Verge Meets: Ghost In The Shell Costume Designers Kurt and Bart

Photography Credit: Mr. Means

Costume Designers play one of the most important and integral parts in the makeup of a film. If you look throughout the history of Cinema, certain characters can be identified on their costume alone. From the incredibly simple yet iconic red jacket, white t-shirt and blue jeans combination of James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, to the all black armour and terrifying mask of Darth Vader in Star Wars, the imagination and attention to detail of Costume Designers are put to the test every day in order to make every costume as believable as possible.

Ahead of the release of Paramount’s Ghost In The Shell, Costume Designers Kurt and Bart gave us a fascinating insight to the world of costume design as they took time out of their hectic schedule to answer a few of our questions!

Photography Credit: Mr. Means

How long have you been working as a Costume Designer for and how did you get in to working as a Costume Designer for film?

Kurt: We designed our first feature 10 years ago (wow, had to look that one up!). We started off designing clothes for ourselves and then selling a short-lived line in the 80’s, but we also worked in animation, designed sets and directed music videos. We worked forever as stylists and still are really inspired by and have a huge respect for fashion. We definitely didn’t take the direct road to working in film but we have been working with clothes and image since we started working together in the 80’s. We absolutely love working in film and in many ways, it’s what we have always done, but now in a whole new world.

Ghost In The Shell is a futuristic, Sci-Fi movie. How different is the process for designing costumes for different eras? It must be a fascinating challenge to be working on a futuristic costume one week and potentially a Period-Drama the next!

Bart: I love this question because of the use of the word ‘week’! It is interesting how each film can be totally different in setting and scale, but for us, the first steps are always the same and that’s to dive straight into the material. We love the initial script read and the first images that come are the leads that open into research and culling of images that we use to start the dialogue with the Director. The process is organic and intuitive and seems to be universal no matter what film we are on.

Is there a particular style, era or genre that you prefer working on and designing costumes for?

Kurt: They are all so different and while the Mockingjay films were a dystopian future, Ghost In The Shell was our true first Sci-Fi film. It was really exciting to work with a director like Rupert Sanders who had such a specific, poetic vision for the world he wanted to create. I think the result is something that honours the source material that has such a massive international following and also feels unique and like nothing we have seen before.

What everyday challenges do Costume Designers face when working on new projects? What was the most difficult obstacle you guys had to overcome whilst working on Ghost In The Shell?

Bart: We shot in Wellington, New Zealand which is truly the windiest city in the world, no lie! The daily challenge was not to be blown over.. Ha! Actually, being in New Zealand, you aren’t close to much, geographically, so that was something to get used to, but we actually had the best costume department we have ever had. It was a phenomenal group of really skilled and fearless craftspeople and makers. The remoteness was at first, a bit daunting but it fuels a resourcefulness that I think in the end fuels one’s creativity.

How much of a part does the films budget play in what you are able to achieve and what you can/can’t work with?

Bart: Budget plays a part in how films are made and how we approach the design of course. We have worked on both ends of the spectrum there and love them equally for different reasons.

We shot Dallas Buyers Club in 28 days with Matthew McConaughey wearing vintage clothes out of our own closets and no money for hangars. On the opposite spectrum, we were so lucky to set up shop in New Zealand on Ghost in the Shell and have the support and talent of a large crew of 70 people and a workroom that was able to make some really fantastic, high concept costumes that can take months to develop, prototype and finish. There is beauty to both sides of that equation.

What is the process for when you begin work on new costumes and new projects? How detailed are the briefs that you guys are given for costumes? Are you given a specific starting point for certain characters or do you just let your imagination run wild?

Kurt: Every filmmaker is different which is part of what makes this job exciting. Rupert Sanders is a very visual person but he is also very hands on and can talk about costumes in a way that makes him an exception. Rupert likes to be involved in the development process and will come to a fitting, even if it is just a toile, and put his eyes and hands on it. Rupert can talk about cut, silhouette, drape and hand. It is pretty rare in our experience to have a Director to be that involved in the nuts and bolts of it. He was very hands on with every department. On the whole, though, we are usually given full range to express our ideas and bring them to the table. In the end, it’s all about the process and collaborating is the name of the game.

Kurt and Bart have designed costumes for some of the highest grossing and critically acclaimed films of the last 5 years including The Hunger Games and Dallas Buyers Club. Is there a film that guys are particularly proud to have worked on?

Kurt: We have been really lucky to have been a part of films that we have been very passionate about and some of those have been seen by a lot of people and some have not. So much hard work goes into every film and by nature they are just a lot of work. Dallas Buyers Club was a real labour of love and heartfelt for us. It was an important story to tell. Having survived that era, we are very proud of the film and all the hard work everyone put into it.

On a personal note, are there any Filmmakers or Directors that you would like to work with on future projects?

Bart: We adored working with Park Chan Wook on the film Stoker. He is so stylish and exacting and every frame of his films are pure art. He is a master and it was an honour to work with him. The shortlist of Directors we would love to work with would be: Brian De Palma, Jonathan Glazer, Xavier Dolan, Luca Gaudagino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Ava Duvurney, Pedro Almodovar and Gus Van Sant.

On the topic of future projects, what does 2017 have in store for Kurt and Bart? Is there an upcoming project that you’re excited about or are already working on?

Kurt: Let’s just say it’s rated R in a big way, the biggest R rating ever!

And finally, what advice would you give to any student that are interested in Costume Design and are considering a career in Costume Design in the future?

Bart: Love the work, learn how to draw if you don’t already, put down that phone and go to a museum!

Ghost In The Shell is released on Wednesday 30th March in the UK and Thursday 31st March in The US by Paramount Pictures.

Watch our exclusive Ghost In The Shell clip here

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