The very stylish and fabulous Najaa Young is the writer and director of the groundbreaking new crime-drama; Blood First. The film tackles issues of family, violence, and crime in Pittsburgh from the late 1980’s until today. Even with a backdrop of street crime and violence, Najaa says that she had a blast working with her costume department in creating looks that span nearly 3 decades of urban fashion.
Recently, Najaa spoke with us about costuming and wardrobe for her film.
The movie spans from the late 1980’s until today. What was the challenge in getting costumes for each of those time periods just right?
The challenge was just finding the clothing. I really had to rely on my experiences growing up in Pittsburgh’s East End and in Cleveland Ohio; I had to think about what was popular for boys at those times. We had to actually go to thrift stores to find clothing that could have been worn in those times. We also had some of the actors bring in individual items that were meaningful to them during those time periods.
The movie is shot in an urban area, so what was urban dress like in the late 1980’s to mid 1990’s? What did you have to really focus on to make things authentic?
The biggest things were the haircuts and hairstyles. Items like men’s jeans can translate from decade to decade and what usually changes is just the fit of the jeans. Right now we have sort of the skinny jean look for younger guys, but the funny thing is, in the 80’s, skinny jeans or fitted jeans for guys were definitely in style. So what I really focused on were the hair cuts. So when it’s in the late 80’s, you have a lot of box hair cuts, fades and young boys with braids. In the mid-to late 90’s, when the main characters were teenagers, I had to think about what was happening in Pittsburgh’s East End at that time. In the mid to late 90’s there was a serious gang problem in Pittsburgh with, the Bloods, Crips and Law; during that time period, every guy between the ages of 12-22 were wearing workmen’s clothing like Carhartt and Dickie.
When working with costumes for this movie, did you find that a lot of the looks from back in the 80’s and 90’s were popular today as well?
Definitely. When Katherine Macklin who plays Rico’s mother (Marshay), came in for the audition, she had this beautiful hair cut that was so reminiscent of that 1980’s asymmetrical style that was popular at that time. So when she came in I knew that she was a woman who wasn’t afraid to take risks with her hair. So when we talked about her hair for the film, we just added a little more volume and made her red hair blonde. But when she left set, it was still a relevant hairstyle. The big door-knocker earrings that were popular in the 80’s, you can find those at just about any beauty supply store in urban American today. But you’re right, everything old is new again.
How much fun did you have making the characters that you created come to life with theses costumes and hair?
It was a lot of fun. I got to re-live some of the best times of my life on this film set. Every hairstyle, every costume opened up a gateway to a story; I can remember my brothers and all the boys I had crushes on having box hair cuts. It also helped me to explain to some of the younger actors, how and why we wore our clothing at that time. It opened up a lot of great discussions on set.
**CitySTYLE is covering the official Pittsburgh Screening of Blood First the movie! Sunday, November 30, 2014, at 5:00pm. More info is below**
Check out the photo gallery to see some behind the scenes of “Blood First” (All Photos Courtesy of Najaa Young/Blood First)
Blood First will be at the Southside Works Cinema 425 Cinema Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (across from Cheesecake Factory on Pittsburgh’s Southside) Sunday, November 30, 2014, at 5:00pm. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office. DVDs and BluRays will be available for purchase.