Courtesy HBO

An Interview with Los Espookys' Costume Designer Muriel Parra

The HBO show has some of the best unfashion-fashion moments on television.

by Laia Garcia-Furtado
Jul 24 2019, 8:46pm

Courtesy HBO

While everyone has been ending their weekends watching the prestige television show where Reese, Renata, Nicole Kidman, Bonnie, Meryl, and Shailene Woodley’s character do lies that are both big and small; some of us have been kicking off our weekend with that other prestige television show Los Espookys, a comedy about a group of four friends: Andrés, Renaldo, Úrsula, and Tati (aka Los Espookys), living in an unnamed Latin American country, who start a “horror business” that helps people with their problems.

What sort of problems can be solved by a horror business, you may ask? Well, imagine that you are the mayor of a sea side town looking to boost local tourism. You may hire the Espookys to create a (friendly) sea monster that can be spotted by fishermen just off shore. Soon, people might be flocking to the town to take photos with the monster, buy monster merch, and eat at the local restaurants. Another job well done.

The show, is unsurprisingly, fucking weird but also somehow plausible. Those who grew up in Latin America or surrounded by its culture, know that the occult is closer than most think. Thanks to shows like Primer Impacto and Al Rojo Vivo, that broadcast the world’s weirdest and wildest news (the Virgin Mary appearing in water stain on a wall! Chupacabras! Gargoyles!) into houses, doctor offices, and beauty salons every single day. ( Los Espookys universe also has their own version of this show, called Mira Esto, complete with a haunted host with a mysterious past.) This is probably one of the reasons why there’s such a big tradition of magic realism in Latin American literature; we believe in miracles, we all know someone who saw UFO once, we’ve all heard “the stories.” Los Espookys is a natural extension of that world.

Los Espookys do "E.T." Courtesy of HBO.

Helping keep this tender tension between fantasy and fiction, is the fashion, which is not aspirational and features no buzzy brands or otherwise designer looks that leave you thinking “how’d she afford Chanel couture for that party?” (Although people should absolutely be inspired by Andrés, the heir to a chocolate fortune, who dresses exclusively in shades of blue that match his sapphire blue hair; or maybe even Renaldo, whose passion for horror is one of the driving forces of the group, and generally wears the standards of all-black goth attire; mesh shirts, buckled boots, a variety of chains and chokers etc.) Instead, the looks that truly make me lose it every episode are the ones rooted in the fantastic; like when they dress up as “little monsters,” their unitards stuffed with enough awkward padding to make Rei Kawakubo proud, and even more when Tati, who generally favors a newsboy cap and Bermuda shorts, recreates JLo’s iconic Grammy look when tasked to dress up formally for a wedding (and absolutely pulls it off). The costumes feel human, and there’s a sense of humor that surrounds them, but they’re never really a joke. I talked to Los Espookys’ costume designer, Muriel Parra, to learn more about her process, and which Espooky she’s most like.

This interview was conducted in Spanish.

Even Andrés' juicebox is on-brand. Courtesy of HBO.

When did you first become interested in fashion and costume design?
I always loved fashion and costume, I had an alternative look back then in the ‘90s, you know, my friends were all musicians, painters, dancers, etc. But it was pure chance that I fell upon costume design. I studied fine arts in college and a friend asked me to work with her in advertising. We worked together for five years and then I went my own way.

What was your look like? Is there any Espooky that is channeling your style from back in the day?
I think Úrsula (played by Cassandra Ciangherotti) is the closest to me back in the ‘90s. I had a slight gothic vibe as well.

A very McQueen inner demon eats popcorn. Courtesy of HBO.

How did you get involved in the project?
I have been working with FABULA (the Chilean production company that works on Los Espookys) for a long time. The audiovisual world in Chile is very small and it has really exploded in the last ten years. I feel very privileged to be able to take part in this current evolution of Chilean cinema.

But the first time I read the script, I was so confused! (Laughs) I didn’t know what was happening in this world where these characters were pursuing this serious work that was not serious at all! It took me a while to get the type of humor, but I think feeling like that after reading a script was the most interesting part. When you get to stand in a space that feels completely unknown, it’s impossible to not let your imagination flow.

The show doesn’t take place in any specific country, but do you feel like that there are details that make it a part of the Chilean cinema landscape?
I see it as fully fictional, but there’s no doubt that there are many diverse worlds with different trends within Chile. The idea was to always imagine it as a neutral place, but I still worked in some bits of Chilean design, like in the accessories Renaldo wears. I always try to put that little Made in Chile stamp with everything I work with.

All the Espookys have a very distinct personal style, but it’s really interesting to me that Tati ends up being the one that most communicates through her clothes. I love how anytime she has to dress up she almost turns into a different character.
Ana and Julio [Ana Fabrega and Julio Torres play the characters of Tati and Andrés respectively, and they are also co-creators and executive producers of the show], they knew their characters so well — I mean they were in charge of the script, and they had a lot of time to think about their situations and they way they would be seen. All I had to do was make that imagination true. For Tati I just wanted to use colors and styles that were taken from real life, and Andrés was just more eccentric. The scenes themselves are already so intense and fun, I felt all I had to do was think about everything ironically and that’s it!

Tati does J.Lo. Courtesy of HBO.

The costumes they wear when they are “working” are also so special, they manage to both look very professional but also have the plausibility of being home-made by them before they got to the job. The little monster costumes are so Comme des Garçons!
We have a really great and creative team, so after we’ve discussed with Julio, Ana and the director, then we just trust our team to get it right.

We are always being influenced by everything around us, it’s very hard to think about something that is truly new. You just have to be happy with the end result because the taping is tomorrow. The day when there is enough time in the world to create, that will be a happy world for me.

Los Espookys
Julio Torres