This is a project undertaken with an inter-collaboration between three third-year students (Abigail Hart, Jessica Bayliss and myself) with mentorship from the Hamburg Ballet. The aim was to create a business plan for a bespoke costume company specialising in ballet attire, as well as to conceptualise and design all the costumes required for a hypothetical production of ‘Carnival of the Animals’; each taking one character forward to realisation with photography student Emily Jacob. The Hamburg Ballet is an internationally acclaimed ballet company based in Hamburg, Germany and is renowned for its preservation of ballet tradition whilst developing modern dramatic frameworks; themes that we were keen to develop and explore within our designing.
Throughout this project I have been given the opportunity to learn new techniques and industry specialisms required of ballet costume, as well as combining traditional pattern cutting methods with innovative techniques to develop aesthetic interest. Experimenting with Japanese pattern cutting techniques has been a great experience, enabling me to push how I would like to utilise pattern cutting methods in future, especially in consideration of structure. Developing a half-scale outcome was also interesting as it prompted me to consider and adapt techniques to a much smaller scale of working suitable to this medium, such as embroidery and fastenings; developing my skills as a practitioner.
The concept for this project derived from our shared interest in combining historical styles with contemporary functions, such as utilising innovative pattern cutting methods within traditional ballet forms. Inspired by John Lithgow’s 2003 ‘carnival of the Animals’ production, in which a boy falls asleep in the museum of natural history and in his dreams everyone he knows turns into animals. We decided to develop the concept using the quote “like pale apparitions invading the night”, to evolve the animal character descriptions to represent ‘ghosts’ from the protagonist Oliver’s past. As I was nominated the head of design for the company, it was my role to ensure that the group’s creative vision was achieved. To guarantee this, the story was translated so that Oliver is a teenage boy who developed PTSD/Shell shock from fighting in the First World War, his dreams recalling black and white memories of lost friends and family; picturing them with animalistic qualities, to make them less humane to cope with his illness and losses.
The story’s exploration of humanity’s connection to animal nature really encouraged us to design and develop costumes that would subtly reflect this within performance. We felt it was important to exhibit a cohesive overview of the line-up within our final outcome; showcasing a female lead, male lead, and an ensemble costume, to be reflective of our skills in support of our business model. For this reason, I chose to take a design from the Fossil Ensemble forward to realisation, as I was really inspired by the structural and historical requirements of the Fossils; keen to fully reflect their calcified nature through costume.
I have really enjoyed working on this project, and glad that I have had the opportunity to explore another area of the costume industry. Having the freedom to construct our own project was both a stimulating and overwhelming experience, which provided myself and my collaborators the opportunity to push ourselves to create something unique. The above visuals showcase my personal development throughout this project, from research to final outcome.