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Virginia Gardner Can Go from Superhero to Fashionista in 1.5 Hours

- Sean Zanni
Sean Zanni

Up-and-coming actresses are not a rare sight during fashion month. Oftentimes, rumors amount post-shows about who will be on what magazine’s next cover based on seating arrangements. Insider secret: If an editor-in-chief is seated next to a rising star, chances are they’ll be on their magazine's cover in a month or two.

Few brands have been as talented as Ferragamo at spotting fresh talent just before they hit it big, so when I learned Virginia Gardner would be attending the show, I wasn’t surprised as much as I was impressed. Virginia Gardner? The girl on that Hulu show? Yes, her.

Quick 101 in case you don’t already know: Cali native Virginia Gardner is currently the lead in Runaways, a Hulu original series based on a Marvel comic. She plays Karolina Dean, a lesbian, marking one of the first times a gay superhero has been portrayed on television.

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“Karolina Dean wears a lot of pink and glitter,” Gardner tells me at the Ferragamo showroom the day before the show. “I wear more neutral tones in my everyday life. But Karolina is dressed up everyday with lots of layers and accessories. So I do think that I relate to her stylistically because I like a lot of accessories.”

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It’s Gardner’s first time at Milan Fashion Week–her first time in Milan, in fact. But Gardner is here for the full Ferragamo experience. When I asked her what her plans were, she replied: “Just to go to the Ferragamo show and do some stuff with Paul Andrew. Other than that, I have plans to eat pasta and drink wine. And maybe go see The Last Supper.”

Here, we talk to Gardner about her personal style, the sartorial taste of her on-screen character, and her next role in Halloween.

Let’s talk about your personal style. The Ferragamo woman is elegant and timeless. Does that ring true of your own personal style?

I’d say [the Ferragamo woman is] elegant and timeless, yes. It’s just this really beautiful, simplistic, luxurious, gorgeous woman. And I think what Paul Andrew is doing is taking a big breath of fresh air.

My everyday style is relatively classic. I like to keep things really beautiful but simple.

Have you decided what you’re wearing to the show tomorrow?

I just had my fitting. I’m wearing this really gorgeous olive green dress. And I’m doing a great boot with it, as well. It’s a tan boot. It almost feels like a ‘80s throwback. The dress has this gorgeous turtleneck, too. And it’s something that we put it on, and there were no alterations required. Immediately everything just worked, and we added a gold necklace with it. We’re going to do a Studio Bag, too. The Studio Bags are just beautiful.

The dress is so comfortable and warm. I always take my comfort very seriously. When I put something on, I don’t want to have too much fuss. You just put something on, and you can immediately see where the designer is going with the style of that dress. It’s invaluable. I love that.

Do you think that desire comes from your L.A. sensibility?

Yeah, I think it does. You know, over the last couple of years, since I started working with my stylist, Zadrian Smith, we were making an effort to kind of elevate that. And this was a really great brand to start elevating my effortlessness.

Do you have a favorite accessory that you own that’s your go-to when you don’t feel like getting dressed up?

I actually have a pair of red Ferragamo sneakers. I think you can put them on with any outfit and it automatically dresses it up. Usually, I give myself about an hour and a half to get ready [for an event], which I think is about normal. I always have Zadrian there who dresses me and gives me final touches—like the accessories. I think the most important thing is that he teaches me how to pose in whatever I’m wearing.

Your role on your show is a big deal not just because of the show’s success but because it’s Marvel’s first openly gay character. What does that mean to you?

I think it’s a really big responsibility to be playing that role. But it excited me. When I look for projects, I look for things that feel like I have a voice and stand for something. I think our project is really inclusive. Being Marvel’s first openly gay character was something that I was excited about. And I’ve gotten so many responses on social media from people saying that they wish they had a character like mine to look up to when they were 13 and confused. I just think being able to play a character that has that type of impact on someone is amazing.

Is that something you think about? When you make choices about roles or even the clothes you’re wearing, are you thinking about what it says about who you are?

Always. Philanthropy really matters to me. I‘ve always been a fan of giving someone a voice that doesn’t really have one or giving groups that voice. So that’s what I look for, first and foremost, in anything that I do—and also strong female characters. Runaways has six superheroes! I think that it’s really important that we’re showing strong female empowerment to other women.

What have you learned from playing Karolina?

I think she has taught me how to be myself. If you look at where Karolina is in episode 1 versus episode 10, she’s a completely different person. I think she just learned to trust herself and to stop trying to please everybody else. And she just owns who she is, and she’s not afraid of that.

How does that relate to when you’re trying to take fashion risks?

I think at first I was in a place where I was afraid to take fashion risks. But the more comfortable you get, the more you start to have an appreciation for fashion. And I started going to shows and seeing another side of the industry. You start to appreciate it a lot more and start to appreciate that it’s an art—a form of expression. And I think it’s fun to play around.

You just finished filming the Halloween remake with Jamie Lee Curtis. Is it tough to switch gears so quickly: superhero, fashion show attendee, Halloween star…

It is. It’s definitely a very emotional rollercoaster. We did a lot of stunt stuff on Halloween, so I came back really bruised up. And I had some fashion stuff in New York the next week. We had to figure out what we were going to do about the weird bruises—like do we explain? Do we not?

You’ve done so much stunt work! How did you prepare?

Halloween was one of the first times where I didn’t have a [stunt] double at all. It was just a full day of stunts, and it was a lot. It was definitely exhausting. I went home at the end of the day and was like, I earned this glass of wine.

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