Christina “Kit” Scarbo (Fashion Design ’04), a Los Angeles-based stylist and costume designer, started her television styling career at E! News and spent many years as a costumer on Dancing With The Stars. She currently works for AMC and Comedy Central dressing famed comedian Chris Hardwick. Kit recently returned to New York City to conduct research at the Special Collections & FIT Archives for her second feature film, Cardinal X, which is based in 1984. It was great to meet with Kit during her visit to learn more about her FIT studies and the 1980s fashion gems she found in FIT’s archives.
Welcome back to FIT and congrats on your incredible work back in LA!
Thank you! It feels great to be back. Lots of memories.
Coming from the West Coast, tell us why you chose to study at FIT.
I wanted to attend a school outside of California. New York City seemed like the best place to study Fashion Design, and I liked the business background that FIT incorporates into the design curriculum. Also, the Polimoda program abroad was a big draw.
What would you consider most valuable about FIT?
The location. The ability to have a fashion education in NYC is incredible–as well as the international location in Florence, Italy. My two-year experience in Florence, Italy at Polimoda truly shaped my career. From discovering the most inspiring landscape, to the emphasis on couture techniques, to the friendships I made with teachers and fellow students which have continued until this day.
Was there a particular professor that had a lasting influence on you?
Professor Kim Coston at Polimoda was a huge influence on my concept development skills. She really opened my mind to a whole new way of seeing and designing. She was so passionate about the fashion industry as well, and lent an incredible sense of function to design concept without ever limiting fantasy. She also really engaged the students with each other, and we all learned so much from each other. It really celebrated the glory of education- being surrounded with other artists learning and growing, while having your ideas guided and curated by an incredible mind like Professor Coston’s.
That education has clearly come through in your work.
Definitely. I started my career as a stylist in Los Angeles, but my ability to sew, design, and sketch also allowed me to take jobs that needed specialized vision. It was formative for me to be able to execute my own vision on a dime at the beginning of my career because I didn’t have to outsource for custom builds or tailoring. This demonstration of skills on styling jobs eventually led me to be hired by directors for costume design.
So now you’re shifting into more film work. Tell us about your costume design gig on Cardinal X.
I am the Costume Designer for a new indie drama Cardinal X. The Director and Producer came to me for the film after seeing my first feature film G.B.F., directed by Darren Stein. G.B.F. is the new Clueless of sorts, a high school-based fashion film. I dressed a large ensemble cast in a colorful and exciting vision. Angie Wang, the writer and director of Cardinal X, saw my work in G.B.F. and my ability to dress a large cast in a curated vision and tapped me for the job.
When does the film take place?
Angie has created her life story in this film, which pinpoints her college years in 1984 – 1985.
The costume work for that time period must be fun!
Totally. Angie has great style and there are many scenes that take place at clubs and college parties with characters from all demographics. Thus, Cardinal X will definitely be an extreme fashion film, much like G.B.F. These are some of my favorite shots from my research.
Looks like you’ve hit a treasure trove of 80s gems at FIT’s Special Collections and Archives!
Yes, I got so immersed in the archives. The resources are so incredible, I could have spent days there!
As a former Project Runway contestant, you are not one to shy away from a challenge! What are some of the challenges of working on this indie film?
Money! Money is always the challenge on an indie film. But it makes one very creative- so I look forward to the challenge. Also I am very adventurous so I love a challenge- which is how I ended up back in NYC at FIT to do research. I took a road trip- driving from Austin to NYC collecting the best of early 80s vintage from vintage shops and Goodwills, antique malls. In Little Rock, Arkansas, I bought nearly 75 garments for $120! Some vintage pieces even with tags still!
Speaking of favorite things and fashion finds, what’s your…
Favorite item on your desk/workspace: Muji mechanical pencils
Most memorable costume design experience: Putting Clorace Leechman in a vynle jumpsuit for a peoples choice awards comedy spoof
Favorite film or show: TV show! True Detective
Describe your style in three words: Sci-Fi Rock Mystic
Can’t-live-without garment: Black Leather Jacket
Oldest garment in your closet: I have a navy silk velvet gown in my closet from the 1920s… it technically the oldest. Oh! I also have a Victorian blouse from the 1890s. But the garment I personally have owned the longest is a pink tee shirt from when I was l.
The next adventure: Shooting Cardinal X