The Imperfects costume designer Rafaella Rabinovich talks about the show’s looks and her inspiration

The Imperfects. (L to R) Morgan Taylor Campbell as Tilda Weber, Inaki Godoy as Juan Ruiz, Rhianna Jagpal as Abby Singh in episode 103 of The Imperfects. Cr. Dan Power/Netflix © 2022
The Imperfects. (L to R) Morgan Taylor Campbell as Tilda Weber, Inaki Godoy as Juan Ruiz, Rhianna Jagpal as Abby Singh in episode 103 of The Imperfects. Cr. Dan Power/Netflix © 2022 /

If you have watched The Imperfects, then you may be curious about the costumes and fashion that helped bring our characters to life. And that’s where Rafaella Rabinovich comes into the picture.

For those unfamiliar with the series, it is about three people who have been experimented on and given “monstrous side effects.” The trio comes together in order to track down the scientist who is responsible for their transformation in an effort to get back to the way they were before.

With this being a science-fiction series, we are paying just as much attention to the story as we are to the little details. And for us, those little details revolve around the costumes.

For The Imperfects, the costume designer was Rafaella Rabinovich, who has worked on such projects as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (and yes, Culturess spoke to Rafaella in the past about creating Lara Jean’s look) and Broken Diamonds.

We were given an opportunity to chat with Rafaella Rabinovich about what went into bringing these characters to life and how she used the costumes to help enhance the personalities on our screens.

Rafaella Rabinovich chats about bringing The Imperfects to life with her costumes

Culturess: What was it about this project (The Imperfects) that drew you in and inspired you?

Rafaella Rabinovich: I had an incredibly wonderful interview with the incredible producers that I’ve worked with before, as well as the showrunner I didn’t know at the time named Dennis Eaton. And he was just incredible and wonderful. It was a great script and I was fortunate enough to be offered the job after reading the script.

Culturess: What was it about the project that connected with you and your design?

Rabinovich: I think that what did that was probably the opportunity to portray three different, very special individuals that have something really cool going for them, and they each really had their own voice. So there was an opportunity to really build on that, which I really appreciate. And I kind of knew based on the interview and the way that Dennis saw the show unfolding that there is going to be an opportunity to play a lot with color and texture, and to really do something a little bit different than what we usually do in contemporary.

CulturessWhat was the most important part of creating these looks for you?

Rabinovich: Making sure that they’re elevated enough for me to catch people’s eye and into something that is really special and interesting for people to look at, and to constantly be interested by them. But also at the same time for them to not take away from the show. One of the other really important things for me was to build the arc for each character.

Culturess: Can you tell us a little bit about the process that went into actually building the individual costumes, like the individual looks that you made for each character?

Rabinovich: There’s like this general process that happens in costume design, and then it kind of becomes more personalized depending on the designer and your approach to it. You know, we read the script and we analyze it and figure out what is it that is necessary?

Other than obviously analyzing the character and knowing what it is and offering boards and having conducive and accumulative conversations about that. And in those conversations, I offer a lot of visuals. I’m a super visual person, so I make really elaborate mood boards and I sketch a lot as well to kind of define what it is that we’re looking at and understanding the color palette, so that is the first step. Then analyzing the script and understanding what is actually happening. What is it that the costume can serve as a purpose in that particular moment? And then I start figuring out what does that mean.

We also have to take into consideration in that process, things like stunts and doubles and multiples and what everybody else is going to be wearing and for how long it’s going to be and things like that. There is a bit of a technical aspect of this. And then at the same time, it balances out with the creative chopping and pulling things so we can start building it if we build it from scratch or rather, if we, I mean no matter what in some way it gets built from scratch because even if we pull a t-shirt from somewhere, in this case, especially in the show, it never just goes on camera as just a t-shirt.

It’s about the way that it’s been put together with everything else and we’ve done a lot of builds and dyeing and breaking down in this show. We’ve been fronted fabrics so there’s that process that goes into the fitting room, figuring out what it is that we want to go where then there’s an approval process. And then after the approval process, there’s sometimes a form of modification if necessary, and then it ends up getting slotted into different scenes.

Culturess: Is it easier or harder for you to create a woman’s look versus a man’s look when it comes to something sci-fi and/or fantasy?

Rabinovich: I don’t think that it matters because the reality is that I want to create, as a human being living on this world and if I have an opportunity to leave a mark of any capacities that will grow into something binary. So I try and approach it as everybody deserves an equal amount of intention, love and attention and not saying that your question is negating that. Maybe like the closest thing I can think about and so I mean, it’s equally challenging to me because I’m trying to get the equal amount of effect out of it.

Culturess: As a costume designer, what do you wish more people knew about what you do?

Rabinovich: On one hand it’s very meaningful to know when people pick up on costumes, especially in the contemporary world and that means a lot. I’ve had people emailing me before and the first thing they do is apologize for even emailing me. We’re getting in touch and I’m like actually no, it means so much to know that somebody paid attention and that they can’t stop thinking about something. And they really want to know where something is from. Usually, it breaks my heart to almost always tell them that it’s unavailable to some capacity or because it was built or because it was from a few seasons ago, because that’s one of the things that people don’t realize that just because it came out now, it doesn’t mean that we shot it now.

So that’s one thing, that people apologize a lot and I’m like no, like reach out because it’s always nice to hear at least and like everybody that’s ever reached out to me have been super lovely. And the other thing too that I think people don’t realize is the amount of technical work and how hard it actually is not to sit there and be like my job is so hard. I love my job and I am not saving lives. However, there’s a lot of emotional labor that goes into the job. It’s a lot of running teams, it’s about budgets, it’s about coordination, and all of those things are hard to a lot of us, and just for humanity in general. It’s easy for me sometimes, but I also have a team of wonderful people that does it with me and that it’s a hustle. Like we get a lot of noes before we get the Yes.

For even more from Rafaella Rabinovich, check out her Instagram.

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