Have you ever wanted to run away to the circus? I was lucky enough to do just that, although it was not for my incredible juggling , yo-yo skills or acrobatic prowess. No, it was all in the name of FASHION. She Society were excited to be invited to visit Cirque Du Soleil- Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities and experience a meet and greet with their beautiful and welcoming Head of Wardrobe, Julie de Simone. I was in the company of an amazing group of talented emerging designers and their lecturers from the fashion design course at Brisbane TAFE.
All students had been invited to Opening Night where they’d designed and worn their own Cirque inspired costumes. These aspiring costume designers were very excited to find out about the amazing steam punk creations they’d seen on stage, the costumes designs and fabrics and the day to day workings of organising the wardrobe for over 100 performers and 20 stagehands every day.
About Julie de Simone
Julie is originally a Boston native who studied International Business and Management before completing a Fashion course. She was so determined to work with Cirque Du Soleil that she interviewed for four years before gaining a position with Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas. After working in Las Vegas for 10 years she was bitten by the wanderlust and joined Kurios , touring in Japan and Singapore before coming to Australia. Her first piece of advice to the aspiring costume designers was if this is your goal ‘Never give up!‘
The Role of Head of Costume
The role of Head of Wardrobe is so varied and every day is different. Julie has a team of eight, four full time staff and four locals, who undertake a rigorous interview process before being asked to join the team. Jobs range from grooming the many moustaches, mending costumes, replenishing the performer’s make up kits and organising and ordering the stupendous costumes. Julie must keep meticulous records so that everything runs smoothly.
Every performer has two costumes. When new costumes are required they come from the main design house in Montreal. Acrobats may need new costumes every six months but those with less rigorous roles might be renewed every year. Julie is in charge of all aspects, so her varied studies and time in retail at Neiman Marcus have all prepared her for such a diverse role.
When I asked which part of her job she enjoys most, she thinks, before saying, “It’s actually moments like this. Speaking to up and coming students makes me realise how great my job is and how lucky I am to be travelling the world doing what I love. Being with Cirque is all consuming , we live together, work together, travel together. When the Grand Chapiteau is being put up we all get our hard hats on and work together. Having you here reminds me why I love my job so much. There are only about 12 of us in the world doing my job and we occasionally meet up in Montreal. We do share resources and knowledge. If someone else has been touring in Australia and I need to find a particular item I can ask them. Sometimes you’re in a place where language is a barrier or you’re a long way from the major shops, so we can help each other figure things out. To be reminded that I’m living my dream is very special.”
Kurios is set in the late 19th century, in a makeshift mechanical world. The steampunk designed costumes were created by Philippe Guillotel. Some of his quirky designs were created by 3D printing and others have single elements that weigh more than 9kg. The diver’s mask is one such prop which is attached to the performer via magnets. We marvelled at Mr Accordion’s pants which go up and down through using the levers inside. It took an entire week to sew inside this amazing costume. An ethereal green jacket with leather accents was a favourite for me. Perhaps I could borrow it for Fashion Week. It was so stylish, with head wear to match.
Many costumes are made from a polyester blend with prints so they can be easily thrown in the wash. Julie showed us the laundry room where a bank of nine industrial Miele washing machines churn away all day. The crew of twenty have their own groovy overalls which we all coveted. We visited the expansive costume closet which was a riot of colour, design and fabulous fabric. I know we were all longing to play dress ups.
The Fashion student’s shining faces and joy said it all. For many it had cemented their dreams, given them inspiration for their future costume designs and introduced them to new and ingenious design elements and a wealth of fabrics.To see the costumes up close and personal was a dream come true. I was privileged to be a part of it.
To see these glorious creations for yourself, Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities will be playing under the Grand Chapiteau, Northshore Hamilton until February 23. Thanks to Kath Rose for such an exclusive and inspiring invitation and Sarah Sweeney for organising us on the day. Seeing the design students whimsical creations made me realise that the next generation of Costume Design is in good hands and that there are opportunities and design elements that we haven’t even thought of which will come to the fore in the future.Thanks to Julie de Simone and the Kurios team for inviting us behind the seams to enjoy a glimpse into their whimsical world.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).