Let’s start from the beginning: how did you get into costume design?
Jacqueline West: Well, my mother was a fashion designer, but the last thing she wanted for me was the fashion business. So, I went to Berkeley to go to medical school, and shortly after that, I decided to change my major to art history, but there’s not a lot you can do with that. So, while out of Berkeley, I opened my own clothing store, which happened to be next to a very iconic restaurant that all the filmmakers in the Bay Area frequented—it’s where Coppola, Phil Kaufman, Spielberg, Lucas, and everybody hung out. It led me to meet all these filmmakers, including Phil Kaufman, who, after being a customer in my store, asked me to help with costumes for the film Henry in June. And that’s all she wrote.
And what about you, Julie? How did you discover that you wanted to work in fashion merchandising?
Julie O’Keefe: I grew up in Husker, Oklahoma, on the Osage reservation with my grandparents. When I was a junior in high school, they had a career day—looking back, I hope more school systems do that now, especially for rural communities when you don’t know what’s out there that you can do. But, on this day, a woman who owned the local dress shop in town came and spoke about how she had studied fashion merchandising at Oklahoma State University. After hearing her speak, I begged my grandparents to let me have a job, even though I didn’t have a driver’s license then. They said okay, so long as it didn’t interfere with school; I went to work at the local shop. At first, I was washing windows, but after about a year, they took me to Dallas to help purchase Junior’s clothing for the store. And that’s how I first learned how wholesale worked, how clothing is made and where they’re made, and about sizing, buying, and all of that. And then, after that, I went to school for fashion merchandising.
And how did you make the jump from working in fashion merchandising to becoming a cultural advisor in traditional Native American apparel?
Julie: After school, in my twenties, I went on vacation to Washington, DC, and I ended up never coming back (chuckles). It was interesting to be a small-town girl working in a bigger city; I worked at a high-end design shop. It dealt with all types of clientele, from the Kennedy family to sheiks from Saudi Arabia, and because all of the diplomats are based in DC. From that experience, I learned all about how to import antiques. Eventually, it led me to hone in on sourcing and producing Native American clothing for various projects, including the First Americans Museum and, more recently, the film. Honestly, I’ve never even thought about the movie industry at all. But I used all those skills I’d cultivated to work with Martin [Scorsese] and Jacqueline [West].