The woman behind the wardrobe: Emily in Paris designer Marylin Fitoussi

Emily in Paris designer Marylin Fitoussi tells Joanne Hegarty about the real-life dramas that have made the costumes such a hit

When it comes to the headline-grabbing fashion on Emily In Paris, there’s a French revolution going on behind the scenes – and it uncannily echoes the transatlantic tensions played out on screen. The show’s ‘costume consultant’ is legendary American costume designer Patricia Field, 80, best known for her Emmy-award- winning work on Sex And The City. Its ‘costume designer’ is Marylin Fitoussi, who is French. So how does that work and who’s really behind the show’s eye-catching wardrobe? We met Marylin to find out– and got some pretty forthright answers…

Emily in Paris designer Marylin Fitousse
Marylin sourcing costumes for the show

An interview with Emily in Paris designer Marylin Fitoussi

Do you work closely with Patricia Field?

That is the big mystery that we are going to resolve today. Patricia Field is a consultant. I am the costume designer on Emily in Paris. She’s consulting meaning that she approves or disapproves of the look. And when she doesn’t approve my look, we fight. It’s complicated let’s put it that way. She validates looks and sometimes I forget to ask her opinion! Of course I do hugely respect her. But because she is famous worldwide many journalists make assumptions and don’t take time to read the credits.

I was nominated for the Costume Designers Guild Awards and she was nominated as co-designer [at the ceremony this month Marylin and Patricia jointly won the Excellence in Contemporary Television Award]. I did write to them to ask how as a consultant she can be nominated as a co-designer. It is the mystery of fame and the US.

Why do the French complain about the show? 

Because the fashion in the show is more than the French uniform of navy blue and black. And beige– if it’s a crazy day! I have always been a huge fan of print and colour. I think the show will free some people’s minds and give them the inspiration to mix what you want and wear what you want. I have been called a parrot and a clown in Paris because I wear bright colours and love print. I feel confident and beautiful so who gives a damn?

In season one, it was originally planned that Emily was going to change after a shopping trip with Sylvie and become the perfect French girl, but Lily Collins and I fought with Darren Star [the show’s executive producer, who created Sex And The City] for her to have her own unique style. She is a strong character with a big personality and she needed her own look. Lily pointed out that transformation had been done before [with Anne Hathaway’s character] in The Devil Wears Prada and she didn’t want to do it again.

Coco Chanel said that for a woman to be remembered she needs to be unique. Do whatever you want and break the rules, or make your own rules. That’s why the show is so popular. I don’t know why French people are so offended about that.

Emily in Paris designer Marylin Fitousse
Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu and Lily Collins in Emily in Paris.

Philippine’s style as Sylvie is distinctively more French – do you and Philippine create her look together?

It’s a discussion, a process between both Philippine and I. In season one it was slightly different because Darren Star and Patricia Field have this American idea of the French elegance – a bodycon dress and high heels. And I think Darren had a little girl in his mind: nice handbag, nice hair and make-up.

In the beginning I didn’t have the skills to say, ‘No, this is not the French way.’ So for season two we decided to go with a few more extreme looks for Sylvie – like her red trouser suit. That was a French revolution.

Philippine is very comfortable with her body and she is very clever. We had a discussion, for example, about whether to cover her arms, and she said, ‘OK, I don’t have the skin of a 20-year-old, but so what? I am ageing – but I don’t want to hide. ’I received so many messages saying, ‘Wow, we are happy finally to see an older woman confident like this.’ That is a wonderful message to hear.

READ MORE: Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu interview