AWARDS INTERVIEW: Louise Wakefield

Louise Wakefield won the 2012 APDG Costume Design For Screen Award for her work on “Underbelly: Razor”. The APDG caught up with Louise to ask her about her award winning work. 

1. Can you tell us a bit about your design process for Underbelly: Razor

Early days Paddy Reardon (Production Designer) and I joined with the writers to discuss the scope of an Underbelly series of the Razor Gang Wars. As always, in the early stages we needed to work out how and where we could make a successful series for a workable budget. 

Research included examining the Sydney police mug shot photograph collection that was published in City of Shadows and other volumes. Underbelly: Razor was made prior to Peaky Blinders and Miss Fisher but I’m fairly sure we all have made use of this great collection for reference.

I was concerned about the lack of wearable period costume for this period in Australia as well as aware there would be lots of multiples required for action scenes, stunts, blood, etc. as well as the need for a strong colour luxe palette to make it sing. 

Gleaning as much stock locally for hire, including some beautiful originals from Vintage Clothing, as well as having a trip to Angels in London approved early days was paramount. 

In addition, mounting a sizable costume manufacture department, with Costume Supervisor Robyn Elliot, was key to being able to pull together a suite of costumes quickly. Great cutters, craftspeople, art finishers and milliners all-important to be ready for the dressing team.

I used simple designs that could be easily adapted so cutters could turn out clothing quickly with batches of hand dyed silks, trims and other fabrics ready to go to cope with the scale and late casting that would often occur. The hats for women by Bronwyn Shooks were often icing on the cake and I always worked closely with the makeup/ hair designer Angela Conte to give a unified result. 

A real attitude was reproduced by dressing the rougher male characters in a mismatch style using a mix of periods and making sure everything had a lived in individual look.

Quick sewn unlined soft jackets that could be washed and made in multiples for fight scenes and stocks of pants and waistcoats in fabrics that had texture and could be quickly aged was important.  A flourish of a hat shape, vintage tie or collar would craft a different silhouette.

 I remember the need for speed and volume being an enemy – but also a virtue when it was used to determine a style of make do and simplicity of line of the 1920’s.  

I let colour and texture do a lot of the work too. Using rough worn earthy colours for some characters as well as contrasting with the slick shiny jewels tones for others. I did enjoy the design process – really focusing on the period  – an era of desperation as well as confidence and amazing change. It seemed to help me draw and come up with solutions fast!

2. Why did you decide to enter your work on Underbelly: Razor into the APDG Awards? 

Paddy Reardon and I were encouraged to enter by Scott Bird who was Paddy’s art director at the time and active in the APDG. 

Underbelly: Razor was a huge undertaking for the creative team and I was especially interested to shine a light on the team effort. We were required to submit stills, a clip and a statement describing the design process… all on copies of DVD’S!!! for the judging panel. 

In 2012 the Costume Award was for “Screen” which encompassed both TV and Features – no separate awards were given for the different fields. At this time, the ACCTA Awards did not give costume awards for TV, only features, so the APDG were first to recognise the quality of work going on in TV. 

3. What do you think makes a work “award winning”?

Difficult to say in some ways, as there are always individual reasons a person or panel might judge a design as “award winning” but a successful design should create a unified world for the characters to live and inhabit that is convincing and supportive of the story and style of the production.  It somehow is pleasing to view a production that achieves this without detracting from the flow of the narrative… but also adds to the experience.