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Paloma Young, costume designer

A Conversation with Corey Ruzicano & Paloma Young


Corey: Totally, and I keep thinking about something else you said in another previous interview, the idea that seeing a character through the lens of when they actually lived gives us the permission to forgive them and that was such a good articulation for me of how much power you have as a designer. We’re such an image-based culture, how do you harness that power and focus it toward storytelling?

Paloma: The biggest thing I do is listen to my collaborators. I’m one brain and I come to the table with my own cultural biases and my own visual biases and I like to think that I am very self critical that I am always on the lookout for how people are interacting around me and how people dress, and that I am doing my best to understand as much of the cultural context as possible at all times, but really knowing that the more input I can have, the better. And learning to be open to that and not defensive is how I sort of hopefully get to the best place of storytelling. There will always be two people in the audience that read the same dress two radically different ways because we’re all different human beings, but my goal is to get at least most of the people engaged in the story and engaged in a way that is not distancing. Even if they’re reading it differently, they’re reading it with interest and so they might take away a different story, but they’re still engaging. One of the things I try to get away from is the idea of, let’s make a costume that’s simple and beautiful and pleasing to everybody, or is absolutely an archetype or a play off of archetypes. I like to have a variation in there because even though it’s a costume, it should still feel like clothing that the character is wearing, unless it’s a big Busby Berkeley number and there are sunflower headdresses, there’s not really a human behind that, that’s just fun and magic and color.