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Style Tips from the Stage


What can a play written over 400 years ago teach us about style? A lot, we learned, when we saw the Broadway production of Romeo & Juliet and talked with Costume Designer, Fabio Toblini, who gave the old play a jolt with a modern wardrobe.

When cast member Justin Guarini stopped by Black Lapel to get a suit for the premiere we snatched up some tickets and headed to the theater. What we saw was nothing short of brilliant as the actors breathed life into the tragic love story with a modern style that hasn’t been seen since the original West Side Story (minus the finger-snapping greaser gangs). What caught our eye the most, aside from the angelic Condola Rashad playing Juliet, was all the dope gear that Orlando Bloom, as Romeo, and his crew, the Montagues, wore.

Romeo and Juliet Gallery

Clockwise from top:The Capulets and the Montagues throw down, Christian Camargo as a Mick Jagger inspired Mercutio, and Orlando Bloom as a biker-inspired Romeo.

When we caught up with Fabio Toblini, we got to pick his brain on the style choices for this traditional Shakespearean play with not-so-traditional clothing. You can learn a lot from his process for dressing on and off the stage.

Orlando Bloom

Toblini worked with Bloom to find items from Bloom’s personal wardrobe and necklaces from Bloom’s personal collection until they found the perfect mix for the stage and the character.

What were your influences for the wardrobe?
We started looking at the origin of hip hop from the 80s, the Rolling Stones from the 70’s, and military uniforms, and blended the elements together. Yes, it’s contemporary, but I really wanted to go for timeless. It can be anywhere in the last 20 years, and anywhere in the Western world. The design process was very spontaneous, very instinctual.

Were you apprehensive about choosing to update Shakespeare?
You’re never sure that what you’re doing is going to be right; you have a million choices at your disposal. You just have to trust your choices.

Do you see echoes of what you’re doing in what the well-dressed guy on the street is doing?

Sometimes I feel great and look into the mirror and realize that it doesn’t fit with what I’m doing. I have to be realistic–what feels right on the skin, and what actually is going to be the right look for how I want to come across. It’s really important to pick a few things that are awesome and out there, that can be adjusted with what you normally wear.

Black Lapel style point: Do have some out there pieces. Don’t pile on though. Tame one or two strong pieces with a toned down backdrop.

How much of the wardrobe is about the actors and their styles?

I really worked with the actor in mind. I dressed that particular actor to become that character. Christian Camargo [who played Mercutio] just slipped into his outfit; the first time I gave it to him he was ecstatic, we didn’t make any changes. As they act on stage, wearing the outfit, the characters really come to life. With Orlando, he is a completely different type of actor. He was wearing something similar to what he wears in real life. He just kept wearing different clothes until it fit.

Black Lapel style point: Do pick a personal style that to build your wardrobe around. Dark and brooding? Rock a black suit on the regular. Don’t be rigid. Throw in a gray suit once in a while to shake things up a bit.

So when you get dressed, are you more like Christian or Orlando? Do you try things until you get it right?
I never tried to fit anywhere; what I try to focus on, is what feels right and comfortable to me. Rule number one: decide who you are, get your shit together and then you know. You have to feel what’s right for you. In a man, the sexiest thing is confidence. If it looks like what you’re wearing is to cover up or look tentative, it doesn’t matter how expensive it is, it just doesn’t look right.

Black Lapel style point: Do have confidence. Don’t just wear something because it looks good on that other guy.

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