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Hollywood Costume: Casson Mann creates a compelling ‘behind the scenes’ experience at the V&A’s new autumn blockbuster exhibition

Five years in development, Hollywood Costume is the culmination of costume designer, professor, author and senior guest curator Deborah Nadoolman Landis’ passion for her craft and Casson Mann’s innovative exhibition design lets visitors explore the central role of costume design in cinema storytelling.

“This is no ordinary exhibition.” explains Roger Mann, co-founder and creative director of Casson Mann, “The costumes were never designed to be seen outside of the film they were created for and as working garments we have to be that much more playful, that much more magical with them, much more engaging – to help them come alive.” In realising the brief, Casson Mann uses media, film, music and lighting to great dramatic effect “to bring out a fuller range of emotions such as you get when you go to see a movie.”

In addition, the practicalities of an exhibition of this scale that after the V&A will tour across the world presented a unique set of challenges for Casson Mann’s team. Observing critical details such as high numbers of anticipated visitor footfall, dwell time per display and smooth throughput from beginning to end, along with a clear vision of the exhibition experience and a wealth of costumes, accessories, research assets and material that informs each character, have added layers of complexity that the team have resolved through seamless integration of innovative exhibition design, engaging story telling techniques and creative use of media.

“Our design has sought to deliver a memorable ‘behind the scenes’ film experience”, says Gary Shelley, associate designer at Casson Mann “Matt black stage environments, studio lighting, music and animations all lend a sense of drama and focus to the wealth of exquisite details about the realisation of each iconic screen character.“

The exhibition narrative has been carefully structured to reflect the costume design process throughout the three galleries. The visitor journey begins with Act One: Deconstruction in which they are introduced to the role of costume designer, continues to Act Two: Dialogue in which they discover the collaborations between directors, costume designers and actors and ends in Act Three: The Finale, with a “massive celebration” of the best known characters of Hollywood film history.

Under Roger Mann’s creative direction and Gary Shelley’s design direction, all exhibition content – from costumes and accessories to movie artefacts, designs and sketches, photographs, annotated script pages, archival film footage and specially commissioned interviews – has been edited, storyboarded, choreographed, animated and exhibited with single-minded commitment to Landis and the V&A’s exhibition vision and a passion for the public experience.

As the exhibition takes shape, it promises to deliver a ‘once–in-a-lifetime’ experience, bringing together for the first time iconic costumes and memorable characters – from Dorothy and Scarlett O’Hara to Indiana Jones, Jack Sparrow and Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher – and plenty of surprises that will inform, excite and inspire.

Hollywood Costume runs from 20 October 2012 – 27 January 2013 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. For further information and tickets, visit www.vam.ac.uk/hollywoodcostume

For further information about Casson Mann, contact Helena Corvin-Swahn on +44 (0)7815 060610 or at helena@dishlimited.co.uk

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