An interview with one of our incredible costume designers

11 July 2017

Amy Jackson studied theatre design and art history at Wimbledon School of Art. She began her career at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2001 and has designed many theatre productions and musicals, as well as costumes for individual performers with specialist acts and site specific pieces for the V&A Museum, Harvey Nichols and the National Theatre London. Amy’s talents are regularly used by Private Drama, most recently at the Gatsby themed party at Sotheby’s, Harrods’ Christmas hamper event and the 2016 Roald Dahl themed Save the Children’s Winter Gala.

Q – What did you most enjoy about designing Soiree Dangereuse?

A – Working with such a fascinating mix of personalities was very exciting.

All of them were lovely, helpful and easy going. Their skills are so specialised I thought they might be very demanding but they proved me wrong and were fun, kind and so professional that by the end of our adventure in the Hamptons we were all good friends. Trust in each other is an integral part of their job. They all exude confidence and are very much in control of their own performances, while enjoying the experience of working with new people and having a new look created for them. During the design process and rehearsals we were all concerned for their safety, that element is taken very seriously. It was an absolute pleasure to spend time with these amazing performers.

Q – How many stages did the design go through before you settled on the final one?

A – There were three key design stages. The first being thorough research and gathering images to convey the world we were trying to create. The second was taking those images and sketching original costumes based on preferences and the sort of performers we might have. The final stage was tweaking and working in the practical needs for the performers. I also reviewed individual aesthetics and merged them with our creation for Soiree Dangereuse so they wouldn’t need to change their existing character or style and could collectively create a brand new show.

Q – What are the challenges of designing a costume for a circus performer?

A – It is very similar to designing for dancers or any physical performer, the main concern is making sure that they have freedom of movement and comfort while still looking beautiful. The added challenge is understanding the equipment they are using to make sure the fabrics don’t snag or catch.

Q – What was the individual costume you were most pleased with?

A – This was a dream job, I loved designing all the costumes, but if I had to choose one it would be the red stilt costume. I wanted to design something that would look beautiful outside and be really striking as the guests arrived. The big top was right next to the ocean, so I thought something elegant, that moved in the breeze, would be a great image to see as you made your way towards it. This was one of those experimental costumes that you only know will work when it’s been made, something I don’t usually do! It was definitely worth the risk, the result was imposing, beautiful and looked stunning against the ocean views.

Q – What do you always have with you at an event?

A – Two essentials, Kingsley Hall, my assistant, and spare shoes!

I have worked with Kingsley for years. He is a wonderful costume maker and designer in his own right and we have very different skills which means we can cover most eventualities. We make a great team! Kingsley is always very calm so together we make the performers feel relaxed and in safe hands.

Spare shoes are essential because people’s feet vary so much. I always bring black, white and neutral coloured shoes that we can make work if needed.