MCTV Exclusive: Inside the Fitting Room with Greg LaVoi – “Tourist Trap”

By M. Sharpe


Major Crimes costume designer Greg LaVoi

As part of our new weekly series “Inside the Fitting Room” we spoke to Major Crimes costume designer Greg LaVoi to get an inside look at the fashion and costumes behind this week’,s episode, “Tourist Trap”.

MajorCrimesTV: This episode was fun, because we got some glimpses of the team out of their normal office wear. Right off the bat in the opening scene we start with a crime scene at night, with the team wearing a great variety of jackets and overcoats. We don’t get to see those on them that often - what goes into selecting the outerwear for the characters?

Greg LaVoi: The key about outerwear for night shoots is either you need it or you don’t. 506- buzz provenza sykes taoBecause in Los Angeles, it’s either hot, or it’s not. And so, usually when we start shooting Major Crimes each season, it’s still spring, and the nights can be chilly. In this particular episode, we shot at a beach in Venice, in a parking lot for the restaurant. So I knew it was going to be chilly. Our producer, Mike Robin, always says our actors are not to suffer. So even though this was to air in the summer, we need to keep them warm while filming, which leads us to the jackets and coats.

Luckily the outerwear is character-driven. Generally when they need outerwear, it tends to be one, or one of a few regular options. For Provenza, it’s a very old London Fog raincoat. For Flynn, he has a cashmere topcoat that’s a favorite. For Tao, normally it’s a vintage plaid topcoat, which he did not wear on this particular night because he was in his tuxedo. For Sykes, it depends on what she wants to wear, and in this episode it was a  modified trench coat by Kooples, from Bloomingdale’s. And Buzz was in a brand new Theory cashmere topcoat that we found at Saks at the beginning of the season when we did our big shopping spree for the year.

MCTV: So a lot of these are kept in their closets for using over and over again?

GLV: In particular, Buzz and Sykes like to have a lot of coat options. Sanchez hardly ever wears a topcoat. Buzz has quite a nice coat closet and Sykes is building a pretty good one too.

506  - taoMCTV: You mentioned Tao’s tuxedo – he looked very dashing in that!

GLV: It’s so much fun to get an episode where there’s something a little different, and as the season goes on I’ve gotten a chance to design a lot of fun outfits for a lot of different scenarios. This in particular was great because he stayed in the tuxedo for three-quarters of the show. I brought in a couple different type of suits for Michael Paul Chan to try. One was a Theory, one was a Bar III, one was a Hugo Boss, and one was a Tommy Hilfiger. And the Tommy Hilfiger looked best on him and he liked it best. It was slim-fitting, and he has such a good physique to fit into slim suits anyway, so it was fun to find that suit that fit.

Then in the wardrobe meeting we have every week for every episode, Mike Robin, our Executive Producer, said, ‘Is there any chance we could have a little fun with Tao’s bow tie and cummerbund?’ And I looked at him and smiled and he said “Something plaid, perhaps?” So I will not take credit for the plaid bow tie and cummerbund because I was just going to dress him very straight, but Mike Robin of course tuned in on Tao’s penchant for plaids and it was a great decision from my executive producer.

MCTV: Was the plaid bowtie he wears something you then had to seek out to find?

GLV: We had to make that. I couldn’t find any really wonderful ties or cummerbunds. So I found some great black and white taffeta, and I had Esther, our fitter make them for it. And it was so wonderful. Michael Paul Chan did wrinkle up his nose when he first heard he was going to be wearing plaid accessories, but I said, well,  A: It’s your character and B: Mike Robin requested it, so his smirk turned into a smile.

506- cooper sykesMCTV: Speaking of outerwear, later in the episode we see Amy on stakeout in a much different type of jacket. What was the history on her brown leather jacket?

GLV: That was actually a relatively inexpensive jacket from Zara, and I love Zara. Zara fits Sykes in particular quite well so it was fun to find that and I liked the little bling on it. It looked good and she looked hot in it, especially sitting next to Cooper in all his J.C. Penny glory (laughs).

506- mcqueen armani watermark

Sharon Raydor’s featured costume this episode was a new Alexander McQueen coat, paired with an Amani skirt, and slate blue tee.

MCTV: Sharon had a few costume changes this episode, but two in particular stood out for me, especially the great black jacket. You mentioned a few weeks ago we’d see Sharon soon in a new jacket -was this it?

