25 May 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
IFTA Q&A Series: Lara Campbell on Costume Design
10 Apr 2024 : Luke Shanahan
Lara Campbell
To mark the 21st anniversary of the IFTA awards, we are showcasing Irish talent who are blazing a trail across our industry, working in front of and behind the camera.

Hosted in association with IFTA, this Q&A Series connects with Irish talent who represent a range of disciplines across our industry.

We find out about their approach to craft, working on the projects they’ve been nominated for, and the best piece of advice they’ve been given in their career.

Lara Campbell is nominated for Best Costume Design for LOLA. This is Campbell’s first IFTA nomination. Her most recent credits include SisterS, God’s Creatures, and Holding.

IFTN: How has your approach to work evolved since you began in the industry and what have you learned?

LARA: “In the beginning I thought my work as designer was more solitary and as the years have passed, I know more and more that there is huge collaboration, many chance encounters and happy synchronicities that can enrich the work if I remain open and aware.”

IFTN: How do you collaborate with the director and other HODs to ensure that the costumes complement the overall vision of the production?

LARA: “Usually I present boards, images, and sketches to the director once I have read the script and looked at the treatments. When the director and I are on the same page I will then go and spend time with the production designer to work out palettes and details.  Oftentimes a location and set decoration can inform the character or my costume may assist the decision making for the set and or props. It’s a really great part of the process. Hair and makeup HODs and I will discuss and examine many possibilities on how to complete looks.”

“Camera and lighting can happen closer to the shoot time. We camera test/check costumes on location where we can.”

“The mood/feeling and beats of the story are carried by us all and it’s important we all remain open to each other’s ideas.”

IFTN: In this project, how did you go about reflecting the personalities of the characters in the costume design?

LARA: “Thomasina’s style was particularly tomboyish. As the two girls inhabited their family home it was possible therefore that Thomasina could feasibly wear her fathers’ clothes. I had a pair of high waisted cotton/linen trousers made in the dreadnought style – this really felt correct and spanned many eras.”

“Teamed with a vintage black shirt which we added vintage white buttons to, really made Thomasina a very cool and accidentally stylish person. This was one of my favourite costumes.”

“We made another pair of men’s trousers in brown Prince of Wales check wool worn with button down braces - this looked grey on camera, adding to the textures and tones, and again worn with a man’s shirt/old fair isle had great timeless character. This is the look in the main poster.”

“Mars is the more feminine and flirtier sister, so we dressed her in delicate sweaters, blouses, scarves and dresses. I used patterned dresses in pinks and browns which in black and white look like a shade of grey.”

“We had a gorgeous black taffeta dress which was very dark on camera – we quickly attached as much diamante as we could, to lift the garment for lighting and cameras.”

IFTN: How do you source and select materials for costumes, and what factors do you consider when choosing fabrics and other materials?

LARA: “The challenge of creating British wartime costumes for the characters in Lola lay in the tiny budget, full covid lockdown, and filming in black and white using very old cameras.”

“Costume hire houses spent long hours on zooms showing me garments since we were prohibited from travelling.”

“Sourcing from family and friends, also makers using their own private supplies of fabrics available to me.”

“Also, some small theatres kindly opened for me to look at stock.”

“All of this was how we achieved the impossible.”

IFTN: Were there any unique creative challenges that this project presented, and if so, how did you overcome these challenges?

LARA: “The importance of textures, fabrics, contrasts, and silhouettes was paramount to lend the piece authenticity and especially since our footage was being spliced with real footage from the period. Crowd scenes from real footage were sliced into shots with real extras so we needed to recreate the same looks.”

“Because we were shooting on these old cameras, we had no monitors to look at and therefore no way of knowing how it looked. Terrifying at times.”

IFTN: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?

LARA: “Watch, listen, look at the person that has been cast or the extra that is before you, and try to work with that body and that personality. Trying to impose a costume on a person that is not that type of character, it does not work. Once I have seen the casting I may change my design idea entirely.”

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