Tony Soprano’s bathrobe. Raylan Givens’ hat. Offred’s red cloak. Veteran costume designer Ane Crabtree has created the iconic looks for numerous shows that have helped define the modern golden age of television, including The Sopranos, Justified, and Masters of Sex. But it’s her work on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and season one of HBO’s Westworld—both came back for their second seasons in April—that has elevated her to dystopian couturier.
Fast Company: What drew you to working on The Handmaid’s Tale and Westworld?
Ane Crabtree: They’re very punk, both of them, and that’s where my roots are, but they’re also classicist in their story structure. I spent my formative years in England [during punk’s heyday] and trained in fashion design, but prior to, I learned painting, fine arts, art history, and Shakespeare.
FC: You received an Emmy nomination for The Handmaid’s Tale. How did you come up with the design for the red cloaks?
AC: I drew six women, six cloaked bodies standing next to each other in different versions of the headgear because I knew, ultimately, that what really works for the show visually is a big blockade of red, a big mass of people marching. When I am confident, my drawings are like, boom, boom, boom, five lines and you get it. This was not that. This was done in tiny pencil, like the skinniest lines. It’s so awful. Too many lines.
FC: How do you find the space for creative inspiration when you are working on two demanding shows at once?
AC: By choice, I work 20-hour days, six days a week. But I give everybody Saturdays free [for] research and thinking. There’s no time to think on a TV show. On Westworld, I used to play the cello in the empty desert, because it was the most beautiful sound.
FC: What did you play?
AC: I was trying to come up with the look for season 2 of Handmaid’s, and I always just went back to the same thing: Max Richter and Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth.”
Ane Crabtree is No. 82 on the 2018 Most Creative People in Business list. Check out all 100 people here.