Lights, camera, shop! Boston boutiques wrapped up in movie boom

Jill Radsken
Boston Herald
July 23, 2008

Lisse Grullemans had her eye on a blue and gold striped dress by Derek Lam, but could only lust in vain. It hung outside her Boston office at Barneys New York for weeks until the costume designer from “The Proposal” came calling.

“They got it for Sandra Bullock,” Grullemans recalled. “She loved it.”

While no one’s filming “The Dress That Got Away,” Hollywood is making more movies around the Hub these days. And the mantra for local store owners is: Come. Film. Shop.

“It’s been wonderful for the city and it’s great for us,” said Grullemans, who, as assistant to the vice president at Barneys, has coordinated pulls for about eight costume designers for everything from Ricky Gervais’ “This Side of the Truth” to the Kate Hudson/Anne Hathaway comedy “Bride Wars.”

Nick Paleologos, director of the Massachusetts Film Office, said eight films already have shot here this year – the total for 2007 – and expects the retail payoff to continue.

“When you think about the low-hanging fruit we’re trying to grab, that’s it,” he said.

At the edgy Newbury Street boutique Stel’s, owner Tina Burgos was playing around with pieces she thought costumer Lindy Hemming might like for “The Edge of Darkness,” the independent film set to star Mel Gibson. Producers have been scouting Boston properties, but Burgos, who helped two costumers during the last year, said most movie business is “luck of the draw.”

“I’m finding it’s a very small industry,” she said. “Part of it is relationships. Hopefully, they’ll recommend us and come back.”

Ursula Stahl, owner of the eco-chic Envi on Newbury St., said her boutique’s entry into Hollywood has been a walk-on role. Still, Jayma Mays, an actress who shot the Kevin James comedy “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” this winter, shopped in the store in March, as did the costumers from “Bride Wars.”

“From what we could gather, it was for Anne Hathaway’s character,” Stahl recalled. “They bought a vegan line of shoes called Beyond Skin and a couple of clothing items.”

Even vintage shops are getting in on the act. Bobby Garnett, owner of Bobby from Boston in the South End, said the bump in local movie-making is prompting him to finally launch a Web site and to advertise in trade publications. Garnett has more than 30 years experience, but his best connections are mostly on the West Coast.

He helped costume designers Sandy Powell and Lisa Padovani on outfits for the cast of Martin Scorcese’s “Ashecliffe.”

“It was mostly stuff like mid- to late-40s. Mostly uniforms. Doctors, patients, orderlies, all that kind of institutional stuff,” Garnett said.

Padovani, who just received her first Emmy nomination for the pilot of “Mad Men,” said she picked out a peacoat and boots and vintage nor’easter hats from Garnett to outfit the principal characters.

“He had a very large-sized raincoat that fit my actor, that worked out really well. Sometimes you can’t get it from rental places because it’s been used so much it falls apart,” she said.

Costumers such as Padovani are a self-sufficient bunch, and retailers said they only offered logistical (alterations, dry cleaning), not stylistic assistance.

“They’re usually on a mission,” said Stel’s Burgos. “They know what they’re looking for.”

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