Meet Rafaella Rabinovich, The Costume Designer Behind Netflix's 'To All The Boys I've Loved Before'
We chatted with the costume designer about how she brought the characters of Netflix's new high school rom-com hit to life with their wardrobes.
I'm a sucker for rom-coms. Not the truly cheesy, practically unwatchable ones, but those deliciously feel-good films that have withstood the test of time and pop culture. So, there you have it — my shameless addiction. And with Netflix's recent foray into original rom-com material (see Set It Up, which received an unexpected 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), the good news for me? There are plenty more of them to look forward to on the streaming service, including the upcoming To All The Boys I've Loved Before.
Lucky for those with a similar penchant for the genre, To All The Boys seems poised to become another classic teen romance. And with a young Asian-American actress playing its female lead, along with a diverse cast, it's making impressive moves in the direction of inclusivity. Based on the titular best-selling YA novel by Jenny Han, its story revolves around a young Lara Jean (played by Lana Condor), and follows the cataclysmic events of her formerly nonexistent love life after "secret" letters she's penned to every innocent teenage crush are mysteriously mailed out. Guess all's fair in love and high school!
That's where Rafaella Rabinovich, the award-winning costume designer behind To All The Boys, comes in. Rafaella has worked on projects all over the globe, from Israel to Canada and throughout Europe. I was excited to get the chance to pick her brain via email about her experiences bringing the characters, along with their nuanced stories, to life with their wardrobes.
To get us started, can you walk me through what your day-to-day schedule was like while working on To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before? What was your favorite part of working on the show, and on a Netflix set?
In the costume department, every day is driven by the show's schedule, so pending what’s going on camera that day and that week, I’ll be starting my day the evening before, securing that my department has all the tools needed to have a smooth day. I would often start my day shopping for materials, then head to the office for a fitting, answering and sending emails, sketching, sourcing, putting together looks, reviewing images from prior days and days to come as well as go visit set and have conversations pertaining to costumes on set and the wardrobe trailer.
My favorite parts were being a part of bringing Jenny Han's book to life as well the opportunity to collaborate with some really great people — the actors as a whole were a dream cast, Susan Johnson is a phenomenal individual as well as Overbrook Entertainment, Awesomeness Film, and the crew they've put together.
I know you’ve done some work in the past for shows like Supergirl, Once Upon a Time, The Flash, and more. What’s it like working on costume design for superhero shows? And do you have a particular favorite kind of costume design to work on?
I have been extremely privileged to have worked in the costume department of some highly creative shows. Before I branched out to solely designing, I was mostly under the wings of the amazing Eduardo Castro at Once Upon a Time. It was an opportunity to see an extremely oiled machine creating fabulous costumes and bringing an entire world to camera. For me, it’s about the story and character more than the genre — a contemporary design can be just as fun, challenging, and beautiful to bring to life as a period or fantasy.
How do you go about illuminating the characters’ personalities via their wardrobe and styling?
I will often get immersed in the details! There’s a way to tell a story without overwhelming the viewers and making things “too obvious”. For myself, one of the means I use is having a clear color palette, as well as choosing textures and motifs that can make a statement regarding the character's personality and life. I spend a lot of time letting the character and script “tell me” what they look like, [then] I try and make sure that the costume is a part of the storytelling tool belt.
What has been the proudest moment for you so far in your career?
Earlier this year, I received a Daytime Emmy Nomination for my work on Project MC2. I also received a Leo Award for my work on Final Vision and most recently is the release of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
What would you like to see or work on more of?
I would love to see more complex and untold stories and characters brought to life, whether it's with comedy, action or drama.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to pass along to women looking to pursue work in creative fields, particularly in the realms of fashion, costume and wardrobe design, and entertainment?
Be persistent, don't be afraid of putting yourself out there, and ALWAYS practice kindness.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Go watch To All The Boys I Loved Before and let me know what you think about it!
At Livingly, we strive to “live life beautifully.” What does living beautifully mean to you?
Living with integrity and having no regrets.
To All The Boys I've Loved Before is slated to stream on Netflix starting August 17, 2018.