When AMC’s show Mad Men premiered on July 15th 2007, Fullerton’s local vintage shop Out of Vogue became involved in helping set decorator Amy Wells procure some of the many props that were needed to make a 1960’s period drama about advertising moguls of the decade. The relationship lasted through the 3rd season when Wells left the show and was replaced with Set Decorator Claudette Didul. Despite losing the connection, association with the show continues. Most recently Out of Vogue’s co-owner, Mike Atta, was approached by The Tonight Show’s Assistant Art Director Justine Mercado in helping the show procure props for a Mad Men Parody. The Fullertonian interviewed Atta on the chronicles of working with these entertainment industry professionals.
According to Atta, Set Decorator Amy Wells started working for Mad Men as a favor to its creator Matthew Weiner. Wells had done movies like Clueless back in the 90’s and actually came out of retirement in order to help with the first season. Atta states that those involved with the show originally thought that it would only last one season. The business relationship started after Wells got a suggestion from an unknown vendor at the Rose Bowl Swap Meet. Atta says he still doesn’t know who the referral came from exactly, but that he has a reputation to some of the LA based vendors.
“There are in fact shops that will buy from Out of Vogue and resell those items in their shop in LA,” said Atta. “They were looking around LA, and because they were a new show they didn’t have a very big budget, nobody knew how it was going to go.”
Mike and his wife, Pam Atta became good contacts for the show not only for their shop's price point, but also for the knowledge that the Attas had in assisting the show in creating an authentic look.
“When the show started it was more late fifties, and in the second season they pushed it up to 62’-63’ because I think that they liked that style a little more. When they first started they were looking for things that were late 50’s and we had to keep telling them ‘well that isn’t quite right’. We had to tell them that for people’s homes they might have something that was from 55’ and 59’ because they all didn’t buy their furniture new that year.”
Atta says, “They were really going after being authentic. You see movies like Grease or something like that, and it’s actually 70’s “fifties”. You see that a lot, and that becomes ingrained in what people think the fifties are. We get people in the store all the time who say their looking for fifties stuff and they think it’s like what Grease was, but that was really Disco fifties.”
It would be a very difficult task for Out of Vogue to supply every prop that the show needed, and if it were possible, staying within budget would be the next top priority.
“We did a lot of it, but by no means could we even do half, because in Sterling Cooper’s office, there was no way we could come up with all those desks. [Mad Men] had to find somebody. [Out of Vogue] did all the lamps on the desks, we could come up with those, and we did a lot of the furniture that was in John Hamm's office. We did a lot of the apartments and a lot of the homes.”
During the relationship with the show, there were sometimes serendipitous moments where things seemed to be timed perfectly.
“One of the homes we did source, they wanted more like the country fifties stuff, and we just happened to have a client whose mom was closing a house [in Arrowhead], and it was filled with that stuff. So through us they went up there and collected that stuff.”
Atta's shop supplied miscellaneous props like car seats, cribs, and other vintage children’s accessories. In addition, he supplied several vintage prop phones and working televisions. Finding more of the props needed for the show became easier once he had a list of things they were looking for. There were some items that Atta couldn't supply however, like working vintage air conditioners. When Out of Vogue couldn’t supply the prop, Atta reffered other vendors within the area.
"They used dealers in LA, and Long Beach, so they used it a lot of us. It was good for everybody, especially when they first started setting up because they needed everything. They were buying, not renting, which kind of surprised me, although buy rates on a lot of this stuff is probably cheaper buying it then renting it."
Buying has advantages other than price in comparison to renting. Once done shooting, it’s up to the production company on what to do with the props.
“They'll probably do the same thing That 70's Show did when the show's over. That 70's Show had an auction on ebay and they auctioned off all the stuff to be donated to charity," said Atta.
When Atta's contact Amy Wells left Mad Men, so did the business between the show and the shop. Mad Men had moved the set into a new office after Wells left, and with that change came all new props to be used. The time that Atta spent consulting with the show and supplying props got Out of Vogue some recognition from some larger publications such as LA Times, Westways Magazine, Sunset Magazine.