Hollywood Costume at the V&A is all about the development of character and Casson Mann‘s team found a creative way to bring the costumes to life.

As the image of guest curator Deborah Nadoolman Landis with a selection of costumes, as featured in the London Evening Standard Capital Live shows, the exhibition design uses media to relate character to costume.

Co-founder and creative director Roger Mann explains the process:

“Costumes without the actor or actress in them are a bit like empty shells – they don’t necessarily trigger recognition as easily as one would think. Also, while some of the gowns are stunning, other costumes are very much working garments, never intended to be seen up close outside of the cinematic context. And many of them are certainly not decorative arts objects that can be appreciated for their own aesthetic qualities. So we had to be that much more playful, that much more magical with them, much more engaging – we have had to help them come alive.

As we began to investigate ways to re-animate these costumes, we realised that we needed to choreograph them into recognisable poses. So we spent days in the studio finding the best pose to convey character and context for each individual costume. But sometimes even that wasn’t enough – we needed faces”.

We worked hard to see if we could get the faces of the characters into these costumes” continues Gary Shelley, design associate at Casson Mann.  “We wanted to avoid static plasticine likenesses which never really give an emotional connection, so the challenge was how we got a serious likeness that did justice to the movie and to the acting. And we think we cracked it. 

Each one of these characters has a tiny little screen and a projector as head, and each face is a tiny little movie showing the motivation of the character. So, people will be surrounded by faces in motion that are instantly recognisable, emotionally engaging and true to character“.

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