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‘Reality has more imagination than we can imagine’

“The costume of any movie makes it come alive as it is the first image of the character,” said costume designer, Rosalie Varda as she delivered a Masterclass on Costume Designing at the 47th IFFI on Wednesday. Rosalie spoke about how she took to costume designing. Born to parents who were part of the film industry, she developed an interest for costume designing quite naturally. Inititally designing for her dolls, it was only later that she realised the impact films had on her. “When I was 16-years-old, and because of my family’s culture, I used to watch a lot of films. After I finished school, I entered art school for a year to prepare myself for fashion school. At fashion school we were taught the composition of costume, how to look at a costume and understand why it was created,” said Rosalie.
She later put her learning into practise during her internship. “My first internship was in my father’s movie – a period film,” she said.
She also said family support at the beginning of one’s career is acceptable but one cannot rely entirely on this help. After entering the industry, she continued her journey with hard work and dedication. “I worked as an assistant for a reputed costume designer for seven years; simultaneously I started doing costumes by myself. Then I moved to movies, theatre, opera, commercials, photo design, and art direction.” It was only when Rosalie turned 45 that she developed an interest in sets. “I became a set decorator and did a lot of events at festivals,” said Rosalie.
When any filmmaker approaches her to do costume designing for a film she tries to understand the story first. “I want to understand the story, what the filmmaker wants to do, the background, the object, why the filmmaker is interested in doing the story, history of the subject and other details of the subject/cast. A story is important but the way it is displayed is more important,” said Rosalie.
She feels the costume is not alive if the outfit does not fit the actor and background. “The background is equally important, a costume comes alive when you are wearing it otherwise it is dead. The costume designer is the one who is trying to get all the elements of the subject together which is done in coordination with the production team and director of photography,” said Rosalie. The work of a designer is not just restricted to designing for the main cast or the supporting cast but for the entire set. “It is a common mistake to think that only the costume of the main character is important,” she said.
A costume designers job it not as easy as it seems to be, many a times the materials needed by the designer are not available easily. “We are in a reality where we have to find solutions to our problems,” said Rosalie.
She says the costume designer gives form to the directors imagination. “A costume designer’s job is to reinvent something that will have the taste and idea of what he (filmmaker) wants. Some costume designers want their costumes to look the way they were in that particular century. But designers like me don’t follow the same,” she said. She adds her own artistic interpretation while she does costumes for period films. “The people in France in the 18th century were much smaller in height than they are now. thus reality has more imagination than we can imagine.”
Sometimes the cast of the movie too might not agree to a particular outfit for several reasons. “The designer has to make the cast understand the reason for selecting the outfit or find a solution if the cast is still not willing to go ahead,” said Rosalie. She believes that whatever she has done before can be used in a new experiment. “Old age brings with it richness about everything done and learnt,” said Rosalie.

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