Even though Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso left the company she founded last November (and Boohoo bought the bankrupt brand), the entrepreneur, best-selling author and self-anointed #girlboss continues to further her own brand with a Netflix show called, obviously, ” Girlboss.” The 13-episode series stars Britt Robertson (from the CW’s under-appreciated “Life Unexpected”) as Sophia, the fictionalized version of Amoruso – a feisty (if not entitled), vintage-loving 20-something in mid-aughts San Francisco.
Considering the IRL Amoruso and the story’s subject matter, the wardrobe – both on the cast and on the racks – is very, very good and filled with genuine vintage, courtesy of costume designer Audrey Fisher, who recently went futuristic and dystopian for the first season of “The Man in High Castle” (and dressed the citizens of Bon Temps, Louisiana on “True Blood”). To stay authentic to both the main character and the Nasty Gal origin story, Fisher found inspiration in the most true-to-life place of all: Amoruso’s closet.
“I arrived at her home, which was exquisite. We were sitting on the terrace – the Hollywood sign is right there – and she was chatting about her life in San Francisco and said, ‘well, do you want to [see my closet]?'” Fisher says excitedly, over the phone from Los Angeles. “The whole time, I just wanted to get in her closet! That was my main goal, but I was going to let her steer the whole experience. So we just marched right in there, and she just started pulling things out and tossing them over and talking really fast, like really fast. Pulling things, talking. Pulling things, talking.”
A sentimental pack rat, Amoruso held onto beloved pieces from her early career years, which provided visual reference points for Fisher to shop or custom-design looks for Robertson. “Sophia explained how – and she also explains this in her book – she didn’t have a lot of money, so all her friends chose a decade and dressed out of that decade and that’s how they were able to be stylish and on a budget,” Fisher says, explaining the genesis of Amoruso and Nasty Gal’s very ’70s aesthetic – and Sophia’s best friend Annie’s (Ellie Reed, below) very ’60s vibe.
“It’s rare to have that level of access to your subject matter, who you’re fictionalizing, but you’re also trying to get the essence of their real character,” Fisher adds. She ended up custom-building the perfect red ’70s jeans to fit the very petite Robertson and withstand the ultimate beating those pants go through in the first 30-minute episode. She also created white overalls seen in the trailer and a denim jumpsuit that Robertson wears in a later episode. “I felt like it’s kind of a wink to all of Sophia’s fans and a wink to Sophia herself,” Fisher says.
Since starting the vintage fashion business is an integral plot point in the series (and Amoruso’s life), the pieces in the scenes were meticulously sourced and planned, including a ’70s East West Musical Instrument Company jacket, which opens the trailer. After contemplating and then nixing the idea of making a lookalike piece, Fisher searched high and low and eventually found the one from vintage dealer Brian Cohen, owner of Vintage on Hollywood.
“I went to Brian’s beautiful atelier, and there she was,” Fisher says. “She was hanging out right there, that beautiful metallic pink blue silver dream.” Although, after showing the butterfly jacket to the producers, she was first worried that it was “too flashy,” but “they fell in love with it instantly and we got it, we tried it and it fit [Robertson]. It was kind of like Cinderella and the glass slipper.”
The jacket, which she purchases for $9 from Jim Rash (best known as Dean Pelton in “Community”) in a leather vest, ends up as the catalyst for Sophia’s new eBay store. It rings up a cool $615 during bidding, which is a major bargain considering how much producers shelled out real life. “It cost $3,500,” says Fisher. “That’s a pretty high ticket item for a show like this. We had to run it up the flagpole – do a budget alert to make sure that was cool. I think if you amortize it, we really got our money’s worth out of the jacket!” (Hot tip: the same jacket is available on Etsy right now for $2,500, a relative steal.)
While the small-screen Sophia spends a lot of time perusing the vintage shops of San Francisco, including Wasteland and Held Over on the Haight, Fisher found many of the vintage pieces further south in Los Angeles. Her favorite stops: A Current Affair show, Scout on Melrose, Squaresville, Urchin, Worship, Collection in Echo Park, and Jetrag, which is also a favorite of Hala Bahmet to dress Mandy Moore on “This Is Us.”
A post-dot-com-bubble San Francisco also plays a prominent role in Amoruso’s arc with sweeping backdrops of the Bay, streetcars, the gritty, unwashed streets of the Mission and Haight-Ashbury and intentionally bad fashion (sorry, SF) – but on the background players, not Sophia, of course. After researching throwback trends from the mid-aughts, Fisher decided to infuse the extras in the background with visual “tags,” which signified that questionable sartorial moment in time.
“Things like the ironic T-shirts with sayings, like the D.A.R.E. T-shirt and trucker hats, and, of course jeans were very weird,” she laughs. “That wide waistband sort of low-waist, boot-cut jean, weird long skirts, and really short little sweaters. A lot of really specific weird things that were very ‘in’ then and so I just tried to paint behind our principals against a very strongly designed background.”
And there’s one quintessential San Francisco wardrobe staple that can’t not be featured as a sartorial easter egg in a show set in the city by the bay. Obviously, I’m talking about a fleece (and paired with dad jeans to for extra realness).
“It was scripted, like ‘a tech guy in a fleece,'” laughs Fisher. “There are a lot of really great specific [moments] like that because we all know there are certain things that are so iconic that you just know it has to be that. But if you just Google ‘tech guy in 2005,’ that’s what he’s wearing. Even now, that’s what he’s wearing.”
Follow Audrey Fisher on Instagram @audrey.fisher. ‘Girlboss’ premieres on Friday, April 21 on Netflix. Want the latest fashion industry news first? Sign up for our daily newsletter.