IFTN talks to Aisling Wallace Byrne – the costume designer of gangster drama ‘Love/Hate’.
Here, we talk to Byrne about her work on ‘Love/Hate’, Roger Corman opening many doors for her and still looking for items to dress Nidge and Trish in even after shooting has wrapped.
IFTN: Tell us about your work on ‘Love/Hate’?
Aisling Wallace Byrne:‘Working on ‘Love/Hate’ with Dave Caffrey as director and Stuart Carolan as writer - along with a very talented bunch of actors - made it a fabulous project to be involved in. As the seasons progressed we really had a great grasp of the characters which made it much easier in those later seasons. Dressing these types of characters was so much fun and we had lots of entertaining costume fittings. We also had lots and lots of requirements for repeats for all our injuries!I still find myself picking up perfect Nidge and Trish pieces when I am out shopping!’
What training/education did you receive to become a costume designer?
‘I got my degree in fashion design in Limerick College of Art and Design and have so many fond memories of being immersed in fashion all day every day. Following that I did a period costume design course in the Royal College of Fashion in London where I specialized in leather design and proceeded to work in the fashion industry in Ireland.’
What was your first job in the industry?
‘My initial job in the film industry came about just by chance, I was asked to design and manufacture for Mia Farrow and I then started to work with Roger Corman both in Ireland and LA. Receiving the hands on training Roger was infamous for opened many, many doors in LA and enabled me to be trained with some great designers and directors.’
What do you enjoy most about being a costume designer? And what do you consider the greatest challenges?
‘I was given invaluable advice in college that if you do what you love most you will never work a day in your life. Each project brings with it its own design challenges but when you are loving what you do I think finding the solution is so rewarding. Designing for actors who also need to bring their views and wishes to the table ,along with directors and production designers means it is a collaborative event and marrying all those wishes along with function are both challenging and rewarding.’
Describe your typical working day and the equipment you use.
‘Working days vary totally which is what makes it all so enjoyable. When working on period productions, I am initially immersed in research and designing and illustration, and this is where I feel most exhilarated - searching through fabrics, visiting vast costume rental houses, getting designs from illustration and working drawings to full costume fittings is and has always been magical. Other projects require shopping – which vary from browsing at your leisure to vast shopping expeditions where your spirits lift when you know you have found IT.’
‘And then there are the fitting days - where the day commences with nerves thinking about what if nothing works and moves on to the absolute joy when in front of your eyes the character comes alive and you know you have got it right! I love it all and I love that it is all so varied!’
What filmmaker/costume designer has influenced you?
‘Influences in fashion of old have always been, Gaultier, Galliano, Versace and McQueen. In film - Colleen Atwood always nails it to perfection – she’s faultless. Tim Burton and Wes Anderson are brilliant - every frame is a work of art!’
What Irish film or TV show would you have loved to have worked on?
‘I have always said I would love to have worked on ‘Father Ted’ - not for the design challenge - but just to have worked on such a fun production. After all these years and numerous repeats, I still laugh every time! I imagine the crew must have been in tears laughing through every take!’
What films and TV shows did you enjoy growing up that may have encouraged you to work in the industry?
‘I grew up immersed in Theatre with my parents Ann and Bobby Byrne in Limerick and I imagine those childhood years spent backstage in the wonderful Savoy Theatre must have ingrained in me such a love of the buzz and excitement of costumes. I loved the old Hollywood Panavision movies set in Hollywood and all the musicals and west end shows in London and on Broadway. Our house was a constant hive of theatrical activity and I guess the dye was set at an early age - although my father being an English teacher did try and persuade me to get a real qualification under my belt. My parents were - before they passed away – very happy and proud to see me in such a rewarding career.’
What’s the difference between working on an Irish production and working on an international production for you?
‘The wonderful thing about the film world is no matter what set and whichever country you are in it is always familiar. Everyone just falls into place and you just do your thing be it an Irish or international production! Although I must say that shooting in sunshine is very nice! I am eternally grateful to be working within this industry. It has brought me across the world. I have met great people and can’t think of how my life would be had I not been in the right place at the right time. One must say this is also a tough business and lots of sacrifices have been made with time constraints those in the business will be all too familiar of – or of all the friendships neglected and important occasions that have been missed because of shooting schedules.’
What advice would you give to anyone wishing to get into costume design?
‘I would advise anyone considering embarking on a career in costume to firstly study fashion/costume design. One needs to understand the evolution of clothes and the construction of clothes to understand what is in the realms of possibility. Study people and collect characters in your head, I constantly make mental notes on those little details that create credible characters, And lastly knock on doors and knock again because where there is a will there is a way.’