I caught this terrific exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Images. Persol Magnificent Obsessions show how 30 professionals in film pursue their craft. I was particularly enchanted by the three costume designers featured; Eiko Ishioka, Julie Weiss and Theadora Van Runkle.
You definitely know their work. Actual costumes were on display as well as clips from their films. However, what really gave me insight into their creative process was looking at the diversity in their sketches.
The exhibit showcases the creative process of costume designers Eiko Ishioka and Julie Weiss
Eiko Ishioka was nominated for an Academy Award for last year’s Mirror Mirror film. She was the creator of the costumes on Bram Stoker’s Dracula in collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola. She came from a production design background which shows in the architectural nature of her costumes.
Instead of the cliché satin lined cape, she designed Count Dracul’s armor to resemble anatomic muscles and veins. While this was a period movie, her ensembles did not adhere to strict period construction. The silhouettes resembled the Victorian time period, but at close inspection, the pleats and draping had very structured, origami-like shapes that were their own fashion sculpture.
Ishioka’s sketches were big, barely a pencil outline for hands or faces. The illustrations were only partially rendered. The areas that were illustrated were intricately detailed, like the starched lace ruff on Lucy, the embroidery on Mina’s gown or the individual muscle tissue on Dracula.
Julie Weiss was the costume designer on Twelve Monkeys and Frida. What struck me about her sketches was that all of her thoughts, ideas and notes were scrawled directly onto the sketch. You can see her references, changed details, fabric swatches directly on the illustration. Based on traditional costume design education, this was exactly not what designers usually present to the director. Her work was fascinating in “A Beautiful Mind” kind of way. Onscreen, while the costumes were great, you almost didn't see them because they really just blended into who the characters were.
I first heard of Theadora Van Runkle watching “Troop Beverly Hills” as a pre-teen. A judge compliments Shelley Long’s tailored suit and she proudly boasts “It’s a Van Runkle!” It was the first (and only) time where I have ever heard a costume designer of a film actually name checked in the film.
Theadora was responsible for the looks of some of the most trendsetting movies in the 1960’s, like Bonnie and Clyde and The Thomas Crown Affair.
The rest of the exhibit included everything from the research that actors like Johnny Depp did to portray author Hunter S. Thompson, the equipment and process of a sound editor, the puppeteer and writing behind Being John Malcovich.
This was a great show for creative people or are passionate about any craft in their profession. Whether you are a costume designer like Eiko Ishioka, wiriter like Hunter S. Thompson or actor like Johnny Depp. Now how do you feed your obsession?