For stylist Tess Herbert, the ideal backdrop to her personal style is Palace Costume — a vintage rental store nestled on Melrose Ave. where she spends most of her time when she’s in L.A. “It’s a magical labyrinth and it’s so weird and old school L.A.,” she says. “That’s my happy place — in the moth balls.”
Herbert’s chosen outfits embody the chic, draped silhouette she developed while living in London. “The [brands] I gravitated towards depended on whether their clothes made me feel confident or sexy or cool,” she explains. Adorning herself in her close friends’ brands, Nadine Moss and Selasi, along with vintage Japanese designers Issey Miyake, Junya Watanabe and Comme des Garçons, Herbert exhibits a subtle luxury.
From assisting for Vogue to working with Victor Barragán to designing clothes for indie short films, Herbert’s repertoire expands across artistic and editorial spaces — worlds which she has effortlessly straddled.
Herbert, who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, studied textile history at New York University and worked at the Museum of the City of New York, where she worked under renowned costume curator Phyllis Magnuson researching and ensuring donated items were sufficiently steeped in NYC history. Herbert’s fashion history degree and self-described obsession with Renaissance history leaks through in our conversation of her love for numerology, tarot cards and human design — revealing her appreciation for archetypes and how they help her understand herself. In fact, if she’d had it her way, her dissertation would have covered clothing representations on tarot cards.
“Everyone’s expressing who they are through their dress, even if they’re not conscious of it,” Herbert says. “It’s a culmination of who you are as a human.”
Sophia Haydon-Khan: How would you describe your personal style?
Tess Herbert: Right now I’m in my chic era. I’ve grown up a bit. I mainly wear vintage designers from the ‘90s or early millennium — that’s my favorite time in fashion. I never wear dresses; I just wear tops and bottoms or skirts and tops. I like to be comfortable and contemporary and go from day to night. I’m probably a little more on the dressed-up end of things. I’ll never under-dress.
SHK: How would you describe the day to night shift? What does that mean to you?
TH: I often wear an outfit that is probably too dressed up for the day and good for the night so I can transition. You can also really change an outfit with a bag and a shoe — put a casual shoe on and it’s a casual outfit, or you can dress it up with a shoe and a tiny fab bag. It’s a totally different look. When I was living in New York, I used to have to go from day to night every day, so I just got used to dressing like that. But if no one sees me, I’m in Brandy Melville. My L.A. life is very Brandy Melville.
SHK: You said that you used to have more playful looks and you’ve moved into something more chic. Has that mirrored anything that has evolved in your own life?
TH: I moved to London last year and I’ve mainly been there since then. I think, wherever you go, your style changes and I got into some London vibe that made me want to seem more put together and more interested in shapes. I used to have a New York sensibility where I’d have an element of irony to my outfit, which I don’t really have anymore. Now I’m in my 30s and out of my 20s and experiencing a shift that comes with maturity that is reflected in how you dress.
SHK: Tell me about your styling for celebrity artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Olivia Rodrigo and Teyana Taylor. I noticed you tend to lean away from their typical styling and put them in looks they haven’t been styled in — is that intentional?
TH: I try to push as much as I can with artists. I have a vision for all my artists based on their music, their attitude and the aesthetic they’ve already presented to the world. With Phoebe I said, ‘she should be all in black, Junya Watanabe, let’s do her f—ed up, using Japanese designers that make it almost cutesy but evil. With Olivia, when I would style her, it made me think of what I wanted to wear at 13. I would put her in the stuff I was wearing back then and imagine myself as a teen.
SHK: Does that push and dissonance elicit something new from these celebrities?
TH: I think it puts them in that power. People can teach you the way that you want to dress — especially with Phoebe, I exposed her to more high fashion, believing she could still be herself and pull off these ultra glamorous or ultra fashionable looks. I think it really empowered her and gave something more to her editorials and to her press. But I think with celebrities it is hard because you’re never going to fully be able to express yourself as a stylist because they have their own idea. It’s hard to find the best situation where you’re working with artists that speak the exact same language.
SHK: I’m interested in the short film, “Salacia,” by artist and activist Tourmaline, that you designed costumes for and that ended up in MoMA’s collection. Could you tell me a little bit about the design that went into those costumes?
TH: It was a play on 17th-century attire so I was able to be creative with that. The film had so many lives of its own — MoMA acquired it, the Tate acquired it, it was in the Venice Biennale, it blew up. There were a few years where I was doing a lot of art projects with artists who were my friends. That was fun for me to live out my costume design fantasies because I’m really interested in historical dress. I nerded out on references and used all these elements that I didn’t have the opportunity to [use] before. But art styling is such a small field, so it was a time and a place where I was really immersed in that.
SHK: As a speculative piece, what creative liberties did you take with the subject matter and with the costumes?
