‘Insecure’ Costume Designer Talks Black Cultural Fashion

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Apr 27, 2020

To see Issa Rae’s “Insecure” character on Season 4 rocking an orange “Block Party” sweatshirt that represents Inglewood’s Market Street, or perhaps a yellow, 70s-styled striped dress, is to witness Shiona Turini at work. The award-winning costume designer, who also created looks for Universal Pictures “Queen & Slim,” spoke with Teen Vogue about Black fashion, Black culture and repping Black designers in a recent article.

“Tiffany’s baby wears a ‘Future AKA’ hat which anyone who went to a Black college will immediately spot,” Turini said. “For those who do not get the reference, it ushers in the opportunity for the audience to explore so much more beyond the show.”

Check out highlights from the Teen Vogue interview below:

On Issa’s “Say It Loud” tops:

"Issa’s graphic tees are an indispensable part of her character. That element of her personality was established prior to my tenure as costume designer, so I can’t fully take credit, but what I love about her tees is that without any verbal cues, we can align Issa with social, cultural and political movements of the past and present. She knows and is willing to be a mouthpiece for Black history. Plus, we can infer a lot about her life from them—that she’s pulling up at meaningful marches, concerts, and town hall meetings to support what’s important to her, and grabbing that free merch becomes part of her ritual. The selection process for these are always super special, and I prefer to source vintage tees with a context. They serve as an ode to the community."

And why viewers love them:

"Issa’s tees resonate with our viewers because they place her in a socio-political context, and the sentiments displayed often align her with the viewership ideals. They serve as another layer of authenticity for her character. Utilizing timely slang and kiki-ing about the correct topics are indicators of how in-touch she is with the culture, but to see that she is aware of historical touch-points and, sometimes, niche cultural topics makes her believable. The first look we see on Issa in Episode 1 is a ‘Slauson’ t-shirt from The Marathon Clothing store. We wanted to pay tribute to Nipsey Hussle, an icon globally but especially in LA, who did so much for the culture and was a leader in our community. I think small touches like this remind our viewers that we are truly creating content that is for us, by us."

The importance of supporting Black designers:

"Not only is it important to me to buy from and support the network of Black and, often, independent designers in the industry, but it’s also equally important to our characters. They’re ‘just like us’—diligent, mindful shoppers who are knowledgeable about the importance of supporting black-owned businesses. The show is a reflection of how young, Black people move through the world—including thinking critically about ethical consumption."

To read the complete interview, visit Teen Vogue here.