Updated: Jul 4, 2019
Gersha Philips was born in England to parents of Caribbean and African descent, however, she was raised primarily in Canada. Philips started her career in the area of fashion design until the 'costume designer' credit caught her eye in the ending credits of the 1980's film Beaches starring Bette Midler. Decades later, Philips work can be seen on TV shows like House of Cards and Falling Skies, and a plethora of films like Black Panther where she assisted one of our members, famed costume designer Ruth E. Carter with research for the designs.
Throughout her 20-plus year career, Philips has developed quite a stylistic eye. She's now bringing her talents to the all new, female-led Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery, which is a prequel, set 10 years before the original series. Philips draws much of her inspiration from high-end designers like Alexander McQueen and Iris van Herpen as well as athletic brands like Nike and Lululemon, in order to create gender-free looks that convey power no matter who is wearing them.
Star Trek: Discovery is now on its 2nd season with Gersha Philips at the helm. Philips did an interview with Shondaland in which she dove a little more into the creative process of designing the amazing costumes for such an iconic series. When asked about the challenges she's faced on the show, she said that her number one challenge has been finding the correct fabric for the Starfleet uniforms. Philips wanted the fabric of the uniforms to be just right so she went through various different fabrics with the producers. Another challenge she says, is the amount of time it takes to get some of the costumes done. "Everything takes so much time to develop and put together. If you want to get a custom color made it's a 12-week process. We have materials from Switzerland, Los Angeles, Italy, and Japan. We build 85 to 95 percent of the costumes in-house. It's a lot."
When asked about her design process, Philips says for most of the characters, she starts with a mood board with images of things she's inspired by for that particular character. She says that sometimes she's inspired by images but also fabrics, certain design techniques, and textures. From that point, she works with an illustrator who assists her in bringing her vision to life through a sketch. She writes little comments about the character using certain things from the scripts.
Philips says her favorite part of this Star Trek journey is the beginning. She compares it to getting school supplies to go back to school, a "honeymoon phase" as she calls it. It's a period of time with no pressure, no deadlines, it's an exciting time where the level of creativity is at its highest & you're allowed to have as much fun as you can. "I really do cherish that time now because I realize how short it is. There are a lot of times where you might feel like, "Oh my God, I don't know if we'll be able to do this." But then by some crazy miracle it comes together and it's actually better than you thought it was going to be."
Make sure to show some support to Gersha Philips by watching Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery which is streaming now on CBS All Access. The show has been renewed for a Season 3 so we also look forward to watching that next year!
You can also show your support by visiting the Star Trek: Discovery exhibit at the Paley Center which gives an inside look into the creative process behind the show. The exhibit is open until July 7th!