BoJack Horseman's Lisa Hanawalt on Why Cartoon Fashion Matters
The illustrator carefully chooses every outfit you see in the Netflix series
While you probably don’t know the name Lisa Hanawalt off hand (unless you happen to be a fan of her hilarious cult hit podcast Baby Geniuses co-hosted with comedian Emily Heller), you’ve undoubtedly seen her illustration work for BoJack Horseman on one of your many late night Netflix binges.
As the production designer for the show, Hanawalt is in charge of BoJack‘s overall aesthetic, which she explains includes, “design[ing] the characters (which are refined and fleshed out by character designers) and art direct[ing] the backgrounds/props created by our design team — I tweak color schemes, provide reference images, draw background paintings, signs, et cetera.” Through her work, the Hot Dog Taste Test author has come to understand the importance of every one of her visual choices, especially when it comes to the outfits she puts her characters in. PeopleStyle spoke with Hanawalt to find out more about her love of impossible fashions, bold prints and everything it takes to dress Netflix’s most sartorially savvy horse.
Did you always have an interest in fashion or is it something that developed while working for BoJack?
I used to think fashion was something unattainable and reserved only for people who look like models. But looking back, I’ve always made bold choices, possibly beginning with the silk jungle print jacket, orange shorts, and Nepalese cap I insisted on wearing every day when I was ten. And now I see fashion as more of a universal thing. Designing characters for BoJack has definitely given me the opportunity to indulge my interests in fashion.
Can you describe the process you go through in choosing the outfits the characters wear?
First I read the script, then I jot down notes on the main characters (I always start with the ones that seem most fun to draw) and chat with Raphael, the show creator, about what they’re all about. Then I pull images from fashion blogs, runway photos, or my pile of Japanese fashion magazines. I love matching different looks and colors to the characters’ personalities.
Who’s your favorite character to dress?
Sextina Aquafina is the most fun to dress because I can get really creative. Her main outfit this season was inspired by BCALLA (Bradley Callahan), a designer who’s made outfits for Azealia Banks. Some of his clothing looks amphibious, which is perfect for a dolphin pop star. I also made costumes for her inspired by Transformers, Mad Max, Clockwork Orange, and she has a seashell bikini top “business outfit.”
I also really liked Sarah Lynn’s outfit from Season 2, episode 3 — my thinking was that she started to get dressed for a funeral, but forgot what she was doing halfway through, so it ended up looking slightly inappropriate.
Is there any type of fashion or style you would love to draw, but haven’t had the opportunity to yet?
I’d like to draw more avant-garde, conceptual, costume-y stuff, but of course that isn’t going to work for most of the characters on the show. I get a couple of opportunities to get wild throughout the season — I had a lot of fun drawing Greg Kinglear, the marionette version of Greg Kinnear, and I got to be really creative with a lot of the sea creatures in the underwater episode.
Where do you get your style inspiration from?
Everywhere, I’m like a sponge! Fashion blogs are great but I also take inspiration from movies, nature, everyday objects. A few years ago, I drew a series of animals wearing hats, and my favorite was this toucan. I just loved the idea of a bird designing a hat with leaves and stuff she found lying around?
Who are some of your favorite designers?
I love anyone playful, like Seth Bogart. I’d wear anything by Rachel Comey. I’m in awe of Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Comme des Garçons. I’m interested in Maison Margiela lately.
You’ve designed a few of your own fabric prints before, do you have any interest in working more in that vein in the future?
I would love to! Right now I’m into collaborating with friends who make clothing. I’d love to design more textiles for a clothing collection.
Why do you think fashion is an important element of your work and not just a frivolous women’s interest?
I think a lot of people see fashion as a feminine art form and use that as an excuse to dismiss it. Highlighting it can be a way of affirming that women’s interests are of value.
Also, fashion is for everyone, it’s not just about overpriced clothing and models on a runway. We all choose what we wear every day, and I’m interested in those choices. Even if you wear the same boring hoodie sweater every day, that’s a decision that tells a story about you.
What’s your favorite outfit from BoJack Horseman? What designer would you love to see Lisa illustrate?