TH: I took a lot of liberties because I was told by Tourmaline to do whatever I wanted and that it didn’t have to be historically accurate. Because there was an element of ancestral magic in the film and for the main character, I tied other fairytale costume concepts within her 17th century linen and lace look. There were elements that were fantastical and based on the Renaissance period. I tried to give her costume those elements, whether it be magic, like a pouch on her waist.
SHK: Among the clients you style a lot of them are artists and writers. Do you view styling as an artistic or intellectual pursuit?
TH: Artistic and intellectual. Everyone’s expressing who they are through their dress, even if they’re not conscious of it. It’s a culmination of who you are as a human. Even if you’re not into fashion, it still is. Because it’s such a prominent thing on us. It takes up so much space, we’re constantly confronted with it from everyone.
SHK: Tell me about your work with Barragán. What drew you to their avant-garde style?
TH: I think it was during his first collection or his second collection that I approached him and said, ‘I really want to shoot your collection as a campaign.’ It was about underwater creatures, and it was so beautiful — nothing like I’d ever seen. From that point onwards, I started working with the brand and styling the collections for many years. With my fashion background and [Barragán’s] architecture background, we collaborated really nicely.
We did lots of guerilla shooting. It was such a big ‘f— you’ — it’s so gorgeous and beautifully done but there was this anti-establishment energy. Rebelling against white supremacy and how unfair the fashion industry can be and how it doesn’t always value people who are the most talented.
SHK: What makes you most inspired to create?
TH: I still have a deep desire to know as much as I can about fashion. Everything that’s going on with it right now and everything that’s gone on with it in the past. My first thought is always to observe how people are dressed around me and what access to clothes different cities have. It’s a desire that does not burn out.
Sophia Haydon-Khan was a 2023 intern with Image magazine at the Los Angeles Times. She studies government at Smith College, where she writes for Smith’s student newspaper, the Sophian, and serves as arts and culture co-editor. She has also written for Northeastern University’s the Huntington News and Tastemakers Magazine.
In the mood for a sweet, off-beat murder mystery? 'Elsbeth' is on the case
Carrie Preston won an Emmy Award in 2013, as outstanding guest actress, for her portrayal of a seemingly scatter-brained lawyer on the CBS series The Good Wife. Her character, Elsbeth Tascioni, really was a character. Her conversations tended to derail into unexpected directions. Her questions never seemed to follow any logical path, but they always had a purpose – and she was keenly, almost uncomfortably, observant.
Michelle and Robert King, the writing team that created The Good Wife to showcase the talent of Julianna Margulies, quickly recognized Preston’s Elsbeth as a valuable supporting player. She appeared in six of the seven seasons of The Good Wife, and won her Emmy there.
Then she returned as the same character in The Good Fight, which the Kings wrote as a sequel series starring Christine Baranski. And now, there’s a third series, this time bringing Preston front and center. It’s called Elsbeth, and the series pilot was written by co-creators Michelle and Robert King, with him directing the premiere episode.
So what are they up to this time? They’ve transplanted Elsbeth from Chicago to New York City, where she’s been hired to officially observe, and secretly investigate, some of the police there. In her new job, she’s given so much latitude, she even can serve as an ad-hoc murder investigator.
Elsbeth, the series, is structured like Poker Face, or, even more obviously, Columbo. I’ve previewed three episodes, and each begins with viewers seeing the murderer commit the crime … and then, and only then, does Elsbeth enter the crime scene and start putting the puzzle pieces together.
As with Columbo, each episode features a prominent guest star as the killer of the week. For the premiere episode of Elsbeth — no spoiler alerts here, because the murder is shown in the opening moments — Stephen Moyer from True Blood is the special guest star. He plays an acting teacher and director who has found a way to dispose of his much younger former student and lover, by making it look like suicide. When Elsbeth arrives at the victim’s apartment, she ignores the dead body and heads straight for the bathroom – where she pokes around until a detective notices her and objects.
The police aren’t sure what to make of her, of course. Wendell Pierce, that wonderful actor from The Wire, plays Capt. Wagner, who is exasperated one moment, impressed the next — which is how everyone reacted to Elsbeth way back on The Good Wife. Carra Patterson plays Kaya Blanke, an officer who soon becomes a friend as well as a colleague.
But as with Columbo, the most important dynamic is between the investigator and the killer. Elsbeth, like Columbo, is persistent and underestimated. But where Columbo kept his theories close to his vest, or his raincoat, Elsbeth almost delights in revealing her hole cards, to unsettle her prime suspect. Preston and Moyer worked together on HBO’s True Blood, and it’s fun to see them together again here – this time as adversaries.
Other episodes shown to critics feature, as the murderers of the week, Jane Krakowski from 30 Rock and Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family. Both of them bring a playful energy, sparring with Preston’s Elsbeth – and she really sparkles, with and without them, and carries the series with ease.
Also, the show’s New York locations add even more to the flavor, and the enjoyment. All together, they make Elsbeth an undeniable throwback to an earlier TV era. But so is Poker Face, which I love for many of the same reasons: Great leading role; delightful guest stars; decent, clever mysteries that are solved by the end of each episode. And in an era where so much TV is so dark and depressing, Elsbeth stands out as a sweet, happy little treat.
