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Empire season 2 finale: The backstory behind Cookie's new look is insane

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Chuck Hodes/Fox

Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson)’s style is deliciously over-the-top, and her outfits for the season 2 finale did not disappoint. Whether rocking a fabulous Gucci turban or vintage leopard-on-leopard Givenchy runway gown for Hakeem’s wedding, Cookie looked every inch the fearless matriarch she is. As for the hour’s pièce de résistance, that’d be the head-to-toe monogrammed Le Snob outfit Cookie rocked while heading to her old ‘hood to pay Shyne (Xzibit) a visit. While some might opt for an inconspicuous look while taking a shady trip down memory lane, Cookie did no such thing – thanks to costume designer Paolo Nieddu. 

“I thought it was fitting to have Cookie wear this very street, hardcore, sort of quintessential hip-hop look,” says Nieddu, who points to head-to-toe monogrammed outfits favored in the 2000s by the likes of artists Lil Kim and Foxy Brown as his inspiration for the outfit. “After all, she was going back to this place, to see somebody in her and Lucious’ past.”

Nieddu first spied the outrageous Le Snob trench coat on Instagram, where designer-stylist B Akerlund had shared sneak peak of the one-of-a-kind piece.

“I literally direct messaged her and said, ‘I’m a huge fan of your work, and I love L’Snob. I do the costumes for Empire, and would you guys be interested in lending samples?’” recalls Nieddu of his correspondence with Akerland, who styled the cutting-edge looks seen in Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video. “They ended up sending me the look book, and I loved everything.”

Chuck Hodes/Fox

The Empire costume designer ultimately chose the trench coat, a hat, and not one, but two matching handbags for Henson (a tiny circular clutch and a medium-sized duffle), a look which co-executive producer Sanna Hamri hand-picked for the finale. As for Henson’s reaction?

“She loved it,” says Nieddu. “When she saw it, she said, ‘Yasss.’ It worked, because Taraji herself just carries herself with such ease. She owns it.”

Finishing details by way of swipe of deep red lipstick, gold hoop earrings, and a luxurious Carolina Herrera fur stole “marked on major sale” from Saks Fifth Avenue completed the outfit, creating an effect that Nieddu calls “pure Cookie.”

“She’s the quintessential ambassador for the genre,” says Nieddu. ‘She’s the den mother of that style.” 

And while Cookie seemingly has her fashion favorites down pat, the costume designer says he hopes season 3 will bring brand-new challenges.

“I’d love to see Cookie at home and in some leisure wear,” Nieddu shares. “We’ve done glamorous, we’ve done red carpet, we’ve done street, and we’ve done club. Now I want to explore what Cookie wakes up in the morning in!”

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