, loves his job, he understands it’s not easy.
When you’re creating a character from scratch, there’s a lot to consider. First, LAPD Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson had just moved to Los Angeles from Atlanta and was a Southern girl through and through, so LaVoi needed to make her look slightly out of place. Next there were budgetary concerns both real and imagined. A deputy police chief probably can’t afford Gucci and Prada, even though star Kyra Sedgwick looks dynamite in both. And finally, there’s the fact that Sedgwick might have some of her own thoughts on how her character might dress.
“Kyra wanted a trench coat,” LaVoi says. “But we definitely did not want a traditional Columbo trench. … I happened to be walking through Neiman Marcus and saw this tan Ralph Lauren 3/4-length shawl-collar cable-knit cashmere sweater, and I thought, ‘That’s it!’ ” The theme has expanded to include a closet filled with trendy trenches from labels such as Michael Kors, Burberry and vintage Hermes, but LaVoi has designed a significant number himself.
“I’ve designed several in apple green and fuchsia,” he says. “Whenever the mood calls for it.”
From the beginning producers were adamant about not having this series look like every other cop show and allowed LaVoi to dress Brenda as he saw fit.
“She’s a tough cop but is still a fish out of water, feminine Atlanta girl,” LaVoi says. So he choose floral prints from reasonable retailers. (Southern girls love floral prints.)
“All of her skirts are from J.C. Penney, Macy’s Alfani line, Anne Klein …,” LaVoi says. “Vera Wang has a flirty skirt that is totally Brenda Leigh, as does Michael Kors. They do these wonderful prints that are kinda odd.”
In season one, LaVoi dressed Brenda with a nod to the 1940s. By season three, he’d updated her to the ’50s and ’60s.
“This season is more ’70s,” he says. “I’m really doing matching twin sets with pencil skirts or longer skirts — it is a fabulous look on her and gives her a whole different look.”
In fact, cashmere twin sets are a staple of Brenda’s wardrobe, and virtually all of it comes from Pure Collection of London. LaVoi mixes that up with very fitted vintage jackets from the ’40s that he finds in consignment and vintage stores around L.A.
“She’s been in L.A. a while now, so we need to make her look a little more L.A.,” he adds. “I’m still keeping the colors — the reds and pastels — but I’ll add a beautiful elongated wide-legged pant or a flirty soft print skirt and pair them with a very fitted top.”