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Interview: ‘Prom Pact’ Costume Designer Bonnie Hayashida Sutherland

The Disney+ Orignal movie “Prom Pact” is now streaming on Disney+ in many countries including the United States, Canada, and Australia.

In the movie, it’s the height of prom season, and high school senior Mandy Yang and her best friend and fellow outsider Ben are surrounded by over-the-top ’80s-themed Promposals. However, Mandy keeps her eyes focused on a different goal: her lifelong dream of attending Harvard. When she finds out that she has been put on the waitlist, she is determined to do whatever she can do to get herself accepted, even if that means asking for help from the one person she abhors –popular all-star jock Graham Lansing (Blake Draper), whose father is a powerful senator and Harvard alum. Once Mandy becomes Graham’s tutor, she begins to realize there’s more to him than she thought and perhaps something more to life than Harvard.

“Prom Pact” stars Peyton Elizabeth Lee as Mandy, Milo Manheim as Ben, Blake Draper as Graham, Monique Green as LaToya, Arica Himmel as Zenobia, Jason Sakaki as Charles, Margaret Cho as Ms. Chen, Wendi McLendon-Covey as Alyssa and David S. Jung as Tom.

Jake Kasdan (“Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.”), Melvin Mar (“Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.”), Julie Bowen (“Modern Family”) and Rachael Field (“Modern Family”) are executive producers on “Prom Pact”; and Anya Adams (“Ginny & Georgia”) directed the movie, which was written by Anthony Lombardo (“American Housewife”).

Recently, Disney Plus Informer had the chance to interview Bonnie Hayashida Sutherland, who is the costume designer for “Prom Pact.”  Read on for the full interview below:

You are the costume designer for the new Disney+ Original movie “Prom Pact.” I just watched this a couple of nights ago, and I absolutely loved it.  I’m really excited to talk to you about your work on the project.  But first, I was wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself.

Sure.  I’m originally from Toronto.  I went to school for fashion design at Ryerson, in Toronto, and I now live on the West Coast. I’ve been in the film industry probably for over 20 years.  I started in the world of fashion, and I eventually got into costume design, which I love of course. My background is Japanese, Canadian, Scotch, and German.

How did you become involved in Prom Pact?

Originally, I interviewed with a couple of other people, and Anya [director] and I got along really well, and referred me to Disney, and I’m grateful for that. I just really wanted to be a part of it because of the whole eighties theme that it has. So she picked me, and I was very excited.

This movie has a very unique vision and style. Obviously, it takes place in current day but as you said, there are some 1980s themes to it, too.  Did you develop the wardrobe for the whole cast or just certain characters?

I did the whole thing, even the BG [background], every part of it which was a huge project. But in the end, when I got to watch it the other day… the whole thing… we cried, because when you see everything coming altogether, even little bits like the Promproposals in the background, it’s all really gratifying.

I want to talk about Mandy and Ben’s attire that they wore to the Prom because they looked spectacular and a real throwback to iconic eighties films.  How did you visualize that initially? And did you have any inspirations that you used?

I started off looking at what everybody wore to the prom in the 1980s, and everything was over at the top.  Everything was ruffles and big hair, of course. Then I also looked for inspiration from a lot of musical things that were happening in the eighties, everything from Billy Idol, Prince, and Cyndi Lauper, and all those people. I used them as my inspiration, especially Cyndi Lauper for Mandy. My inspiration for her came from [Lauper’s] music videos.  And then I talked with Anya and the producers about it.  Then we kind of honed it down to one look. I actually had 3 pictures drawn and then Anya picked one and she wanted the color to really pop.  So she picked fuchsia and I was obsessed with finding the right fabric because in the eighties everything was done with taffeta but it’s a really specific taffeta.  So I contacted all these silk companies all across North America and found the perfect one.  Had it brought in and I loved it. It’s just perfect how it reacts with the light and the color and the feel and everything.

For Ben, I actually started off with the idea of Don Johnson and the big shoulders and stuff like that.  Then after talking with Anya, we decided to do an homage to Duckie in Pretty in Pink. So, once again, I ordered fabrics from all over the place and ended up getting it from LA. And that typical brocade that looks like it came from the fifties, I actually had an Italian tailor in Vancouver build it for me, because, as you know, the boys are super tall. So things had to be built especially for them, and I was super happy with the way that Ben turned out.  He wore it so well. Everything with the hair and the whole stylized of him, and even things like the bolo tie that he wore. I found it in a vintage store in Vancouver. And the shirt that he wore is a reproduction of the fifties with the ruffles on it, and then I edge stitched it with purple, so it would kind of pop and I think that they both wore it so well.

I was going to ask you what pieces were shopped and picked out and then what was specifically designed for them.

For Ben the jacket, the shirt, the bolo everything like that was…we bought it, and then I added onto it. The jacket was totally made from scratch.  The pants were by a designer.  The cummerbund was vintage.  The vest that he wore was vintage.  The shoes were a reproduction of the ones that Duckie actually wore in the movie.  Then for Mandy, her whole dress was built from scratch.  It was collaborative and we designed it together.  She was there in the fittings, and she helped me with that.  I wanted her to be completely comfortable because it’s basically like a corset dress underneath. She looked fantastic. The cording was actually from Japan and then the necklace I shopped from a shop in Vancouver and has little gummy bears and stuff like an 80 throwback on it. The earrings were actually vintage from an estate sale.  The stockings were vintage.  So it was this whole thing.

How closely did you work with the director to create their vision for the characters but also have the freedom to do your own creative ideas?  What’s that process like?

It was super supportive which was great because that doesn’t always happen. I could always go and talk to Anya and Rachel [producer] who were always collaborating with me. Anya was the one like I said, who picked the color, and then they were all part of the process as well as Peyton, picking out everything.  It was total collaboration. I got to put my own options forward, which is great.  It was a totally amazing process all the way along through the whole movie.

Was there a particular clothing piece or wardrobe piece that was your absolute favorite?

I’m going to say the Prom was my favorite just because I got to do that from beginning to end.  So I had a really good time, and you know the subject matter was great because I love the eighties and like an eighties, kid. So those were my favorite. And then when I actually saw them come out onto the scene… it was like, Oh, my God, We were so happy.

What was the most challenging thing for you?

I guess the fact that it’s a huge movie.  When I saw it a couple of days ago, I was like, Oh, my God, remembering all the bits that actually went into the culmination of the whole film.  So I had to sit down and look at like all the parts of the movie and organize everything because we actually got the marching band built as well and the cheerleader uniforms were built by a company that just does cheerleading uniforms and I’m so super grateful to them because they rushed things through for me because the pep rally was massive. The way it got cut in editing, you didn’t really see all of it. But the marching band was up at the top and even the basketball uniforms were built.  So it was everything. And then the people in the BG who are wearing parts of the high school logos and stuff like that.  It was a lot of organization and a lot of no sleep. But so I’m super happy with the way that everything turned out.

Have you heard any discussions about a sequel?

I have not. I mean, that would be amazing. I’m hoping that a lot of people get to see this one because I personally think that it turned out super great.  Everyone involved was so amazing and supportive.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity)

You can watch a featurette for the movie below:

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