22 February 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
Q&A with Leonie Prendergast – Costume Designer for ‘All is By My Side’
29 Oct 2014 : Deirdre Molumby
Shot in Dublin and co-produced by Irish production company Subotica, the biopic ‘All is By My Side’ out in cinemas now. Based on the life of Jimi Hendrix (played by Outcast’s Andre Benjamin), the feature is is directed and written by ‘12 Years a Slave’ writer John Ridley.

‘All is By My Side’ is set in the period of 1966-67 in New York and London. The film traces Jimi’s rise to fame and focuses on the relationships which influence his journey from New York to London. Leonie Prendergast talks about ensuring authenticity and vitality in the film through her costume designs.

From how early a stage did you and John Ridley start discussing the costumes for the film?

“Both John and I began discussing the costumes as soon as I began on the project. I had five weeks prep so time was of the essence. John had been nurturing this film for many years and he had a very clear vision for all aspects of the film. John wished for five iconic Hendrix costumes to be replicated and then he gave me free reign to dress Andre in various looks i.e. what Hendrix would have worn when he wasn’t performing.

“John Ridley’s brief for costume was to represent Jimi as realistic and authentic as possible in the year 1966. When Jimi was living in New York, he was gigging with a variety of bands, he didn’t have a lot of money and he was very thin. Therefore the wardrobe that Jimi had at this time was limited to a couple of shirts and trousers. Jimi also wore a London fog coat which is essentially a trench coat that I sourced in London. We see Andre wear this in the film when he is in New York and also when he travels to London.

“When Jimi arrives to London he meets with Kathy Etchingham who embodies the optimism and youth of the swinging 60’s in London. She introduces him to the various vintage stores that were popular in Carnaby Street and the Kings Road in Chelsea. Granny Takes a Trip was one of the vintage shops that Jimi frequented. This is where he purchased the British Army Veterinary corp Jacket he is famous for wearing.”

What were the key pieces that were replicated for the film?

“We replicated a number of outfits for the film. All the fabric/braiding, buttons etc. were sourced from various habedasheries across London. Gill Howard, our amazing tailor, constructed all the garments from scratch.

“We replicated:

  • The Royal hussar jacket, a military jacket with heavy horizontal gold braid with gold Austrian knots on the sleeve
  • Jimi’s black velvet waistcoat with gold braiding
  • The teal velvet suit
  • The British Army Veterinary Corp Jacket (we adorned a hired jacket to replicate Jimi’s original)
  • The gypsy eye jacket: I hand-painted this jacket which was constructed from cream silk by Denis Darcy. The original jacket was created by Chris Jagger, Mick Jaggers’ brother
  • The westerner hat with purple scarf and rodeo gold filigree pieces
  • The orange velvet printed jacket: the fabric for the jacket had be digitally printed from scratch as the fabric doesn't exist anymore. This was recreated in Scotland and then Gill our tailor constructed it.
  • And various jewellery pieces: Jimi’s onyx ring and a number of his necklaces.

“All of the supporting characters (especially the females) and extras were equally as important.”

What was the greatest challenge in designing the costumes?

“Jimi began soaking up his surrounding and visually transformed into the style icon that he became. The greatest challenge for the costume department was to replicate certain outfits that Jimi wore. We sourced a lot of originally 60s costumes in various costume houses and vintages stores in London. The Irish DJ Dandelion kindly and generously rented us incredible, beautiful original Mary Quant pieces for the film which can be seen on our leading ladies.

“Another challenging part of the process for costume was to honour Hendrix and his huge fan base, i.e., by choosing and recreating and designing costumes that were as authentic and as true to this period in time as we could.

“Also finding a pair of white original Gogo boots in mint condition… we searched every costume house from Italy to LA and found them in Dublin, thanks again to Dandelion, who had 3 pairs!”

What was your personal experience of working on the project?

“Personally it was an incredible film to be part of. Everyone on the crew felt they were part of something very special. I am a huge Hendrix fan and fan of music in general. I am also a huge Outcast fan so to dress Andre as Hendrix was a double thrill! All the cast were a joy and very appreciative of all the work the costume, make-up and hair department put into creating their looks.

“I had an incredible team in the costume department and we loved every minute of working on this film.”

What other projects have you coming up?

“I just finished designing Season 3 of Ripper Street. I designed ‘Love Rosie’ and ‘Gold’ which are both out in cinemas at the moment.”

‘All is By My Side’ is now playing in the IFI and Light House Cinema.

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