AMY WESTCOTT had a vivid imagination at a young age. While other girls were using tissue and tape to make dresses for their dolls, Westcott wanted something silky, slinky even.
So when Westcott and her older sister Lora stumbled upon her mom's fabric stash within the maze of boxes, stored toys and old furniture in their parents' attic, they were thrilled.
This gold mine yielded forest-green satins, pink organza and textured upholstery fabrics. There they sat, legs crossed, using jagged scissors to cut out the hottest designer doll clothes on the block.
Unfortunately, the material they used happened to be extra fabric from the bridesmaids'dresses worn at their parents' wedding.
"I remember my mother finding out and really letting us both have it," Westcott recalled. "She was very angry, maybe not the angriest I ever saw my mother, but it was up there. At the time, we were kids and didn't see the value in what my mother had saved."
Westcott's passion for fashion has evolved since then. The 1988 Springfield High School graduate and daughter of baseball author and historian Rich Westcott is the costume designer for the HBO hit series "Entourage."
The comedy series follows the daily life of Vincent Chase, a hot young actor in modern-day Hollywood, and his entourage. What you see Vince, Turtle, Eric and Johnny Drama wear each week is either selected or made by Westcott.
She's been with the show since December 2004. But it's been a wild, sometimes turbulent trip for Westcott to reach this level.
Right after graduating from Syracuse University in 1992 with a degree in fashion design, Westcott went to the mecca of the U.S. fashion industry, New York City. She worked as a waitress for six months before she got her first break as an assistant designer making first patterns.
"I'll admit I was a little idealistic going in," Westcott said. "It's just a really hard business. The people are tough, and it's not for everyone. I often questioned if fashion was the right business for me. I figured the fashion industry wasn't as creative as I thought it would be. It's a matter of what sells. My original vision was to reinvent the wheel and set trends and make dresses everyone would wear. It's not as easy as it sounds. I know a lot of tenacious people who have done it."
Her own tenacity was tested. She worked for four companies that closed overnight. The instability was sobering, but what really concerned Westcott was how cutthroat and catty the business was. "It's an area of the fashion business you rarely see or hear about, the underbelly," Westcott said.
"I had designs stolen from me. I went into interviews where they asked me to design a line and they took photocopies. That line came out a year later. They were my designs. There's no time to protect your work. It bites you. It seemed so much better when I went into film."
Westcott's huge break came when she was one of 17 people hired for the wardrobe department for the 1997 movie "Cop Land." The star-studded cast included Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Ray Liotta and Harvey Keitel. More importantly, each day she and the other support crew members were treated to catered lunches and dinners. Her parents, Rich and Lois, applauded when they saw their daughter's name at the bottom of the credits.
She worked on the project for five months.
"I loved how people treated each other; it was like being in a beehive," Westcott said. "Everyone had their own specialty and they were all great at something. It was pretty inspiring. I wanted to get in on that scene, that flurry of activity. Everyone knew what they were doing. They had respect for one another, a far cry from what I had been through in the fashion business."
From there, Westcott assisted with a few independent films and eventually was lead costume designer for the critically acclaimed independent films "The Squid and the Whale" (2005) and "Roger Dodger," which earned a Tribeca Film Festival award in 2002. It was Westcott's work on "Roger Dodger" that paved the way to "Entourage."
Doug Ellin, executive producer/creator of "Entourage," happened to be a fan of indie films, especially "Roger Dodger." In September 2004, a cattle call went out for a new costume designer for the HBO show. The creators wanted "Entourage" to have more of a New York look.
"My vision was to make the show more fun; you have these four great, talented guys. I wanted to make it a little more rock 'n' roll, a little sexier," said Westcott, who has homes in Los Angeles and New York. "I wanted to amp up everyone. You want people to look at things and have them say, 'Hey, I want that.' Most of the things we find for the show, some of the things we make."
She collaborates with the actors. She said she tries to open some windows; some stay open, others get closed. Jerry Ferrara, who plays Turtle, always says "That's aggressive" when Westcott proposes something a little risqué.
"The four of them are equally fun to work with," Westcott said. "They have individual characters as people. Jeremy Piven [who plays Ari the agent] has a character who is very high-end. Johnny Drama [Kevin Dillon], I try to keep a little mix between retro and a tough guy. He'll step out on a limb. Vince [played by Adrian Grenier] is the guy who just got out of bed looking great. He has to look like not too much went into his look. Eric [Kevin Connolly] has evolved into more businesslike. He's wearing more dress pants and button-down shirts. He has a real job and he has to be taken seriously."
"I was a New York independent film person, and they really took a chance on me," she said. "There are so many people in L.A. who live and know the Hollywood scene. It's a very insular world. These guys ["Entourage's" creators] came from New York and they were looking for someone from the East Coast. I'm grateful they did." *