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So What Do You Do, Eric Daman, Costume Designer for Gossip Girl?

Behind the scenes with the CW show's chic costume designer

- September 15, 2010
Gossip Girl, the popular teen soap, has opened up the fashion world of Upper East Side Manhattan to young women across the country, much like Sex and the City did for a slightly older generation of women. So it's not surprising, then, that the man responsible for Gossip Girl's fashionable clothing choices, costume designer Eric Daman, honed his skills styling for Carrie and company as Patricia Field's assistant.

Daman, who has no formal fashion training, sort of fell into the biz. After studying at the Sorbonne and working in a Paris boutique, he held stints as a model and editorial stylist in New York before landing his first costume design project on an independent film. Later, an acquaintance from his Paris days offered him the ultimate gig. "I ran into Patricia Field. She was just getting ready to start up the second season of Sex and the City, and they were looking for a new assistant to come on who had an editorial background but also understood costume design. I ended up doing seasons two, three, and four and winning an Emmy."

Now, with the book You Know You Want It in stores and a line of party dresses for Charlotte Russe debuting next month, Daman is happy to be known as a trendsetter in teen fashion -- even if the honor comes with a little responsibility.

"I don't want all the girls who watch [Gossip Girl] in the Midwest to feel bad because they're watching something that they don't think they can ever be a part of," he said. "What we want to do is to show people that you don't have to be a millionaire to look like a million bucks."


Name: Eric Daman
Position: Costume designer, Gossip Girl
Hometown: Monroe, Michigan
Education: Sorbonne, where he studied French literature
Resume: After school, worked in Paris boutique Magic Circle, where he also did PR and marketing. Moved to New York to model in the early '90s, then launched stylist career by working in editorial for small publications like ID, The Face and Visionaire. Started as a costume designer on 1998's The Adventures of Sebastian Cole, then worked on Sex and the City, The Door in the Floor and Gossip Girl.
Marital status: Not married
Favorite TV show: Gossip Girl
Guilty pleasure: "Enjoying watching the show I actually work on. It is true. I'm a big fan and it's funny because I love teen girl movies, and I was read the books, and it's a pleasure to watch it and enjoy it as much as it is to work on it."
Last book read: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

As a costume designer for a TV show, what do you do day to day?
I was on set this morning. Whenever there's a scene, I know when all the extras will be there. My assistant usually oversees all the extras, but sometimes I'll go for an extra big party scene and help dress the extras in the morning. Now I'm on my way to an appointment at Louis Vuitton to pull clothes for [characters] Serena and Blair. So it's a mix of shopping and reading scripts and production meetings and dressing people and running around the city to pull clothes. And in between that, last year I wrote a book, and in between that I have side projects, as well. Right now I'm working on a line of party dresses coming out for Charlotte Russe, and right now we're shooting the campaign for that. So I leave set and shoot that and then come back and go to a production meeting. I definitely stay busy during the day.

"When I first met Blake Lively, she wasn't having lunch with Karl Lagerfeld... I'm like a fashion professor, and I've taught them all about these labels and how to wear clothes."

When you pick clothes for the show, how is your approach different from editorial? Do you have to think about lighting, camera angles, and things like that?
You have to think about everything. The first thing you think about is what looks best on the girls themselves. And then... each script dictates what has to be going on, either a school day, or a date, or a ball. There's a lot of different things that you really have to take into consideration. And then also, for me it's really important to take into consideration the emotion that's going to be going on in the scene, as well. You don't want the outfit to overpower the emotion that the actress needs to show. You want to embody and support that. You have to think what [the costume] needs to inspire the actress to do in the scene. And it also has to look amazing and fashionable.

I've always wondered -- does the school have a dress code?
They are always in a version of the uniform. Definitely the Gossip Girl version of the uniform. We definitely took liberties with it. But Blair was always in her navy skirt -- they were always in navy skirts and white blouses and some sort of tie. Sometimes the skirts were shorter, sometimes the skirts were short, but we definitely took liberties with it. We basically took the idea of what a Catholic school uniform was and then slowly transcended that into the Gossip Girl universe.

Do you think that some of the actors who you're working with on Gossip Girl have taken on the fashion personalities of their characters?
They've gotten some really good fashion lessons from what they've learned on the show. When I first met Blake Lively, she wasn't having lunch with Karl Lagerfeld... I'm like a fashion professor, and I've taught them all about these labels and how to wear clothes and they really appreciate it. To see them go out on their own and become these fashion icons is really great. I'm proud of them. To see Leighton [Meester] in Lanvin going down the red carpet and Blake on the cover of Vogue is really thrilling... Blake is a little more symbiotic with who Serena is, where Leighton is very different from the way Blair is on TV.

Fashion on reality TV, and on shows like yours, has become a huge industry on TV. What do you think the media has gotten right about the fashion world?
I think fashion is so much more available and people are really getting into it, especially the younger demographic that is watching all these shows and is part of the marketing and branding of it and is so savvy about seeing things on the Internet... And I think a lot of these young girls really capitalize on the idea, texting and that whole thing… but also in terms of the branding and the marketing. If you go online, you can see what Blair was wearing that night and where to buy it. On Project Runway, they all have these social networking devices that really lend themselves to the fashion marketing. There's really brilliant marketing and branding behind all these shows. I think it just hits the mark. I think it really just launched a fuse on fashion intelligence, and people really have a hungry desire.

What traits to you think a costume designer needs to have in order to be successful?
A good nature and an open mind. Because a lot of designers out there get really stuck on the fact that 'This is my vision, this is what I want the clothes to be,' and I think it's really important to have a relationship with the actresses and with the clothing so it's not just stuck on this one thing.

What are your Fashion Week plans?
I don't know. I'm definitely working on Gossip Girl. I've been invited to a few shows, but usually I can't make it to the shows because they're during my work day. We just review them on Style.com. But there are a couple of shows that I'm going to go see. And I've been invited to participate in a couple of Fashion Night Out events. Last year I did an event at Henri Bendel based around my book and teaching girls how to accessorize. That was a lot of fun.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into costume design?
I feel like life is a bunch of paths that cross and you have to take chances. You have to put yourself out there and take risks, and you just have to believe in yourself and have determination. It's not necessarily about school... A lot of it is being in the right place at the right time and knowing when to take that jump. If I had never met Steven Meisel, I never would have moved to New York. And moving after seven years of life in Paris was a big choice, but it was right. I think a lot of people tend to get scared and not take chances. I think life is all about chances, and if it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out.

NEXT >> AvantGuildSo You Wanna Work in Fashion PR?


Who's Amanda Ernst? That's a secret I'll never tell. XOXO, Gossip Girl.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The foregoing is the sole property of WebMediaBrands Inc. The opinions and views expressed in the interviews and/or commentaries are solely those of the participants and are not necessarily the views of WebMediaBrands Inc., its affiliates or subsidiary companies.

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