GLV: Yes, that is a brand new Alexander McQueen 2016 indigo cashmere coat. Her skirt was Armani, as was the slate blue tee shirt. She looks great in the repetition of items that she has in her closet and then you add a new beautiful couture type coat like this one, and it just amps up the look 100%. I’m excited to have that coat in her closet now.

MCTV:506- brown2 Then she had a great chocolate outfit, which I think we’ve seen before?

GLV: Yes. The top and skirt was both Armani, and we used it in the very last episode last season for Provenza’s wedding, and repeated it this season because it’s such a great look. Originally Mary didn’t like it, because she didn’t care for the color, and thought the brown would fade into the background. I said, ‘Mary, it’s brown. Who else in the show wears brown? You’re going to stick out.’ And she did, and now we love to use it. And then this time, it was paired with a crème Equipment blouse.

MCTV: I liked Hobbs’ blue dress – that seemed like a bit of a different look for her?

506 hobbs 2GLV: That was a new Diane von Furstenberg from Bloomingdale’s. It looked great, and Kathe loved the blue. Her blazer was Theory as well. And her necklace was from Marble Designs Jewlery, and it was a sterling silver calla lily with pearls. It was just beautiful. The designer, Sue Marble, is somebody that one of my crew members met on a trip and we bought jewelry from them and have loved using it this season.

MCTV: This episode also had some fun guest stars, especially with Julian Ovenden as the British reporter. How did you create his look?

GLV: He was wonderful. James Duff wanted him in plaid – he’d seen some reporter on CNN that is out in the field all the time in kind of a very subtle plaid shirt. My only other marching order on Julian was from Rick Wallace, one of our producers, saying his coat had to be a cross between a field jacket that somebody would wear in the jungle or out in the field reporting, as well as something that was weather-friendly in the sense that this is something he’d pack all the time on his trips and his assignments.

506 ovendenTrying to find that, in Los Angeles, in the spring is not easy, because you have to also have to have the actors take on what they would prefer. So, I had a range of coats, from real field jackets, military field jackets, to the old Abercrombie & Fitch style back in the 30′s and 40′s field style jackets to the newer ones, from waist length to the low knee, and every element had to come in play because our producers wanted one thing, the actor wanted another thing, and then I l liked another thing, so it was a tough assignment.

But Julian got the final vote, and again, it was from Zara, a really wonderful jacket in nylon, and to me, I’d call it a cross between a baseball jacket and a field jacket, because it had nylon patch pockets and knit collar and cuffs, but then it was almost thigh length, and it was just really cool. Again, I have to give it to the Europeans to say “Okay, we’re making this jacket that’s very unique but is also very wearable and very appropriate for any situation.”  So luckily Julian liked that and we got it on camera.

MCTV: The other Brits on the show were the tourist couple. Where there special considerations that went into selecting their costume?

506 - british wifeGLV: Yes. I did think about it a lot about how to dress them, especially Claire Branson (the wife). Her dress was by L.K. Bennett, and it’s one of Catherine Middleton’s favorite designers. She’s very known for the white dress with the midriff print, and I saw a similar dress I really liked on her, so we got this one from the collection. It was fun because I’m hoping that some time, when this season of Major Crimes gets to Britain, then maybe Kate will see it and say “Oh, that’s one of my dresses.”

506- middleton dressI love her work and I loved being able to put a real British designer on a British character, which I thought was fun. The little bolero jacket was also from L.K. Bennett, and the necklace was from the same designer that did Hobbs’. It’s sea glass and I just thought it was beautiful.

As much as my cast doesn’t always believe me, I give these characters a back story. Some of the cast don’t believe that I really think about this, but I do. I think about where they would shop and what they would buy for themselves. So I thought that this tourist picked this little piece of jewelry up at the beach on the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles, based on what her character says in the episode. And she would have brought her little bolero with her, so that one was also from a British designer. For her second change into jeans, I thought she probably would have picked those up here in LA. And then her twin-set is Pure, from the Pure Collection out of Harrogate, England. I got them from the website, and it was pure cashmere. I loved that and she felt really apropos in the outfits.

We’ll be back next week with more from the costume department, and a discussion of the fashion from the next new episode of Major Crimes. For more information about Greg LaVoi’s career, check out our in-depth 2013 interview here, and follow him on twitter @GregLavoi.

