Words by Matt Huxley
The latest extravaganza from Cirque du Soleil is about to hit our shores, with the fantastic production of Kooza the latest in their arsenal. Returning to their roots, the production highlights acrobatics and the art of clowning, two skills integral to the circus. To give me the lowdown on all the wonderful costumes in the production, I spoke with the Head of Wardrobe Jason Brass.
IOP: Jason! Great to chat with you.
JB: Hey Matt, it’s nice to hear from you.
One of the underlying concepts of Kooza is the idea of circus in a box, how did you bring this idea over into the wardrobe?
Well our French Canadian designer Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt over in Montreal pulled the costumes all together. She gained inspiration from a wide range of areas. Rock and Roll, Mad Max, Superheroes, there was a very wide gamit of design. They created the world of Kooza and what it looks like.
What were the inspirations behind the costumes?
The painter Klimt, Superheroes, Rock and Roll and it’s very heavily military inspired. We have a Red and White army for Acts 1 and 2 respectively. However the army is more like a tin soldier army if that makes sense.
Obviously being a circus, the costumes need to be quite durable, but breathable for the performers, what materials were used in the making of the costumes?
Everything from silk to wool, stretch wool, lycra, tassels, velvet, pretty much anything you could ever imagine! We were very lucky. Cirque du Soleil purchase all their fabric in white and dye it themselves, everything is embroidered by us.
There’s quite an emphasis on the idea of clowns in this production, being quite a well known historical figure, how have you updated or modernised the quintessential clown costume?
We are using more character clowns, not a traditional circus clown that one would think of. We have 3 main clowns. They’re more stylised with tail coats and represent the court jester style but a bit more modernised.
Where were the outfits produced?
Headquarters is in montreal. We take up to 300 measurements and a 3D scan for each artist. Everything is custom made. The longest costume to make is 281 hours. It’s a big process and the time takes depends on each piece. Sometimes we can do 3d printing for an outfit. It depends on the character.
Tell me about your history in costuming?
I have been in the industry for many years now, I was fortunate to work in theatre when I was 14 and fell in love with it. I’ve been with Cirque du Soleil for 15 years. I started off as a swing wardrobe technician. So being the replacement for every single person. I’ve gone to school for shoe making, hat making, wig making, sewing, construction, everything. That’s the reason I was chosen to join, because I had a broad background.
How has this experience helped you with Kooza?
Absolutely, on tour there’s only 3 full timers and we hire 4 local staff during the run. Having a wide background has definitely given me the experience necessary to maintain the designer’s vision.
Have there been any wardrobe malfunctions during Kooza? Any funny stories that you can outline?
Things happen every day. People go on with mismatching items, the artists are pretty responsible though, we get the occasional button falling off. We inspect every item every day to make sure that the artist is safe.
Ok it’s time for our rapid fire series, get ready!
Favourite late night working snack?
Sweet n sour candy
Favourite iconic figure?
Most inspirational fashion period?
Most hated fashion moment?
Janet Jackson at the superbowl.
Thanks for your time
Make sure you go purchase your tickets to Kooza now! Don’t miss out on this amazing show.
Image of Jason: Supplied
Image of Costumes: Cirque du Soleil