Deskside

How Amy Schumer's Stylist Changed the Way You Dress

Starting with Clueless, and practically every Judd Apatow film ever.

By: Noah Lehava
Photography: Jake Rosenberg

It’s a rarity, even around these parts (shocking, we know), to come face-to-face with the ones who have had such a profound influence on our personal (you could even say, innate) view of fashion. As in, they have practically dictated the way we dress since, oh, we were preteens (and, two decades later, continue to have an effect). See, Leesa Evans’ sartorial authority has been the epitome of influential: from her beginning, styling Cher and Dion's twinning head-to-toe plaid outfits to that Alaïa in Clueless (!!) to dreaming up the entire cast wardrobe for practically every Judd Apatow film to hit the big screen ever. Oh, and that’s just one point on her CV. She’s also on speed dial to Amy Schumer, dressing the comedian for every red carpet and late night talk show appearance she’s made on her insane career ascent over the past year or so. We got all the details about her hand in Zoolander 2 at her Santa Monica office just a few short weeks ago over laughs and bottles of Coke. Let’s just say, we could have stayed a while.

 

ON DISCOVERING HER LOVE FOR FASHION:

“I grew up in the fashion business and my mother was a fashion designer. I always sort of loved vintage clothing when I was growing up—I just really enjoyed it. I had an opportunity to do an internship with a costume designer sort of on a fluke. This is sort of silly, but I went on a date with a guy who was involved in film—he worked in the camera department and he basically told me it was very hard work and it was impossible to get into. That I needed a lot of connections and it kind of spurred me to want to try it. Just for the though of, ‘of course I can do it!.’ But what was amazing was the first day I walked into the costume house, it was a warehouse filled with costumes, floor-to-ceiling of every time period. I just had this really strong feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I kind of fell in love with it.” 

 

ON HOW STYLING FOR FILM:

“Styling for film is creating a world of characters that become your family for the next one and half to two and a half hours that you’re watching the film. So, I’m always thinking of the process for the entire visual—whether it’s the color palette or the theme or the feel of the script, down to who are these characters and why do we love them or feel bad for them or respect them, and how the clothing really supports that idea. It’s amazing how much you can get to know about a character from the moment you see them based on what they’re wearing. You know that girl that wears short skirts and that guy who wears a sweater vest, immediately. There are these very specific things. You know [the difference between] the girl who wears skinny jeans and tennis shoes versus the girl who wears skinny jeans and high-heeled boots. There are so many little subtle things that you really get to know people so quickly.” 

 

ON HOW CLUELESS’ STYLE HAS BECOME SO ICONIC:

“For sure, we had no idea that it was going to make that kind of impact. It was definitely fun, because we had come out of the '90s, which had been more about the grunge fashion and that sort of Seattle band influence in fashion. Then all of a sudden we were dressing these girls head-to-toe in matching pieces—it was such a cool departure. It was fun letting the clothes sort of dictate who they were, versus letting the clothes support who they were.”

 

ON THE BIGGEST HURDLE SHE FACED IN THE FIRST YEARS:


“I definitely did not know how many hours a day/a week I would be working. In the beginning I was like, 'wait this is a freelance job and I thought I was going to have all this time off'—that there’d be some sort of give and take. But then it turned out to be all work, all the time. That was quite a hurdle to get over at first, and just to know the amount of passion it takes to get over any project.”

 

ON WORKING WITH JUDD APATOW: 


“I have a huge amount of respect for Judd because he’s so good at casting. He’s so good at producing and he’s so good at directing. He hires people that are really good in their field. He’s been so respectful and so supportive of me, wanting to bring my element and love for fashion into these contemporary films, because they could really go a slightly different way, which is more realistic and less fashionable. That’s been a really fun relationship and each step of the way, he’s like, we’ll do ‘that thing’ to this movie that you think is right, and show me what that is and from that point, we’ll collaborate. It makes you want to bring the best of what you do to the table at a starting off point and that’s been really great.” 


 

ON THE PROCESS OF COSTUME DESIGN:

“It’s an ongoing process because sometimes casting is done during the course of shooting. We usually have about 8-12 weeks of prep before the film starts shooting. From that point we usually shoot 8-16 weeks. It depends on casting, truly. If a lot of casting is done early on, I’ll get a lot more done in prep, but that’s not always the case for whatever reason.” 

