Tweed & Taffeta: Laura Fukumoto
Tweed & Taffeta is a series from Laura Murray Public Relations that explores costuming in celebrated performances – the varying interpretations from one production to the next and the subtle yet sweeping influence of wardrobe on a show’s overall texture.
In this edition of Tweed and Taffeta, we profile the latest design work of Laura Fukumoto for Studio 16’s production of Jean Paul Sartre’s 1944 play, No Exit.
Laura is a recent graduate of University of British Columbia’s BFA Technical Theatre and Design Program and a connoisseur of Vancouver thrift stores. In addition to design work at Studio 16, she has lent her talents to Bard on the Beach, The Arts Club Theatre Company, SHIFT Theatre, and Vancouver Pride.
Q: Can you explain your design process?
The most exciting aspect and also the most frustrating part of designing for low budget/independent projects is that the design process usually includes a lot of the “BBS” technique (beg, borrow, and sales, don’t steal costumes). So, while a designer can have a very clear idea of what they’d like to see on stage, often you will not be able to afford or find what you’d ideally like to see.
I’m learning very quickly that a design must take into account budget, timeline, and manpower. Sometimes the all-nighters sewing by yourself just aren’t worth it and you should have simplified it a bit!
I like to stay flexible and be open to finding other options in different colours or have a plan B option, if keeping within a certain colour palette is important to me.
Q: Where did you look for inspiration when designing costumes for No Exit?
Because we decided to stay in period, I was looking at a lot of photos from the 1940s, as Sartre wrote the play in 1944. I spent a lot of time looking at Hollywood stars and starlets and settled on a sort of “persona” for each character:
Inès is played by Jordan Kerbs, who is a tall, powerful, and statuesque woman. There is a great photo of Katherine Hepburn in pleated, high-waisted, wide-legged trousers, which was pretty radical in the 40s; I’m trying to emulate that image in Inès.
For Estelle, I am trying to recreate the fabulousity and sexuality of Mae West- part damsel, part vixen. Her character needs to orchestrate her appearance down to the last detail in order to exert manipulation through sex, which is why she needs to be able to see herself in a mirror so desperately.
Cradeau’s work is his life, and it allows himself to avoid that he has run away from his problems in every aspect of his life. Like Estelle, he is carefully curating his persona, suited and cool in the stifling room, but that quickly falls apart. I was looking at a lot of photos of Cary Grant, because he has worn some great suits!
Q: Any favourite Vancouver spots when it comes to scouting the perfect item for a character?
I do a lot of rentals from various theatre costume stocks in the city (Arts Club, UBC, etc.), depending upon period. If it’s a 20 century piece though, you’d be amazed what you can find to fit the bill at Value Village. I frequent the Value Village on Victoria Drive, the Salvation Army on 4th Ave, and for great vintage pieces at a higher price point I go to Used House of Vintage Fashion.
Q: Why is it so important to get the costuming for a performance ‘just right’?
I like to really envision how the specific actor will embody their clothing. If it doesn’t seem as if the could look comfortable walking down the street in that outfit- or if the actor doesn’t look or feel as if they “own” the clothes- then they’re still wearing a costume, and something is either missing, or over-designed.
As a performer, my favourite part of the acting process was putting on the costume, the actor will hold themselves differently, they will walk differently. The clothing brings the world they have imagined in their mind into this reality. For me, I see it as one of the final puzzle pieces for a performer to really settle into that character.
You can catch Laura’s design work this week in Aenigma Theatre’s No Exit – May 6 – 10 at Studio 16 (1555 West 7th Avenue).
Tickets are $15 ($10 Students & $12 UBC Alumni) and are available at brownpapertickets.com.