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Behind the scenes at RSC Apparel Studios… From armored architects to sham remixers
On a pale morning in Stratford-upon-Avon, in a small work area between the corner and the crack, three women are doing what they do best: systematically destroying the original clothing.
“Today, we are roughing up Banco,” said Trio team leader Helen Hughes, using a simple black suit to nod on a legless mannequin. Whatever they did to Macbeth’s one-time friends (no spoilers), they had done a thorough job: The clothes were dusty, their edges were worn, and they looked overused and crumpled. “This is actually a brand new buy. But he will be just in the fight, so we make him cute and clumsy. You know?”
Hughes and her colleagues are part of more than thirty full-time craftspeople working in the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) Interior Apparel Studios, opposite its flagship theater, in a mild, muddy secondary pre-IPO store .
Over the past 131 years, the site has produced clothing. Since the costume manufacturer company moved full time in the 1950s, almost all RSC production companies and every RSC actor – from Peggy Ashcroft to Mia Faro, John Gilgud, Daniel Dai – Lewis – all created costumes in this uneven room.
This is a smooth process that has been honed over the past few decades, and Hughes’ professional destructive team plays an important role in it. As head of dyeing and painting, she gets wearable items – clothes, shoes, masks, your name – purchased or produced by colleagues in adjacent rooms, and then proceed to add any final touch needed for the scene. It can involve a simple color job (she can pass 130 pounds of dye powder each year) to obtain a piece of fabric, but mainly to make things look “real”.
“We call it “breaking,” she said, pointing her fingers at the quotes. “Most of the clothes need to look like it’s not the first time they wear it, so we wash them all and steam gives them a natural crease, or tears them, or if we put them in small stones and hope it It looks like someone has a lot of hands… and then we add what we need at the top.”
Everything from the torch to the cheese grater is to make things look worn out, and at the top of this effect may be mud, vomit, sweat, or a mixture of texture and paint that is often bloody. The team is an expert in scary trauma. For example, asking Hughes to make a bloody coat, she will respond:
‘What kind? There is blood, arterial blood, food blood, fresh blood, hard skin blood… You don’t want it too red – it doesn’t look good – but there are so many types and thicknesses there. However, our secret is a secret. It still does. ‘
If “break up” brings the pregnancy of the garment closer, Alice Tai MacArthur, RSC’s costume director, is the one who will launch the event. In the months before production begins, he will work with the show’s designated costume designer – always a freelancer – and develop an action plan.
They discuss historical periods and general concepts. Then MacArthur considers what needs to be done from scratch, what can be reused or just bought in. Sometimes designers have precise drawings to illustrate their bold ideas. Sometimes it’s just a bunch of text. He does not pass judgment.
“We didn’t come to design these clothes. We are here to understand what the designers want, so we shouldn’t question,” the 51-year-old said, holding a cup of coffee in his small ground – a floor office with American musical star George Hearn featured a 5-foot poster.
“I admit that sometimes when you see something, you think, “Hey, I think they made a mistake there”, but some designers like some feedback while others don’t. There is no such thing method.’
MacArthur took over his position in 2002 and previously worked as a freelance costume manufacturer supervisor at the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House. Although these venues are very popular, RSC’s garment factory is the largest (in any case, the number of people), and it can be said that this country has the highest production. Divided into five main divisions – menswear, womenswear, footwear and armory, dyeing and painting, as well as jewelry and womenswear – have hardly changed for decades.
After the initial meeting, McArthur took a step back and allowed interior clothing executives to start purchasing fabrics and threads. Recently, the company signed a three-year agreement with Coats, the world’s leading thread manufacturer, to help RSC obtain 186,000 yards of apparel threads each year. Hundreds of fabric samples are also in the building, and they are more inspiring in a large warehouse on the road for five minutes, where about 30,000 old garments are kept in a controlled temperature and humidity environment. Avoid moisture or creatures destroying them.