holy Crap, that is so cool. When you’re in it that you don’t see it because you are working, so it was great to see the outcome as an observer. But of course, as a perfectionist, I went back and tweaked things.”
What has been a low light from your career? How did you overcome this?
“How personal do you want me to get? A really low moment for me and my career right after what I consider the climax. I had my son, and his father and I didn’t work out when he was still very young. A low moment was thinking holy crap I have a baby, and I have to figure out how to work and how to make this work. It was figuring out how, as a new mother, to have a life that I couldn’t have with a child. So, I had to make a pivot, and it turned out to be a wonderful pivot into television. The person and the lifestyle I had with work, no longer fit with me. It was being uncomfortable and not knowing what was next for me.”
“The Voice came along, and it was a saviour. I had no idea what to expect, and they really took a chance on me because I had only experience with music and pop star as opposed to television. I remember speaking with the executive producer before she hired me and she asked, “Can you do normal?” I was like” Yes, I think I can.” I was asking them to please take a chance on me. It ended up becoming so big so quickly, and I have just been riding this beautiful wave ever since.”
What are some of your future career aspirations?
“There are a few things I would love to do. I would love to get into a half hour format show, whether it’s Netflix or a sitcom, something like that format is something I could really sink my teeth into. I love the idea of getting into a character because I could get in there and play, being half psychologist, half designer. So, I love the idea of getting into a half hour format scripted television show.”