“The Great Gatsby” Costume Designer Catherine Martin On Working With Tiffanys, Prada, and Husband Baz Luhrmann

Leah Bourne

The-Great-Gatsby-Baz-LuhrmannCatherine Martin has been working on the costumes and jewelry for the upcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby directed and written by her husband Baz Luhrmann for over two years. Labor of love to say the least.
Martin collaborated with Miuccia Prada on the clothes for the movie and Tiffany & Co. on the Art Deco inspired jewelry. The results are dazzling, so much so, that they have already had a clear influence on the fashion world. Tiffanys meanwhile is celebrating the collaboration with a line of jewelry, the Ziegfeld Collection, and window displays at its New York City flagship, in anticipation of the movie’s release May 10.
Its been a longtime coming. Martin shared of her starting point for the costumes and jewelry: “Baz as a director is a visualist, so he always has a perspective as to how he would like to see any given period…it’s a very emotional starting point.”
The husband and wife team who have worked together on past movies including Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge have a unique collaborative process. “The most important part of the journey is him [Luhrmann] telling you the entire story,” Martin said. “He will act out all of the parts for you. He will lovingly portray Daisy, Myrtle, all of the female characters…this is terrifying for me…they sometimes morph into my mother-in-law because of the sound effects. “
Martin shared that readying the costumes for The Great Gatsby took over two years, including research at The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art along with workshops with actors in the movie including Leonardo DiCaprio to see how the clothes would come to life. One of Martin’s biggest concerns was the clothes and jewelry in the film would still feel relevant (after all The  Great Gatsby is set in the summer of 1922). “One of the tenets of the costumes was that he [Luhrmann] said, I don’t want it to end up looking like a 21st birthday party where everyone is dressed like a gangster in the mall,’ and I said ‘I hope that I can do better than that.’ So at one point Baz had me put up in the millinery department in Sydney this banner that said ‘I’m not one feather only,’ which meant that if he saw one headband with a single feather in it I was ‘f’ for fired.”

Tiffany & Co. Unveils Its Fifth Avenue Windows Inspired By "The Great Gatsby"

Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin in Front of the Tiffany & Co. Fifth Avenue Windows Inspired By “The Great Gatsby”

As for how the collaboration with Miuccia Prada came about, it turns out the designer is a longtime friend of Martin and Luhrmann’s (and was the first person to screen Romeo + Juliet back in 1996). “I was trying to find an unexpected way to allow the audience into the 1920s and that was one of the reasons that we went towards Miuccia Prada,” Martin shared. “Fitzgerald had an enormous love of the modern and anything that was new, dynamic. He was looking towards the future, it was about a new era, the Jazz Age, where all the rules that you once knew were revolutionized…It was a revolutionary time, a time when women were much more employed…you also have women fashion designers like Coco Chanel, like the Callot sisters, all speaking to women and making clothes for women. That is something that Miuccia Prada does today…she’s speaking to women now. What is beauty? Who are we? What roles do we encompass? Seductress, mother, sister, wife, working woman—she constantly thinks about all of them and I thought that was incredible.”
As for why Tiffany & Co. proved to be the perfect collaborator for the jewelry in the movie, Martin shared that she responded to the brand’s history and its modern relevance. “Fitzgerald was a Tiffanys customer, and Tiffanys was extremely active in the 20s as premiere jeweler. People like Tom [Buchanan] would have been buying stuff here.” At the same time Martin said “there also had to be an actuality about it and that’s why Tiffanys just felt so right. Because they still exist today. The Tiffany diamond is right over there, but there is also a modern company moving towards the future.”
As for what Martin would most like to take home for herself from the collaboration, she shared, “It would be the rose cocktail ring with the big yellow diamond. I keep hinting, I don’t think I’ll ever get it.”