How Netflix’s A Great Day in Hollywood Got Its Fashion Flavor
How Netflix’s A Great Day in Hollywood Got Its Fashion Flavor

 

Netflix knows how to create an iconic moment. To reaffirm its commitment to 

 

Netflix knows how to create an iconic moment. To reaffirm its commitment to diverse storytelling, the studio released a special promo during tonight’s BET Awards. Gathering 47 of its black leads and creators for one photo, the studio channeled the essence of Art Kane’s classic 1958 portrait A Great Day in Harlem. Kane’s vintage picture featured music legends like Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, and Dizzy Gillespie gathered outside a brownstone on 126th Street for what would become the ultimate record of jazz’s key figures. The 2018 version, conceived by Netflix’s black executives, continues the tradition via an image of the platform’s biggest talents. Dubbed A Great Day in Hollywood, the project, which includes photographs by Kwaku Alston and a film by director Lacey Duke, showcases luminaries such as Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay, Laverne CoxLena Waithe, and Nia Long, each of them having starred in or created content for the streaming giant.

Bringing the concept to life required more than a direct homage. To create a connection between a 60-year-old image and the new visuals of Netflix’s current roster of stars involved careful consideration. Armed with a mood board filled with snapshots of innovators like Solange Knowles and street style culled from The Sartorialist, Duke aimed to make something that felt current. “The original creative was inspired by A Great Day in Harlem, but with this spot I wanted to capture the spirit of black Hollywood,” said Duke. Initially playing with the idea of shooting in different locations, she settled on the use of a brownstone backdrop as a means of connecting past with present for an updated version that made sense within the context of the film. “I thought a back lot in Hollywood that resembled a space in Harlem balanced both of those worlds perfectly,” explained Duke, who underscored the inequality black artists have historically faced via the setting. “I just figured that the best way to highlight this movement of black excellence in TV and film would be to do it in secured Hollywood spaces that have historically excluded black talent and creatives.”

How Netflix’s A Great Day in Hollywood Got Its Fashion Flavor
How Netflix’s A Great Day in Hollywood Got Its Fashion Flavor
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

With nearly 50 actors, directors, and creatives on hand for the shoot, Duke took special care to keep the fashion used throughout cohesive. “It was a big job, but my stylist, Natasha Newman-Thomas, and I created a style guide for each person,” said Duke, who stuck with a unifying warm-toned color palette to connect each look. Given the famously stylish participants, reflecting the character of each star involved was important; some went casual—Lee wore his trademark glasses and patterned denim jacket—while Dear White People star Logan Browning opted for the vibrancy of asymmetrical leather separates. Others went in a retro direction that called to mind the vibe of the original image; Luke Cage’s Mike Colter stood out in a dapper three-piece suit and fedora, and Orange Is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks was in tailored plaid. “Ultimately I wanted everybody to be elevated versions of themselves, but still comfortable and timeless,” said Duke. “Simplicity was a big note. A mixture of high and low. I wanted some people in light, flowing dresses and others in denim suits. Individual style was key, though we tried to complement each person’s personality and style.”

Naturally, a project of such magnitude made for an epic on-set experience. “The vibe was pretty magical, supportive, and loving. Lots of fun,” said Duke. Though she may have missed the ensuing party in the VIP lounge due to her directorial duties, she found the entire day inspiring. With Alfre Woodard leading the group in “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of stars, the experience proved well worth the months of work leading up to it. “I was definitely nervous, but when we got a flawless take in the bag, I was proud. Super-proud of Caleb [McLaughlin, who served as narrator] and everybody involved,” said Duke. “It was just a feel-good black vibe—it felt like history was being made.”

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