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Q&A with Lorna Marie Mugan – costume designer of ‘Peaky Blinders’
06 Mar 2015 : Seán Brosnan
Photography by Robert Viglasky
With the critically acclaimed first season of ‘Peaky Blinders’ now broadcasting on RTÉ2, IFTN caught up with the woman behind the designing of the 1920 period garb worn in the second season of the hit BBC drama.

Costume designer Lorna Marie Mugan has previously been nominated for an Emmy (‘Treasure Island’), a BAFTA (‘Ripper Street’) and six IFTA Awards and she talks here about the growing prosperity of the Peaky Blinders being reflected in their costumes and being prepared for anything as a costume designer.

IFTN: Tell us about your work on Peaky Blinders.

Lorna Marie Mugan: ‘The Peaky Blinder's prosperity is very much reflected in their costume this season. As Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) moves upwards in the world of business and power , his sartorial elegance grows. New rival gangs are introduced, dapper Italians, led by the eccentric Sabini (Noah Taylor) and Jews, led by the gruff Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy). All the key principals costumes were tailor made. The Eden nightclub scenes involved over 200 extras and represented the Peaky's arrival into the bold new world of excess in London, with flamboyant colours and modern shapes in contrast to the austere life in Birmingham.’

What training/education did you receive to become a costume designer?

‘I studied Theatre Design (Set and Costume design) at Wimbledon College of Art in London.’

What was your first job in the industry?

‘A costume trainee on ‘The Hanging Gale’ , a BBC drama series filmed in Donegal 1995.’

What do you enjoy most about being a costume designer? And what do you consider the greatest challenges?

‘I love all of the creative process ; the solitary initial stages of research and sketching, collaboration with Director, D.O.P, Production designer etc, then seeing characters come alive in this micro world we have created. It is challenging on many levels; time, budgets, long hours, late casting, travel….’

Describe your typical working day and the equipment you use.

‘Can vary greatly from day to day both in prep and when shooting...travelling to fittings with tailors, shopping for fabric, selecting crowd costumes from hire shops, reading scripts with new scenes being shot tomorrow with cast (plus stunt doubles) that are not yet confirmed!’

‘My main equipment is a computer and iPad .. photos of everything.’

What filmmaker/costume designer has influenced you?

‘I love Hitchcock, Almodovar, Wong Kar Wei, Pawlikowski and designers like Edith Head (for the Hitchcock glamour) Theadora Van Runckle, Gabriella Pescucci, Milena Canonero, Consolata Boyle, Ann Roth..’

What films and TV shows did you enjoy growing up that may have encouraged you to work in the industry?

‘I grew up on a diet of ‘Charlie’s Angels’, ‘Dallas’, ‘Mork and Mindy’ ...but I do remember being captivated by the 80s TV series ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and the films ‘Tess of the Durbervilles’ (Polanski) and Orlando (Sally Potter).’

What’s the difference between working on an Irish production and working on an international production for you?

‘The job is exactly the same both home and abroad. It's only different when it involves a language you don't speak very well (but it's possible to get by with creative sign language with tailors!..).’

What advice would you give to anyone wishing to get into costume design?

‘Try and study Costume Design if you can first. Be prepared for anything as a Costume trainee. Watching how others do things on set/at fittings is the best way to learn the technical details. Keep building a portfolio showing your skills...it can often be just one particular skill being sought that gets a trainee on board initially ( e.g, embroidery, millinery or even a passion for 80s fashion !..).’

'Peaky Blinders' season one is now airing on RTÉ2 on Sunday night at 9.55pm.




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