Q&A with Jessica Saunders, Curtain Call Costume Designer
Entering the world of performing arts opens the door to a number of professions that inspire creativity, talent and passion. Dancers and other performers, of course, make the list, but so do producers, set designers, choreographers, musicians and…….you guessed it! Costume designers.
It’s impossible to ignore the talent of costume designers this time of year as we enter the height of awards season. With popular movies like Mad Max and Cinderella nominated for Academy Awards for best costume design, and television series like Downton Abby captivating audiences across the country, the critical contribution of costume designers in making stories come to life is undeniable.
Here at Curtain Call our designers are dedicated to making your performances come to life by designing costumes that make every dancer feel confident. Not only should dancers look and feel good, they should also know that their costumes are reflecting the latest trends and most in-demand styles.
Read on for a Q&A with Curtain Call designer Jessica Saunders about how and where she gathers inspiration and insights into the latest costume trends.
How long have you worked in costume design? How did you get into this field?
JS: I have been a costume designer at Curtain Call for the past 14 years. Prior to my time with Curtain Call, I actually designed sleepwear upon receiving my undergraduate degree from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco.
What inspires you?
JS: This is a question that we, as designers, get asked a lot. When you’re doing something you love, from the heart, it never gets old, so honestly, I get inspiration everywhere and from everything. I definitely follow red carpet trends, high fashion runways and movie fashion. But I also rely on some trend forecasting sites (Trendstop, Fashion Vignette, PopSugar, Vogue), Pinterest, music videos, and I even gather inspiration from things like home décor. Our team of four designers will also shop the market in major fashion capitals like NYC and LA and drop into professional performances, like Broadway shows.
How many designers are on your team? Are you each responsible for a certain line?
JS: There are four designers on the Curtain Call team. For the most part, we all have an equal share of every line. We have changed it up over the years, but it’s best to have everyone’s input in making a particular line the very best it can be.
What dance genre is your favorite to design costumes for?
JS: This definitely changes from year to year. I really enjoy the process of researching and gathering inspiration for a line. The types of inspiration I come across really determine my excitement when beginning to design for a particular genre. This year, I am really eager to design for the Pop Hop line. I have quite a few fun prints I am excited to use and some trendy silhouettes gathered from street fashion.
Were you ever a dancer?
JS: Yes! Throughout middle school and high school I studied basically every style of dance, but tap was always my favorite.
What are your thoughts on street style influencing style in the studio or on stage and vice versa?
JS: Street style absolutely inspires stage style—especially when you consider a style like hip hop, which is heavily inspired by street dancers. You definitely see street trends, like athleisure, for example, making its way into popular dance styles.
What costume styles are going to be trendy in 2016 (colors, fabrics, silhouettes, etc.)? How do these trends differ from last year? Years past?
JS: This year we will definitely see cold-shoulder treatment, embroidered cut outs and panels, bold graphic patterns and patterns with shine. Cold-shoulder treatments are coming back in style, while bold graphic patterns and patterns with shine have been trendy for several years now. Sequins are a forever staple in dance. They look fantastic on stage, and that will never change.
Additionally, a few more styles that are going to be big this year are:
• Geometric panel designs, giving a modern or athleisure feel for jazz and contemporary
• X style necklines, incorporating a version of shoulderless sleeves for contemporary
• Feminine ornamental laces on nude mesh for ballet and contemporary
How often do trends in different dance genres affect each other or cross over?
JS: So many of our styles can be used in multiple dance genres. This is particularly the case in the Jazz and Contemporary sections. Fabric and music cross dance genres so it makes sense that our designs do too. Curtain Call customers are full of creativity. They are always coming up with great ways to use our styles in ways we haven’t considered. Their originality is an inspiration to us.
The 2016 Pantone colors of the year are Rose Quartz and Serenity. Will these influence costume designs this year?
JS: Absolutely. You can expect to see Rose Quartz and Serenity appear more frequently in street and stage style, especially since fabric vendors rely heavily on Pantone predictions.
Are there are other colors that you think will take center stage / or that you’d like to see become a top color in 2016?
JS: Red, pink and other bright colors look great on stage. Gem tones, which have been on the Pantone list in recent years, will be popular, as will gold.
What advice do you have for aspiring costume designers?
JS: Stay humble and open to new experiences! Being a designer is so much more than making pretty sketches. Staying creative year after year, following a timeline with stressful expectations and plenty of noncreative assignments is what the job really entails. Dedication and hard work will make you an asset to your team and a success no matter what path you take.
What do you hope will be the biggest 2016 costume trend? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.