For this month’s Fabric of Cinema column in pan-India publication Arts Illustrated, Clothes on Film editor Christopher Laverty discussed the game changing costume design work of Trish Summerville. This makes that terrible title pun you’ve just read almost acceptable.
The theme of the issue was women, specifically women approaching their role in society with a powerful, fresh perspective. This is sex rather than gender based, as none of the women featured conform to pre-established definitions of masculine or feminine. They are creatives achieving wonderful things not because of their sex, or in spite of it, but because of raw, unabashed talent.
Costume designer Trish Summerville is this month’s Arts Illustrated in a nutshell. Best known for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Hollywood’s interpretation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she is also a wardrobe stylist for with a devilishly keen eye for fashion, especially from up and coming designers. It is this willingness to embrace the world of fashion and its influence on cinematic costume design that makes her almost unique. She is at the forefront of a new era in costume that promises to turn the craft upside down as the old guard fights against the new. Fashion in film might just encapsulate the future of the industry.
‘‘Game changer’ is a phrase thrown about all too frequently these days. For something to be truly game changing there needs to a fresh, leftfield take on an already established methodology. Like costume design; the industry has employed fashion designers since the advent of motion pictures, yet the relationship is far from comfortable. Collaborations are often forced on a costumer for budgetary reasons and the end result then misreported in the press, typically in favour of the fashion designer. With every Catherine Martin and Prada for The Great Gatsby, there is a Rodarte and Amy Westcott for Black Swan, or Armani and Marilyn Vance-Straker for The Untouchables. However Trish Summerville is a new breed of costume designer. She has learned to coexist with the world of fashion, using it, inspiring it and, most significantly, embracing it as a tool and not a threat. Summerville might well be the bridge that both industries have been trying to build for decades. This is why she is a game changer.
Trish Summerville is well on her way to becoming a household name, though as with all practitioners of costume design, this might require a few more years. It is not generally an industry that breeds fame, but thanks to considerable media coverage for her most recent film, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, plus a tie-in capsule range with ecommerce retailer Net-a-Porter, Summerville is popping up everywhere. This is a by-product of her approach to costume more than a business decision.
With Catching Fire Summerville had no choice but to use fashion designers because there was literally not enough time or money to produce everything on her own. Names such as Alexander McQueen, Tex Saverio and Iris Van Herpen were employed, and sometimes this was in the guise of revamped runway pieces which obviously caught headlines. These lead to the common misconception that she did not costume the movie, but only styled it. A significant part of this misunderstanding comes from press interest only focusing on leads Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Banks wearing designer fashion. It is quickly forgotten that Summerville had to make costumes for all the tribute actors featured in the movie. Her ‘game suits’ are a marvel of sartorial engineering: each one created from separate modular sections in order to fit 24 very different body types…’
Read the rest of the article, featuring exclusive access to Trish Summerville, by purchasing this month’s Arts Illustrated magazine.
You can watch Trish Summerville’s work in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at Amazon Instant Video.
© 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.