Naomi Wolff Lachter – Costume Designer
By Melissa Belardo
NYWIFT and USA Local 829 member Naomi Wolff Lachter has designed the costumes for the features Pep (dir. Robert Kolodny, currently in post-production), Dotty & Soul (starring Leslie Uggams, in post-production), Voodoo Macbeth (Official Selection in 23 Film Festivals, four-time Best Picture winner), Churros (dir. Emilie McDonald and Bruce Smolanoff, official selection in six festivals including HBO’s NYLFF), Claire In Motion (World Premiere SXSW Film Festival 2016), Stones in the Sun (dir. Patricia Benoit, Winner Best Feature at the Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival), and Forgetting the Girl (dir. Nate Taylor, Audience Award Winner at the SoHo International Film Festival).
Naomi’s Assistant Costume Design credits include Season 1 of Amazon Prime’s Hunters starring Al Pacino, seven seasons of CBS’s Blue Bloods, and several other network TV series and major motion pictures.
Naomi has designed the costumes for dozens of plays and musicals in and around New York City and the Boston area, and has assisted on Broadway as well. She was the 2003 recipient of the Ruth Morley Prize for Excellence in Costume Design and was nominated for Outstanding Costume Design at the 2007 New York Innovative Theatre Awards.
Born and raised in Flushing, Queens, Naomi enjoys traveling, cooking, opera, museums, birding and Yankees games.
Every day she is on the job, Naomi posts a motivational saying from her whiteboard on her Instagram account, @wolffie78. She offered us insight into her philosophy – and why good vibes are contagious.
What inspired you to create your motivational posts? How do you bring that motivation with you on set?
I believe in managing from a place of positivity and encouragement. When I was hired to design a feature in Oklahoma in 2019 (Dotty and Soul) I had this idea of writing something motivational on a dry erase board to inspire and amuse my crew and to express my gratitude to them each work day. A top priority for me as Department Head is creating a respectful, kind, safe and healthy work environment; a space that promotes positive mental health, validating and celebrating each department member. I strive to be the kind of leader that leads by example – working hard but with empathy, humor and gratitude.
Having the daily challenge of thinking up something that gives others something to think about always puts me in a good mood, and I bring that good mood with me to set. I find that moods are highly contagious and good vibes are the key to a long, hard day. Even though I began these “Naomiisms” for the costume and wardrobe crew to see in person, each day that I’m working I post the daily one on my Instagram account @wolffie78 in case it might make someone who isn’t in my department smile.
What do you love most about your job?
Making art. Creating. Working with other artists – directors, actors, writers – to immortalize on screen a unique and magical symphony of collaboration and talent. There really isn’t any aspect of costume design that I don’t love. Research, character analysis, shopping, fittings, budgeting, problem solving, working with tailors to reimagine a garment, establishing a new costume on set – I love the multitasking of it all. Fittings are the most fun and rewarding part of my process: I love working with actors to find the actual clothes that help them bring the character to life.
What’s your go to items that you must keep in your toolkit?
When I think about tools in my toolkit I immediately think about my methods and practices that I apply every day and not about physical items in my kit. My favorite tools are setting myself and the department up for success, being efficient with time and resources, thinking ahead to reduce waste, gratitude – to name a few.
I feel like the most important tools to have in every kit are the ones that help you manage your own self wellness and awareness and the people skills tools that make it fun and easy to work with others. Listening to the ideas and input of others, working as a team to pick the best solution to the problem, never bullying, being results oriented, not blaming or shaming others.
What’s one piece of advice that you were given that made an impact on you and your journey?
A very wise friend and mentor told me you build your career one brick at a time. It doesn’t get built all at once, in the blink of an eye. Each experience, gig, failure, and success are bricks. You lay them one at a time and each lesson is built on top of the previous lessons. I like the brick analogy because it reminds me that having a strong foundation is key. Developing a reliable process and truly appreciating the non-work parts of life help with the instability of freelance. It also makes me laugh to think we lay bricks while the floorplan of one’s career changes all the time. The shape the bricks are taking matters much less than enjoying each one as you cement them together.
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