Meeting TORUK Costume Designer Kym Barrett

The fabric of the Na’vi

Turquoise shimmers, glorious attires and greenery-inspired garments… TORUK – The First Flight’s costume workshop is a mix of colors and fabrics from which costume designers, artisans, and assistant designers get to create the artists’ second skins. Let’s follow TORUK – The First Flight costume and makeup designer Kym Barrett inside her workshop, where every decision is always a calculated one.

Inside the TORUK – The First Flight costume workshop, dozens of skilled hands are busy drawing, dyeing, cutting and fitting all sorts of cloths. Amongst them are Kym Barrett’s, who is responsible for designing every single costume.

Originally from Australia, she became famous after dressing Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Romeo + Juliet and creating the mythical style of The Matrix trilogy characters. She had already worked on Cirque du Soleil’s TOTEM, but this new show TORUK – The First Flight presents unique challenges : for one, the story is being told mostly by one of the main characters, the Narrator, played by Raymond O’Neill.

“This means that the costumes must also tell a part of the story,” says Barrett. Pandora’s inhabitants, the Na’vi, are divided into five clans – Kekunan, Omaticaya, Anurai, Timpani, Tawkami – each with its own colors and attributes. Some wear elaborate headdresses while others are adorned with organic accessories. And each character has its own look.

“Just like in real life, each has its own personality and style.”

Picture: one for each clan with a description saying that this is an example for a member of that clan You also need to strike the perfect balance between comfort for the artist who wears the costume, and authenticity for the audience.

“We’re trying to create Pandoran fibers which, of course, don’t exist in our world”, observes Barrett.

What’s more, the costumes need to look like they were handmade by the Na’vi. “We use certain materials that imitate objects that would normally be found in nature,” she adds. For example, crinoline is used to give the illusion of a loin cloth made of leaves.

“The main challenge with TORUK – The First Flight lies in transforming a stadium into a whole other universe while giving a 180 degree panoramic view to the audience,” explains Barrett. In spite of the sheer size of the set, the audience should feel immersed in Pandora’s landscape, even when the action takes place a bit further away.

“All characters and actions need to be clearly visible from all angles,” and the technical intricacies of the costumes should remain invisible to the audience. That’s why the costumes need to show just enough details so as to look handmade when seen close-up, and still have that organic, shimmery, intriguing feel from afar, explains the costume designer.

The flamboyant fabrics, elaborate cloths and detailed accessories should satisfy even the biggest fans of James Camerons’ Avatar. These costumes will add a lot of color and vitality to TORUK – The First Flight, and will largely contribute to making the audience feel like they are traveling to faraway lands, planets and universes.

{ SOURCE: Cirque du Soleil | }