Fashion as theatre

What do Rihanna, Kylie, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell have in common with our brash, big beaked Cyrano de Bergerac? He’s known for having a face for the radio, but that hasn’t stopped Cyrano (played by Brian Ferguson) from coming to the attention of iconic Scottish fashion designer Pam Hogg, who made her debut as a costume designer for our dazzling new co-production of Cyrano de Bergerac.

Image by Simon Armstrong.

As we prepare to bring Cyrano back to Inverness, where the Scots adaptation of the show first opened 25 years ago, we spoke to Pam Hogg to find out more about her experience of bringing the runway to the stage.

What attracted you to this production?

I’d dreamed of designing for Theatre, it was incredible that my debut was to be a Scottish production and one of the best love stories of all time. For me Cyrano is beyond Romeo and Juliet, darker and more intense but woven with plenty of wit and humour to even the balance.

Your runway shows have combined elements of theatre, dance and performance. What was it like working on a theatre show instead of a runway collection?

The process is the same creatively in that I start with a feeling, but the puzzle of making it all fit brought new challenges as the actors play multiple parts with quick changes so I had to devise ways to do this. I looked upon each scene as a whole and designed the outfits whether simple or grand to work with each other in a sense of coordination.

I loved working with the actors, they don’t normally have outfits made especially for them as costumes are generally sourced from theatre archive. Their feedback was fantastic, and watching rehearsals gave me a fresh vision allowing small adjustments in colour and shapes for each scene.

Roxane (played by Jessica Hardwick) wears an incredible gold dress from your Courage collection. Could you tell us more about the dress and why you chose it for Roxane?

With so many outfits on stage at any one time, I decided to make Roxane’s gowns the main focus and balance out with more simple effective suggestions of outfits for the ensemble cast who had very quick changes.

For the battle scene, I felt she should arrive glorious. Gold seemed the perfect colour as it also reflected a sense of armour. When I had my first fittings with Jess I brought along a few dresses from my archive to see what shapes would suit her, the gold dress fitted perfectly and she loved it so that was it.  I added a gold bonnet for her entrance which she removed gradually along with the frill bolero, ending up more stripped down to become at one with the rest of the cast.

Runway image by Adrenus Craton. Image of Jess Hardwick by Julie Howden.

The original dress was a combination of several archive outfits for a show I was never meant to be doing. Three weeks before fashion week in 2014 I got a call from Amnesty International. They wanted me to give a nod to Pussy Riot, perhaps by including a balaclava during my show, as the Russian Olympic games were running alongside and therefore a great opportunity to highlight their plight.

I immediately started visualising a collection combining embellished archive and new colourful pieces signifying gay culture. By the end of the day I’d worked out a full show dedicated to them and named it COURAGE.

Runway image by Simon Armstrong. Production image by Mihaela Bodlovic.

Audiences will see amazing pink and blue head dresses from your Innocence collection. Tell us more about these pieces and why you chose them for the show?

These were the first two outfits that immediately came to mind and became my starting point. I’d just finished my Innocence collection and recognised the fit as they had a 17th century theatrical feel. It was uncanny, as if I’d designed them with Cyrano in mind.

At first, I had thought I could base an outfit on them for Roxane but quickly realised they would be perfect for The Fops (played by Bhav Joshi and Samuel Pashby). I adored the Fops, I think the outfits gave them more of an opportunity to camp it up.

Cyrano de Bergerac is a National Theatre of Scotland, Citizens Theatre and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh co-production. You can catch Cyrano at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness from 7 – 11 November 2018. Click here to book your tickets.

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