Janie Bryant

Second GOLD Series speaker Brenau Academy alumna Janie Bryant shares experiences in costume design

Jul 16, 2020
Kathryne Davis

Brenau Academy alumna and Hollywood costume designer Janie Bryant shared her story of success in the competitive field of costume design during a virtual Zoom talk Tuesday, July 14.

“From the Academy to the Emmy: Janie Bryant’s Design for Success” was the second installment of The Women’s College of Brenau University’s GOLD Speaker Series.

Bryant spent three years total with Brenau before eventually going on to study fashion design at the American College of Applied Arts. She said she enjoyed her time at Brenau because it helped her break out of her shell.

“I felt like for the first time I could totally be myself,” Bryant said. “I didn’t feel afraid to answer questions. I wasn’t intimidated. In my situation, I felt like when I got to Brenau, I really excelled in learning and in just really being more confident.”

The dynamic speaker series, which brings compelling leaders who are trailblazers in their fields to speak to Brenau students and the community, is an ongoing component of The Women’s College’s GOLD Program. Each year, the program emphasizes carefully chosen themes with the first year dedicated to Gender awareness. As students advance in their education, they spend ensuing years focusing on Ownership of personal responsibility and civic engagement, Leadership and Diversity.

Future speakers include Norma Hernandez, chair of the Hall County COVID-19 Task Force on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 12:45 p.m., and Justice Leah Ward Sears on Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 12:30 p.m. Both will speak via Zoom.

“I was delighted to wrap up the first year of the GOLD Program in The Women’s College with such an accomplished, funny, engaging and inspiring alumna,” said Debra Dobkins, dean of The Women’s College. “The audience loved hearing about Janie’s journey. Seeing her designs and hearing the backstory was a special treat.”

Since her time at Brenau, Bryant has traveled the world including Paris, Toronto, New York City and Bucharest, Romania. Her most notable credits include the 2017 remake of Stephen King’s It, HBO’s Deadwood, for which she won an Emmy, and AMC’s Mad Men, which earned her four Emmy nominations.

Bryant has designed Mad Men collections in collaboration with AMC and Banana Republic and has worked with many brands including Brooks Brothers, Sony, Nike, eBay, Airbnb and Hearts on Fire Diamonds. In 2011, she released her first book, The Fashion File: Advice, Tips, and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men, which offers style tips and inspiration as well as a peek into the design process for various Mad Men characters.

Her most recent projects are FX’s The Old Man starring Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow and CBS All Access’ season two of Why Women Kill. She also recently launched her own clothing line for curvy women called JXB.

“As a costume designer, I work with all different bodies,” Bryant said. “I was really noticing a huge trend that women that were larger than a size 10 or 12 really had no options especially when it comes to luxury. I felt like there was a need in the market to have very stylish, very chic, very well made garments for curvy girls. I think there are more options now, which is great. But, I just felt like the market really needed a place for that.”

In addition to talking about her career, Bryant also offered helpful advice based on her life experiences to the graduates of 2020.

“It’s so important to have dreams and to go after your dreams,” she said. “That is your guiding force. You have to be very strong in your self-awareness and your self-knowledge. Do not compare yourself to anybody. When I was first starting, people would always talk about other costume designers. I would not listen to it. I can learn from other costume designers in terms of watching their work. But I just felt like when I was going on a job interview, there was only me. I have my own special talent. I’m the only person out there that is me.”