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Guava Island: An Inside Look at the Costumes for Donald Glover’s Secret Film

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Guava Island: An Inside Look at the Costumes for Donald Glover’s Secret Film

“I set the tone of no fear with styling,” says GQ fashion director Mobolaji Dawodu. That was the attitude he brought to styling the super-secret Donald Glover project Guava Island, the long-rumored hour-long film that was finally released this past weekend after Glover’s set at Coachella. “We were playing,” he says of making the wardrobe in tandem with costume designers Edwin Mohney and Kate Tabor. “We were like, what can we do that looks makeshift and interesting?”

Styling two of the world’s most far-out icons, with the help of Mohney and Tabor, was a challenge from the start: they were filming in Cuba, and three bags of Dawodu’s costumes were taken by customs and not returned. But it all worked out: “One of the ways about making it realistic was about using the resources that were there,” he says. “We just had to act like that shit wasn’t coming back. And it didn’t, so we just had to adapt. I think it was good that I’ve been on location all over the world doing that so I don’t really trip out.”

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And he wasn’t intimidated by the idea of telling Rihanna and Glover what to wear, either. “I don’t get nervous because I believe in the power of collaboration,” he says. “I just feel like, with what you’re given, how do we make it fly?”

And flying isn’t that hard when Rihanna’s involved. “Rihanna is one of the most famous women in the world actually,” he says. “But she’s such a queen. She’s special. And I never talk about people like that. But she’s special. And she’s an island girl, so in some ways, it was easy for her to channel that vibe.” For much of the film—about a musician (Glover) who is trying to stage a festival with his girlfriend (Rihanna) but is thwarted by the evils of crime and capitalism—she’s in a halter top and a skirt whose African-style printed fabric he bought in the United States. The directive for the wardrobe was that kind of global blend of black style: “Stylistically, it was all black,” he says. “That was a big deal. Everybody’s black. Black style—channel it from everywhere. It didn’t have to be regional-specific, it didn’t matter. It’s just that it was all black.”

At the end of the film, she wears a blue studded veil over a head tie, “an African gele, specifically an African-style gele. Rihanna owned it. She queened in that shit, big time.”

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Glover was similarly down to wear whatever flowed from Mohney, Tabor, and Dawodu’s imaginations. The shirt and shorts Glover wears for much of the film, Dawodu says, were also a custom job. “I picked the fabric and had it made based on a shirt I wear, actually. And the shorts, picked the fabric—same deal. It was just about picking the color palette. They only have two outfits so you had to wanna look at them for the whole time.”

For the film’s festival scene, Dawodu also went local, pulling from an “amazing” Cuban costume house that had ball gowns dating back to the ’40s, and finding treasures elsewhere, too: “We found some ladies on the streets and they were selling masks, and we commissioned different women to make masks.”

He liked the idea of dressing two people with tremendous personal style—it was a radical opportunity to get them to do something new and weird. “I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, but I want to push people to be a more stylish version of themselves—whatever that means,” he says. “It’s nice to push people to do things. It’s nice to push people who trust their instincts to do something different. If you can push people to do something different, that’s kind of special. Because styling is really about no fear, and being comfortable with what you’re wearing and what you have on.”

When asked whether he finds dressing, say, Lucas Hedges in a Louis Vuitton for the cover of GQ, or dressing Queen Rihanna with help from local Cubans more challenging, Dawodu says, “I’m all in it for the thrill. Get me some Louis Vuitton, I’ll make that look fly. Let’s go buy some rayon over here, I’ll make that look fly too.”

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