James Lavoie, the costume designer of Cirque du Soleil’s latest acrobatic show ‘BAZZAR’, was recently in the city to give Indian audiences their first glimpse of the production before its global premiere here this November. At his exhibit in the run-up to Lakmé Fashion Week 2018 on August 24, Lavoie showcased five of the costumes he has created for the show along with his initial sketches.
We spoke to Lavoie, who previously worked on two Cirque du Soleil productions, ‘Chemins Invisibles‘, ‘REFLEKT’ and ‘JOYA‘, about how he came up with ‘BAZZAR’ wildly colourful outfits.
What were your sources of inspiration for the costumes?
‘BAZZAR’ is about these 30 individual, super diverse, eclectic characters that come together to make a show and so the inspiration (for the costumes) is also equally varied. It comes from the works of contemporary twentieth century artists, conceptual architectural clothing and street style.
I looked at all sorts of different types of art. Sometimes we looked at architecture, […] at pop music videos. There’s influences from like periods in the past, influences from thoughts about the future. You’ll see quite a bit of a contemporary street-wear vibe in there, of course, an awareness of stage costumes and cabaret costumes, all sorts of things.
The hat worn by Maestro, the central character of ‘BAZZAR’, plays an important part in the show. What can you tell us about it?
The hat’s a really fun item because […] it started off as just a pencil sketch – as a lot of ideas do […] and then because of the amazing team at Cirque du Soleil we actually got to bring it to life.
It’s a fully formed top hat but we’ve deconstructed it to a minimalist architectural structure of the set. It has a fun element to it as well because it has one of those things where you drop a ball and the ball spins around and goes through a trap door and sets up a flag and it’s got these little lights in it. So the Maestro’s hat is kind of like as if he has the entire world of ‘BAZZAR’ encapsulated in it.
What are some of the materials you worked with to create these costumes?
The thing with Cirque du Soleil is, it’s not just about making beautiful costumes. It’s also about making costumes that function really, really well with the performances of our artists.
We can’t really just go to a store and work with commercially available fabrics. Every fabric in ‘BAZZAR’ has in some way or the other been created at Cirque du Soleil, often through a variety of processes – whether that’s a combination of dyeing, silk-screening, hand-painting, digital printing, sublimation, laser-cutting, pleating, you know – we have the most amazing textile design team.
On ‘BAZZAR’, we have at least 150 individual fabrics that were created […] to bring the costumes to life on stage so that we get a balance of like an amazing look but also the technical capacity that really works well with our artists’ performances.
How many pieces of costumes does ‘BAZZAR’ travel with to India?
We have 30 individual costumes in ‘BAZZAR’ and you’ll see them on stage every night but, of course, because we’re a touring show we travel with multiples of each costume so that for maintenance reasons we can cycle the costumes in and out. So if you think like 30 costumes and some costumes have five or six, maybe seven items, and you do the math and imagine what’s in the road cases backstage – there’s a lot.
Tell us about your design process.
It’s a good nine-month to one-year long process[…] it starts with a brief and then from there I […] can kind of see where I want to go with it.
Then I just go into a sort of research process[…] which is about just really looking around and having my eyes open – essentially allowing inspiration to come to me and at other times going out to find it. I look around at everything, you know, it’s really like a rigorous research process while at the same time really allowing myself to dream.
Then, of course, you have to do the drawings and work with the entire team to make sure that the ideas you have are the right ideas and then from there of course you enter the workshop process and then that’s like a six-month process of just like working with the 30 artisans who worked on these costumes to bring every single detail to life.