Interview with Fashion and Costume Designer Andrea Galer

Have you always been interested in fashion or costume designing? Are you currently on a course or pursuing a career in fashion or costume? If any of these are true then you need to read our interview with Andrea Galer a high-profile film costume and fashion designer with numerous credits to her name including ‘Bleak House’, ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Jane Eyre’.

How did you first get started in costume design?

In the 60’s I was designing and making my ideas for various artists, musicians and a lot for Julie Christie for her personal wardrobe plus making for theatre productions, Glyndebourne, ballet etc, I didn’t go to college and was and always have been passionate about making, techniques etc and there is no point having ideas if you actually do not understand how to make up your ideas.

How hard has it been to break in to the business?

The progress is ongoing, challenging and at this point of time there are far to many students who are highly creative and when they leave college cannot easily reach their dreams, so when I select post graduates to become involved with my projects, knowing that as a freelancer looking for work and getting a break leads to a lot of depression.

You are now in high demand by many different companies, what sector do you get most business in and do you feel it is better just to cater to one sector or be able to work with all sectors?

The activities in Power of Hands Foundation and how I link it to my exhibitions and films I am making myself are taking over and actually the problem at the moment is that budgets are low and mostly the budgets given are making it impossible to be creative so few and far between projects are on the go and at the top there are too many good designers looking for work so actually it’s a cattle market even in my position.

What do you feel has set you out from the rest in the market?

I have been developing AG fashion collections for 20 years and making the film costumes through my own design studio hence putting on exhibitions of my work with National Trust etc with those exhibitions I include the films I am making and putting on events – this year the installation I am doing in Bath is a major multi faceted project, others around the UK are in progress.

CONNECTING JANE AUSTEN TO MY WORK

Andrea is currently producing films, which are part of her exhibitions; footage shot at Ham House Richmond will be used to produce a 10 minute film to run at the exhibition in Bath opening March 2008 at The Jane Austen Centre. The films use locations and Andrea’s costume collection to connect to lifestyle past and present. Presently linking Jane Austen’s world to filming today and ‘Miss Austen Regrets’ – a BBC drama screening Easter.

Within the exhibition we use quotes from Jane Austen’s novels and letters, photographic backdrops of SW locations, costumes, sounds and music, to an ever evolving filming/exhibition schedule, which connects her world to the SW today.

The theme of connecting lifestyle past and present within historic buildings provides inspiration and unusual connecting themes.

Catalogue and film for Bath connects to the life style in Britain at the time of the writer Jane Austen.

How competitive is the costume design business in the UK?

There is a crisis all over the world on the lack of respect on lifestyle so presently being creative and earning as a costume designer is not easy at the moment.

What skills and qualifications do you need to succeed in the business?

To be Multifaceted.

Are there any colleges or Universities in the UK that are seen as the best to learn costume design at?

There are a few but really not easy for me to answer that for it is alarming how easy it is for students to invest so much money on courses and then not get work – I really think it is frightening at the moment with loans etc.

Is it best to start by working for other people before setting up by yourself?

It is the only way.

What advice would you give to any aspiring you costume designer?

Make sure you have a grounded talent which earns you the money you need, costume designer is for most unachievable and really it isn’t a qualification it’s a life journey, so I suggest students consider deeply their path – mine this year pivots around:

ETHICAL FAIR TRADE DEVELOPMENT VIA AG GALLE LACE COLLECTION

A 15 piece collection has been sampled using the Galle lace, the lace is produced in Sri Lanka and collection sampled and produced in the UK, in this form limited editions can be offered. This collection can be ordered via the website where wholesale enquires can be discussed with outlets that target the sophisticated woman with a social conscience.

Sales of this lace collection subsidize and stabilize the Galle project.

The Galle lace project is helping women and children in poverty today www.powerofhandsfoundation.org. The desperate plight of these women is being highlighted through the AG label.

Samples are available for press etc.

EDUCATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

The film, fashion, theatre and master craftsmen in tailoring etc realize that expertise is not valued or generally viable in the retail world, however the loss of craft skills has a knock on effect on lifestyle. Within her exhibition schedule educational themes are developed.

Over the past 5 years an educational programme has evolved which can link to all National Trust buildings, museums etc and also can tie to schools/colleges working with National Trust buildings and other venues we offer expertise from the media world providing an exhibition schedule focusing on:

1) Showing those in the West the dilemma of those around the world who still retain skills which have evolved over many centuries including embroidery, lace making, printing, weaving etc. who need help and direction to survive on the planet today, presently dealing with lace makers in Galle.

2) In 2008 we are starting a series of catalogues which cover topics connected to crafts and lifestyle past and present.

3) We produce documentary films that connect past to present through film sets, costumes and link to arts and crafts today and those producing them working with Production designers / Costume designers / Hair / Make-up this programme builds a UK trainee scheme to provides ways for students to learn skills no longer viable in the West. With funding this scheme benefits those who also wish to train with those involved with providing a look for films today.