The designer nominated for Costume Design on The Danish Girl says to be yourself, and chill.
FIDM was honored this morning with a visit from Academy Award Nominee Paco Delgado, Costume Designer for The Danish Girl. He stopped by the FIDM Museum & Galleries for interviews from publications gearing up for the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, February 28. We sat down with him to find out more about his life and career, and to ask for advice he might have for aspiring costume designers.
FC: Our audience has aspiring costume designers trying to figure out how to break into the industry. How did you get your start?
Paco: The thing is I studied something completely different at university. I did physics.
FC: We heard you did set design, but physics?
Paco: Yes, that’s the second part of the story. I was always very, very interested in theatre, and especially in the visual aspects of theatre. Then I decided to get more into the design aspects of theatre. Then I started being a set designer. And I didn’t have any interest in costumes at all. Well, I had interest in costumes but it wasn’t my main aim. And what happened is I was working in very small productions and they never had any money to hire two people. Basically they didn’t even have money to hire one person. I started doing sets. They asked me sometimes to do the costumes as well. The thing is I always thought of the costumes sort of as a side dish somehow to the set. But I am ashamed for that now. But that was how I thought. I started doing costumes a little by little. People started to say my costumes looked very interesting. And then more people started calling me for costumes. And basically I started doing costumes and no sets. My sets were not as good as my costumes. The thing is when I was starting I was very unaware of how difficult they were. And I think through years and years working in them, I started finding them more fascinating and more interesting, and now I’m completely hooked in them. I really love costumes.
FC: What is it about The Danish Girl that sparked your interest in getting involved in this film?
Paco: Basically, the script. I just thought that the whole story was very interesting, very relevant now-a-days. For me, it was a great opportunity to work on something I believe is, it was a great project, even just to make visible the life of this amazing woman that she was fighting against society, and she was a pioneer in transgender. In that way, it was a really great privilege. And that was what really moved me to do this movie, apart from the fact that the director, Tom Hooper—I have worked with him in the past. And the actor was Eddie Redmayne, and I have worked with him in the past as well. I always enjoyed working with him.
FC: What can a high school student do now, if they want to get into costume design, to gain experience?
Paco: They should get into an interesting school that opens their minds to understand who they are. When you are in the process of getting into a profession, you need to open up inside yourself to see who you are and what are your potentials. I think that’s the most important thing. And the other thing I would say is, chill. Follow the flow. And you might end up doing something you never expected. That’s what happened to me. And it’s an amazing way to sort of navigate in life.
FC: The work of Coco Chanel, Lanvin, and Paul Poiret served as inspiration for the costumes you designed for The Danish Girl. What did you do to research their designs and their work?
Paco: Well, basically you do everything you can. You go to see collections to see the real garments, the fabrics. I, myself, am a collector. I have a really interesting collection of especially ‘20s. You revisit all the Vogues of the period and catalogs of exhibitions.
FC: You’re a collector yourself. Where do you find the pieces? Where do you shop?
Paco: The internet, auctions, and word of mouth. People say, ‘Oh my mother had this, my grandmother had this Chanel. Maybe you’re interested to look at them.’
FC: So you can say that the arts and culture and visiting these collections really inspire you?
Paco: I think definitely it’s very important, I think, as a designer, as a student, is to revisit what people have done in the past. I think this is the key. It’s just amazing to see a garment. And if you have the opportunity to see a garment in life. And not just exterior, sometimes to see how it’s made inside. That’s where the knowledge is—in the seams, in the construction, and that’s how it reflects the outside.
FC: What’s one key piece of advice for aspiring costume designers?
Paco: Be yourself and chill. Don’t get very anxious about your life. I know students get very anxious normally—what am I going to be, what is going to be of myself. Keep it cool.
See costumes from The Danish Girl and other 2015 films on display until April 30th at the FIDM Museum & Galleries. Plus, find out about earning a degree in Film & TV Costume Design from FIDM.