As the 13 episode, fifth instalment of the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning franchise, American Horror Story: Hotel ventures into The Cortez, an infamous Los Angeles hotel run by The Countess played by Lady Gaga. The costuming notes stand as dramatic but not distracting and vintage but still modern, a challenge for Emmy Award-winning costume designer Lou Eyrich (of Scream Queens and Glee fame). In an exclusive interview with GRAZIA, Eyrich talks about Gaga’s specific creative input into everything she wears, the remaking of garments – including that glove – post bloody scenes and all the designers; Gaultier, Westwood, Fendi, Ford, Choo and Prada.

American Horror Story: Hotel is out on Blu-ray and DVD on October 6.

How do you begin designing the iconic looks of a character like The Countess?

“When we first get a script from [director] Ryan Murphy, he basically sets the tone and tells us what he wants. So for Lady Gaga, he said, ‘I want her timeless,’ so she could wear everything from Victorian to modern day, but he was really  wanting a 30s, old Hollywood glamour, like Adrienne, who was a big designer of the 20s, 30s, 40s. But then, make it more modern. We shop vintage, we shop new. If it’s vintage, we add new accessories to make it a little more present day. Like, The Countess just pulls from her closet from a 100 years’ worth. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

“Then we go into sketching and we show Ryan. There are so many neutral tones in this set, we spend a lot of time with The Countess in her bedroom and her penthouse. So we wanted to bring colour to it so she would pop in there, or put her in all white so it’s really dramatic. Once Ryan signs off on these, then we send them to Gaga and she weighs in on it. We design most of the garments so they can be a quick build, just in case, because there’s a lot of blood on the show if haven’t noticed! [Laughs]. So we need multiples!”

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Credit: Twentieth Century Fox 

If you get blood on a costume, do you wash it out and re-take in it?

“Once we use a costume, we don’t re-use it.”

How much creative input does Lady Gaga have?

“She collaborates with us quite a bit. In the beginning, Ryan always gets the final say. But she had done her work when she started on this. And because it was her big acting debut, she really wanted to get it tight. So she pretty much knew who The Countess was, and she and Ryan had a lot of dialogue as well. She watched a lot of old vampire movies, she already knew her lines, so it made it really easy. We both were on the same page and really came together on it.

“I think the most important thing was to make The Countess be timeless, to be able to wear any decade, but also be very refined and clean and not go into the Gaga world. She got to feel like The Countess.

“When Gaga walked onto the set, she was The Countess, not Gaga”

“When you walk into her closet, you find a lot of gowns, bold colours,  neutrals, but also a lot of sparkle but its al high glamour.”

The vintage pieces can’t get blood on them though, can they?

“Correct. There is a real trick to getting blood out of clothes in the event something happens. Usually with Gaga, we have to use CGI blood for whoever she’s killing or she has to jump out of the way. It’s only happened once where a custom-made piece was blood-soaked. We had to hand-wash it and they couldn’t shoot the next scene because it had gotten so bloody. It all ended up coming out and they were able to shoot the next day. 

That’s a lot of responsibility!

“We all gasped. It was a US$3000 dress! Each glove that she wears is about US$2500 and the long ones are US$4000 a piece.”

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Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Are designers pretty willing to loan clothes to the show?

“Yeah. I mean, it’s harder with television. They love to loan for editorials. In TV, we have to hold pieces until the show is locked (meaning it’s gone through post, it’s cut and its ready to go to air) in case they need to insert a shot or it was blurry or there was a hair on the lens, or wherever. So we do have to hold onto some pieces for while a while so that does limit who will loan.”

Did you find that more designers were willing to lend their things this year since it was Lady Gaga wearing them?

“Yes! [Laughs]”

Can you name some of the designers?

“Yohji Yamamoto, Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, DSquared2, Ferretti, Fendi, Tom Ford.”

Any McQueen?

“Yes! There were several McQueens. 

“Gaga has personal archives that she’s been loaning to us, and there was a gorgeous McQueen.”

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Credit: Twentieth Century Fox 

When you were coming up with The Countess’ glove, how much was Ryan involved?

“The glove was Ryan’s idea. Designer Daphne Guinness has an armoured glove that Ryan wanted us to use but we couldn’t afford it, and there’s only one so we basically used it as our inspiration but came up with out own design, out of respect to her and her designers.”

How long did it take to make the gloves?

“Well it would take them weeks but we’ve made them make them in days, because we’ll not have the time. We’ll get a script and be like, ‘Oh god, we’re going to need doubles on the silver glove, because its going to get all bloody!’ Or a stunt double wears one.”

What are the gloves made of?

“It’s about 10,000 Swarovski crystals. Swarovski donated all of these crystals. And then he custom carves all of the filigree and dips it in gold.”

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Credit: Twentieth Century Fox 

Tell me about The Countess’ shoes.

“The shoes are all at least five inches. We use a lot of Manolo, Yves Saint Laurent, Aaliyah, Jimmy Choo and Prada. We don’t have too many Laboutins. No Aldo in the house! [Laughs]”

Will designers loan these as well?

“A lot of them will, definitely. And Gaga’s a sample size so we have a lot of offers.

Let’s talk accessories…

“We use a lot of hats, a tonne of jewellery and a lot of rhinestones. There’s a couple of places in town who specialise in loaning jewellery and we hit up a lot of costume houses. Gaga typically loves to just wear little studs. Because there’s so much going on everywhere else, it tends to pull focus if there’s diamonds moving around.”

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Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Are you working your dream job? And how does this set compare to your time on Scream Queens and Glee?

“All of Ryan’s jobs are dream jobs. He’s always pushing the envelope and pushing me creatively. Glee pushed me, Scream Queens pushed me. He wants to create iconic characters and iconic costumes and it’s like, ‘Hey, no pressure!’. I’ve really enjoyed working with Lady Gaga and this level of glamour.”

What is Gaga like to work with?

“What I love is she really amazes me. She comes prepared, she knows the scene. I’ll say, ‘I was thinking about this cape, because of the colour in the room,” or whatever. And she’ll have a thought about it and will say, “I like the cape, but I want to play it like this and so I’m thinking something not so showy, maybe a little more subdued, so the focus is on me really grieving.’ So she’s thought it through. Or she might say, ‘Yes! That’s perfect.’ It’s completely a collaboration. It’s never, ‘I don’t want to wear this,’ It’s so easy, I love it.” 

American Horror Story: Hotel is out on Blu-ray and DVD on October 6.

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