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Storyboarding 'Dune' since he was 13, Denis Villeneuve is 'still pinching' himself
Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Pictures
Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Pictures
After much anticipation and delay, Dune: Part Two is in theaters March 1. It’s been a long time coming for Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, who remembers reading Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel Dune for the first time when he was 13.
“The idea that a boy finds home in another culture, that he feels comfortable in a foreign country — that really moved me at that time,” Villeneuve says.
As a kid, Villeneuve dreamed of making Dune into a movie. He and his best friend would write and draw stories from the book. Then, in 1984, David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune came out, and Villeneuve felt excited — but also slightly unsatisfied.
“There were some choices that were very far from my sensibility,” he says. “I remember watching the movie, saying to myself, someday someone else will do it again.”
Villeneuve went on to become a filmmaker himself, with a string of successful hits, including Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and Sicario. He was drawn to science fiction, which he describes as a “very poetic way” to digest and explore reality.
Throughout his career, Villeneuve kept expecting someone to revisit Dune — he just never imagined he would be the filmmaker tasked with the project.
“I’m still pinching myself,” he says, of making Dune: Part One, which came out to critical and commercial success in 2021, and now Dune: Part Two.
Villeneuve describes Dune: Part One as a meditative film, centering on Paul Atreides, a young man (played by Timothée Chalamet) who finds himself stranded on a strange planet after his father is murdered by a rival family. In Dune: Part Two, the character becomes more active, taking control of his own destiny. “The second movie was meant to be more of an action movie,” Villeneuve explains.
Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Pictures
Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros. Pictures
On why he prefers as little dialogue as possible
If I could’ve made movies without any dialogue, it would have been paradise. Dialogue for me belongs to theater or television. I’m not someone who remembers movies because of their lines. I remember movies because of their images, because of the ideas that unfold through images. That’s the power of cinema. For me, it’s not about dialogue. I hope one day I will be able to make a movie with as little dialogue as possible. That’s why silent movies were so powerful and … still today, the best movies. Normally, a great movie — you should be able to watch it without sound. And that’s the ultimate goal.
On the complications of shooting in the desert with hundreds of crew members
The heat was our enemy. I mean, there was a period of time in the middle of the day where it was the soup mode, you felt that your brain was cooking. I had to bring the crew away from the sun in the middle of the day. … I wanted to shoot the movie as much with natural light as possible. We shot exclusively with natural light in the desert, which meant that, in order to make no compromise aesthetically, it drove my first assistant crazy because it meant that you had to, according to sun positions, deconstruct the whole shooting schedule according to the sun’s position. And that was for my senior cinematographer and for the actors [and I] quite a crazy puzzle.
Warner Bros. Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures
On figuring out how to portray the desert tribespeople known as the Fremen riding sandworms
I was in love with the idea that you could know the presence of the sandworms just by seeing suddenly the landscape shifting in the distance. You didn’t hear [anything], but just suddenly a sand dune appeared. I absolutely love how it’s more frightening not seeing the beast than actually seeing it. Jaws was a very important reference for the sandworm.
This moment where someone rides a sandworm, it’s a very important moment in the book, but it’s kind of suggested. … [But it’s] quite vague how you actually get on the worm. So that was one of the first things I had to do [was] decide how I will make this believable. … First of all, I had to decide to think about the behavior of the beast. For me a sandworm is a powerful creature, but it’s a very shy creature … it’s a creature that doesn’t want to be at the surface … a creature from the underground. It wants to expose itself as little as possible. …
I studied extreme sports, like people who are jumping on skis … or a motorbike racer. And so I designed the way someone could jump on a worm. I did the diagrams, and I explained that to the crew. [It] was like a seminar where I explained to my crew how to ride the sandworm.
On the sandworm riding scenes requiring their own film unit
I didn’t want to make any compromises. I wanted to be as real as possible. And in order to do that, we had to use the most powerful tool that we had in our hands, which is natural light. It meant that this sequence would be shot over the course of many weeks. In order to do so, I had to figure out a way to split myself, because if I had [filmed] that worm ride myself, I would still be shooting right now. So it meant that I would need to be at two places at the same time. I was directing my main unit [and] there was what we called a worm unit. … That was the most difficult thing for me to do. Because cinema is an act of presence. I’m used to working with one camera at a time. I’m very old fashioned in that regard. And [having] to split myself in two was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
On how Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Duel inspired him to become a filmmaker
There was always a name attached to these movies and this name was Steven Spielberg. And then I started to be more interested about what it meant to be a director. At 13 years old or something like, absolutely fascinated by the idea of, the power of, the tool of the camera. I didn’t have any camera in my life, but I was fascinated. There was something so romantic, so powerful about making movies. I became obsessed with the idea of [becoming a] filmmaker
Heidi Saman and Susan Nyakundi produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Beth Novey adapted it for the web.
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