Tag Archives: Costume Designer

Mozhi Li on storytelling through fashion and new film ‘Where Dreams Rest’

In her teenage years, China’s Mozhi (Leila) Li was obsessed with Broadway shows and historical films. She was transfixed by what she saw on screen, with characters in elaborate costumes reflecting their personalities. Li instantly was fascinated by how fashion could be presented through the screen and on stage, and she knew she was meant to pursue a career in costume design.

“I use my gift and knowledge to help my clients pull their characters from the script to reality. Through communications and understanding of the story, I also use my aesthetic gift along with design principles to work as a team member with other visual departments, together to create a perfect frame in film. It’s more of a team job than individual success but that’s what makes me so determined with my job,” she said.

Throughout her career, Li has proven time and time again why she is such an in-demand costume designer and wardrobe stylist. Millions have seen her work in music videos for Jason Zhang and Yitai Wang and the films ZeroUnder Heart, and Where Dreams Rest. The last of which is one of the highlights of Li’s esteemed career.

Where Dreams Restfollows a young Chinese woman who crosses the US-Mexico border to chase after her American dream. It was an Official Selection at the Lady Filmmakers Festival, where many connected with the timely and dramatic story.

“The film talks about a strong feminine figure, who has this devoted love to her partner, which is touching. There are other immigrants with different races and characters in this film. Even though some of them are non-speaking roles, I love the details of the story given for each character, it gave some vulnerable feelings when I went through these supporting roles,” said Li.

Li was touched by the script and knew instantly she wanted to be a part of the film. The story is based on a working-class background. This created a unique challenge with choosing and aging costumes for the main character, while still ensuring her presentation would work well on cameras with all the colors balanced with the scene.

“Costumes can reflect large amount of details and stories behind each character. Especially for this project, the background is very realistic. It’s important to deliver the real-life texture to each costume by distressing and aging them professionally,” Li described.

The best part of the experience for the costume designer was the team she worked with. She thought the director was thoughtful and gifted, and the actors were passionate. She enjoyed her interactions with the art department, discussing ideas of color and fabrications.

“The story was touching, and all the characters have colorful personalities. I really enjoyed exchanging ideas and thoughts when I first met the director and production designer, they are talented and passionate young filmmakers. Everybody is devoted and played a great part in a team, that’s always the project you look forward to working with. All these factors made me feel it would be a project worth my time,” Li concluded.

 

Written by Annabelle Lee

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Angela Trivino takes audiences back in time with costume design in award-winning film “Tragiometry”

Growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, Angela Trivino was surrounded by yards of fabric in her mother’s studio; it was an upbringing that would lead to her destiny. The steadfast sound of a sewing machine was as familiar as a friendly voice, and slowly, clothing and fashion became a way of seeing the world. There was never a question as to what she would become later in life: she would follow her passion. However, becoming one of Colombia’s best costume designers needed more than passion, it required hard work and innate talent.

Trivino’s world continues to be filled with fabric and design. She is a true artist, lending her vision to countless films, stage productions, commercials, and music videos. She helps directors realize their goals in a completely visual way. Without her, time travel through the lens of a camera would not be possible, as clothing is vital to transporting an audience member to a different era. Her work was key to the success of the award-winning film Tragiometry, a dark comedy set in the 19th century.

Tragiometry was my first time designing a period film, and I loved the challenge of exploring concepts like femininity, elegance, comedy, and darkness in an era in which these words had a completely different connotation from the one they have today. It always feels great to escape from our world and travel back in time,” said Trivino.

Tragiometry revolves around an undertaker Mr. Vizor, who in the process of treating a dead Mr. Moore’s body, discovers that he’s very much alive, simply awakening from a lethargic sleep. To his outmost surprise, Mr. Vizor finds out that the man is utterly unhappy about being alive and he desperately wishes to go down The Gates of Hades, this time in reality. Two men, two different stories, yet the same questions — does death become a punishment for wasting every second?  Or maybe life itself is a greater punishment for someone who has a meaningless existence.

“I enjoyed this project so much. The energy on set was great, and the artistic conversations with every head of department were incredibly inspiring. On the other hand, the nature of the project gave me a lot of space to explore creatively, which is always amazing,” she said.

Trivino’s role of costume designer for the film required her to stay loyal to the time period and research the history, costumes, and cultural mannerisms extensively to ensure accuracy. The film is a comedy, and her costume design had to still portray that side of the film while being historically correct. After approval of her sketches from Tatyana Kim, the director of the film, and after taking the pertinent measurements to the actors, she built the period garments.

“Tatyana was such an inspiration during the whole process. We have very similar aesthetics and ways of approaching narratives.  She also understands costumes really well, you don’t always get to have conversations with directors that understand concepts like silhouette and fabric textures in camera,” said Trivino.

Leading two seamstresses and a costume assistant in the making of some of the garments used in the film, Trivino made sure her vision was met. During filming, she was on set to dress the actors, and make sure that every single garment was worn according to the period.

For Trivino, the biggest challenge for the film to be successful was to make interesting creative choices without risking justice to the period. In order to achieve this, she extensively researched not only the period, but also the characters and the comedy they carried within. She worked close to the cinematographer, which was key to achieving a well-controlled palette and beautiful, well-composed frames.

“Angela is a joy to work with from beginning to end. As a writer and director, I work with each character from its conception, and Angela has this incredible ability to come up with the perfect visual interpretation of this person that I created through words. Her character–based approach to costume design really digs into each personality and story to figure out what the costume needs are to help the actor inhabit that person. For Tragiometry we were working with a story set in the 19th Century, and Angela focused in not just designing a period accurate film, but in finding the character that lived in that period,” said Tatyana Kim.

This commitment and vision that Trivino carried with her on the project led to Tragiometry having immense success at several international film festivals. It was an Official Selection at Ciné Women Europe 2015, Los Angeles CineFest 2015, China Women’s Film Festival, Pasadena International Film Festival 2017, and the prestigious Cannes Short Film Corner. It won Best Director and Best Actor at the TMFF Glasgow 2015, and was part of the Golden Drama Awards Austria 2015.

“I hate to say it, but I was not surprised that the film was so successful. From the moment I read the script, I knew only great things could happen to such a brilliant story,” Trivino concluded. “The real surprise was finding about Cannes, we knew it was going to do great but not that great.”