 

ON BRANCHING OUTSIDE OF COMEDY COSTUME DESIGN:

“I definitely think about it in the way that I am open-minded to all projects. I just happen to fall in with a particular group of people who do a lot of comedies. There are a lot of things about comedies that are great! I also feel like I so enjoy doing what I love, which is contemporary fashion. And sometimes you have more free reign with comedy, because you can heighten the reality for comedy, more so than a dramatic role, where a character is a particular type of person and you don’t want anything outrageous on them because it takes out of who they are.”

 

ON DOING THE COSTUME DESIGN FOR ZOOLANDER 2:

“That was a slightly different process because I felt that the fashion was a character in the film, so I wanted the fashion to be able to stand alone with or without the actor. Sometimes, some of the really fashionable things are on background actors. So, I was looking at it from the fashion standpoint first, then I was incorporating the characters into the fashion, where usually it would be the other way around. It was just a slightly different process. I had done a huge amount of research and really went into the most iconic images of fashion and tried to see what ways they could be recreated in this film—either for the way it was or for a comedic moment. We wanted the tone of the film to feel either 50% couture or 50% comedy. It’s fun when things are so different even in this one world you work in.”

 

ON HER DAY-TO-DAY:

“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and literally everything I thought I was going to do that day, is completely out the window and I’m on to something else! I would say my day always starts with meditating [laughs], no matter what. I do that before I get out of bed. Then from that point, I have a mixture of things that are all toppled on top of each other. One is, whatever film I’m working on. Second is, whatever celebrity clients I have going on, whether it’s advertising/red carpet etc. The third one is my main business, which is private client styling—I call it lifestyle-styling. I’m making sure that people have in their closets everything they could ever need to feel confident in their life. Whether that’s clothes they wear to the gym or out to dinner or black tie events, to work and to everything in between. We really use clothing to support our happy life and sense of well-being. I’m usually multitasking like crazy, making sure that every aspect of my business is moving along.”

 

ON TAKING THE SAME STYLING APPROACH FOR HER OWN WARDROBE:


“Yes and no. I’m definitely interested in my sense of well-being, because if I feel uncomfortable for whatever reason in what I’m wearing that day, it’s hard for me to work 16 to 18 hours, but it’s also hard for me to feel graceful while doing that. For myself, personally, I’m always looking for simplicity, comfort and for kind of a sophisticated sense of effortless fashion.”

 

ON WHAT SHE DOES TO RELAX:

“I am surprisingly good at turning it off when I get home. I definitely live a pretty relaxed lifestyle. I live in Malibu, so there’s a lot of staring off into the ocean, taking walks on the beach, going to sleep early, making dinner. There’s basically no reason to leave the house ever except for a walk on the beach. I think that extreme sort of life in nature balances out all the travel and all the hard work in a really great way. We are such homebodies! My husband is a writer, so he works from home. We just love to chill out.”

 

ON STYLING AMY SCHUMER:

“Amy is such a simple person at heart, she really is so authentic and so appreciates something that is effortless. A lot of the times when I’m dressing her—whether it’s in life or for the red carpet—a lot of it is just making her feel confident and good. That is a place where she doesn’t have to think or feel anything but great. She’s then able to be her authentic, hilarious and adorable self because there’s no additional thought about being awkward or uncomfortable. It’s a much easier process than you can imagine, because we literally put something on and immediately I can tell if it feels good on her. Sometimes, one dress can maybe look incredible, but it doesn’t feel as good. And then another dress can look incredible and feels so much better, so you just go with the one that feels better. Sometimes you don’t know why one feels good but the other one doesn’t. It could even be the same brand, same size and same style, but you don’t know why, one of them feels amazing and the other one is just not the one. It’s really about getting comfortable in your own skin and that’s the thing that’s so great about Amy, she is so comfortable. Through this whole process, she’s learned to say, ‘yeah, I feel great in this’ and ‘no, I don’t feel as good as before.’" 

 

ON HER DREAM WORKING SCENARIO:

“I have so much admiration and respect for so many people that I think the list would be forever long. I love the combination of people who are passionate about what they do and equally as humble about what they do. I’ve had a lot of good fortune to work with people like that, and sometimes I’m more interested in the relationship than the actual project because you can be working on this incredible project but if the people are somewhat unkind, it’s not as fun. You’re going to spend a lot of time with these people at work and it’s nice when you feel a real camaraderie.”

 

ON THE BEST CAREER ADVICE SHE EVER RECEIVED:

“Someone once told me really early on that, you don’t need to say anything, until you’re asked, and then you should be 100% truthful. I’ve used it a million times.”

 

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