Special thanks to TNT, Warner Bros and Greg LaVoi for making this segment possible.

MCTV Exclusive: Inside the Fitting Room with Greg LaVoi – “Cashed Out”

By M. Sharpe

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Major Crimes costume designer Greg LaVoi in the “Edith Head Memorial Fitting Room” at Raleigh Studios

As part of our new weekly series “Inside the Fitting Room” we spoke to Major Crimes costume designer Greg LaVoi to get an inside look at the fashion and costumes behind this weeks episode, “Cashed Out.”

MajorCrimesTV: This episode spent a lot of time jumping back and forth in time. Did that affect how you designed the costumes for the episode?

Greg LaVoi: It was so much fun doing this episode, because of how it was structured. I loved going into and out of the real story and then cutting between those with Cynthia’s interviews with the team. There were no titles on the screen that showed the changing of time like there often are in movies, so the only way we could tell what was happening on which day was with our character’s clothing. The day we filmed with Cynthia (actress Sonya Leslie) was such an important day, and it was fun to be able to film it like that in one day. I wanted the costume changes to be important, and also got to play with some of the looks a little bit since the team wasn’t solving any crime that day, they were just giving interviews.

505- cynthiaIt was most important that Cynthia’s clothing stayed the same and was recognizable to help with the time shifts, so I put her in an ALC print blouse from Neiman Marcus, and a great Tahari flannel suit from Saks.

MCTV: I feel like this episode we saw a glimpse of Sykes more put together than we’ve ever seen her before, with the beautiful tailored suit.

GLV: I’ve had that Theory dress and jacket in Sykes’ closet for four years, and never had an opportunity to have her wear it because she’s always in the field solving crimes. And to me Sykes just wouldn’t wear a dress or skirt when she’s crime solving. So with a leap of faith I added it into the interview day, and I loved it. And that scene with Sykes and Cynthia was amazing. I thought both of them knocked it out of the park, and it was so wonderful to watch Sykes be so powerful in a dress and go toe to toe with Cynthia in pants.

505 - cynthia sykesOne thing that’s so interesting about that scene between Sykes and Cynthia was how their suits wound up looking on the HD camera, and what that can do to colors. The Tahari suit with Cynthia, and the Theory suit on Sykes were almost the same color to the naked eye. When I went onto set and saw how that looked together, I became concerned because I thought they were both going to look like they’re in the same shade of grey. But amazingly enough, with lighting and the HD camera we film with, Sykes’ suit had a lot of blue in the grey, and Cynthia’s was warmer. So Sykes’ suit came off as blue-grey, and Cynthia’s stayed that kind of warm grey. So I was very pleased it came out looking like two very different greys.

MCTV: In that same scene we also saw Amy in heels, which I feel like was also a new thing for her?

GLV:  Sykes had on Manalo pumps. Usually we see her in the stack heeled boots with her pants, which are perfectly correct and true to life for a real cop to wear. I loved being able to put her into a high heel for this episode – not super high, but a simple high heeled Manolo shoe.

505 - armani coat

This Armani jacket features a Bakelite clasp (inset) that is so delicate, the costume department has to remove it anytime it comes off set, goes into storage or gets cleaned.

MCTV: This week we saw one of my personal favorite Raydor jackets, which we’ve seen before in the show, I believe?  Continue reading

MCTV Exclusive: Inside the Fitting Room with Greg LaVoi – “Skin Deep”

By M. Sharpe

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Major Crimes costume designer Greg LaVoi in his fitting room at Raleigh Studios, with his assistant, Vida.

Armani. St. John. Michael Kors. The labels behind the costumes on Major Crimes are as iconic as some of the looks themselves have proven to be. The man behind these iconic looks is costume designer Greg LaVoi, who, before designing for Major Crimes and The Closer, also put together ensembles for legends like Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton and worked for Bob Mackie.  LaVoi invited us into the storied halls of the Major Crimes costume department to take a look behind the scenes, and we are thrilled to announce a new weekly series “Inside the Fitting Room With Greg LaVoi” where we will take a closer look at the labels, looks and behind-the-scenes workings that bring Major Crimes to such vibrant visual life in each week’s episode.

