She Is Synergy: Jem and the Holograms Costume Designer Soyon An Also Styled Taylor and Selena
Image: Universal Pictures
Who hasn’t fantasized about shaking off her workaday persona for something more glamorous? At the end of a day, maybe even slipping out of those office neutrals and stepping into a frothy dress, something downright pretty, maybe even pink?
Even if Hubba Bubba isn’t your color, the ’80s television cartoon Jem and Holograms offers plenty of style and lifestyle inspiration while tapping into our collective desire to live as our most ostentatious selves. And it may be for this reason (among plenty of other commercial ones, no doubt) that Universal Pictures revisited Jem and her lady band to create a live-action film, which opened this month, based on the series.
“We all have that alter ego. It’s like the girl in the office meets the girl that goes out at night. It’s the same person, but there’s a transformation in wardrobe, hair, makeup and also personality,” explains Soyon An, costume designer and super stylist for the movie. Not only did An nail translating the cartoon heroine’s look for modern audiences, she understands why Jem would appeal to a new crop of girls: “Especially now with social media, you can showcase your alter ego, or your rock star self. You get to hide behind the camera and show the world what you want them to see.”
Jem and Holograms tells the story of record studio executive Jerrica Benton. Jerrica discovers the holographic (and sartorial) powers contained by her recently deceased father’s computer, Synergy. With a coy touch of the hand, Jerrica triggers projectors hidden in her earrings that cloak her ordinary appearance. She becomes the rock singer Jem with the aid of this Information Age Fairy Godmother. Jerrica is the behind-the-scenes gal, the one with the career, the family, the car payment. Jem is the star, the sexpot (even managing to attract the attention of Jerrica’s beau, Rio), the Lady Gaga to Jerrica’s Stefani Germanotta.
Growing up, Soyon An was more of a Transformers and G.I. Joe fan than a Jeminist. But those shows sandwiched Jem and the Holograms on Sunday mornings, so An watched it a fair amount. When it came to deciding how a modern-era Jem would dress, director Jon M. Chu gave her the freedom to depart from the more cartoonish aspects of the character. But An kept Jem’s palette and sensibility. “The pink outfit somewhere was essential, as were the rock star elements like leather, studs, fringe, some bright fun moments, glitter, sparkle, the pink hair,” she says. “I felt I could alter her looks because when you watch the whole series, she is a fashionista wearing the coolest ’80’s trends and when she transforms to Jem, she is in her fabulous stage clothes that disguise her.”
An had plenty of real-life experience when it came to dressing this fictional pop star. She is currently working with Selena Gomez, the Dixie Chicks and Nick Jonas, and past clients include Taylor Swift and Shania Twain.
But who is her favorite girl band? “Jem and the Holograms, and the Dixie Chicks,” she says. “There needs to be more girl bands.”
Get the Jem looks below:
Complete the look: Here’s our beauty stylist’s ethereal ’80s rock star makeup how-to.