MajorCrimesTV: The last time we spoke to you was in season two, when Major Crimes was just finding its footing. Now that we’re firmly in season five, we’ve seen a lot of evolution of many of the characters. Have their looks and your costume choices evolved?

Greg LaVoi: Really, you know, there has been no evolution per se from The Closer to the fifth season of Major Crimes. Only in the sense that these characters have lived in these clothes for twelve years now. Not the same clothes, but they’ve lived in these characters for twelve years. So short of, this season, with Provenza’s new wife, Patrice, kind of buying his clothes now (per the writers) he’s upped the game a little bit with better sports coats, better ties, and better pocket squares. I haven’t repeated any of his old ties this season at all. It’s all been new. So that’s fun and GW’s enjoyed that because it’s now his “wife” picking his clothes instead of him.

But as far as Flynn, and Sanchez and Sykes and all that, they’re everyday. The characters are not making tons of money, and they’re busy solving crimes, so they can’t go out and buy clothes every other day. We do repeat clothes, as I think the fans enjoy, but other than repeating a look in a different way every so often, I design it like a real person’s wardrobe. So maybe Sykes goes out and buys new Theory jackets and pants when the sales are, or maybe Raydor, when she has the day off, does go to Neiman Marcus and picks an Armani. I design it like a real person would shop and buy their own clothes.

MCTV: You talked about repeating some pieces of costume – how do you choose which ones to recycle and what goes into that decision of what becomes part of that rotation for that character?

GLV: Usually, on the rotation factor, it is what an actor likes. I do take them into account when I’m repeating clothes. Sometimes I might use a jacket for Sharon, and we’ve liked how it looks but it turns out to be uncomfortable to wear. Or on Sykes this year she’s gotten new Theory stretch pants, which look exactly like suit pants, but they’re easier to move in.

costume tease

The Major Crimes “gold” room features all the regular wardrobe of the main cast, which is often repeated in rotation throughout the season and over several seasons. Other rooms house an array of costume options for guest actors, and storage for pieces that are on hold from use in prior episodes.

Some things, like the purple jackets on Mary, which have become iconic, I’ve retired both of them now, just because they’re getting worn, and their time is gone. So now I’m looking for new iconic pieces for her, which is a challenge. We have an area in the costume closet called “Show Holds”, so I always look at that to see what episode I’ve put maybe the one purple jacket in, then I may not repeat it again until, you know, four episodes ahead, or whatever. It really is a game of numbers. Looking to see which ties I’ve used, and oftentimes I don’t repeat a tie each season, but I also don’t buy a lot of new ties for the guys because they’ve got huge stacks of ties from twelve years. Continue reading

Photos: Major Crimes Cast and Crew Attend Irene by Greg LaVoi Spring Runway Show

The Major Crimes cast and crew came out to support Greg LaVoi at his Irene by Greg LaVoi Spring 2014 Runway Presentation on October 13th, 2013 at Kyoto Gardens, Los Angeles.

Power Play: Greg LaVoi’s Storied Career in Fashion Design

By M. Sharpe

lavoibwFrom Reba McEntire and Bob Mackie to The Closer‘s Brenda Leigh Johnson and his own clothing line, Greg LaVoi has spent his career telling women’s stories through the clothes they wear. Whether with sequins, spandex, floral prints, or Armani suits, in LaVoi’s hands, clothing isn’t merely a mode of expression; instead, it lets us see how women in power actually look. Now, as Major Crimes enters its second season, LaVoi continues to chart the evolving female leadership of the LAPD, as we watch Captain Sharon Raydor’s life develop both within and outside the squadroom.

Although it might not seem a likely place to develop a passion for costume design, LaVoi was surrounded by fashion while growing up in Colorado; his father owned a clothing store and his mother was a fashionista. This flair for the dramatic first led LaVoi into the theater. But, after being told he wasn’t leading man material, LaVoi gave up on his dreams of acting. As disappointing as that was, it proved to be an auspicious event, because, as LaVoi explains,” I got upset and went to the other side of the stage, and that was costumes, because I had always loved fashion, and I would sketch outfits all the time.” In the mid-seventies, with Sonny and Cher and The Carol Burnett Show at the height of their popularity, LaVoi fell in love with the strong, flamboyant designs of Bob Mackie. Rather than attending fashion school in New York, he headed west, enrolling in Los Angeles’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Continue reading