In film, costumes are lauded for their beauty, their construction, or their historical accuracy. Yet the wardrobe concoctions we see on screen are not born of fabric and trim but words on a page, conceived by a screenwriter to help bring a particular world to life. This connection between the written word and the sartorial object is bridged by an art installation created to support an upcoming exhibit from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences called Hollywood Costumes.
“Words into Characters” is an installation in which renowned multimedia Jum Nakao transformed a script from Sofia Coppola’s dreamy period piece Marie Antoinette into a paper version of the blue ball gown and headpiece worn by Kirsten Dunst in the film.
Agency 180LA was initially asked to develop promotional materials for the travelling exhibit–which features over 150 costumes from film history and will run in Los Angeles from October 2 until March 15, 2015–but rather than suggesting traditional executions like print and banner ads Stephen Larkin, chief marketing officer says the agency wanted to do something more experiential.
“Much like the art of costume design itself, we wanted to bring the scripts to life, to turn words into characters. The physical transformation of the script into the character is a really tangible way for people to appreciate Hollywood Costumes and the art of costume design,” he says.
Larkin says a great deal of thought went into which dress to re-create. The agency wanted to choose a dramatic and artful period piece, but also one that was awarded an Oscar for costume design. The 2006 version of Marie Antoinette provided plenty of inspiration, he says, since costume designer Milena Canonero created over 60 elaborate French ballroom gowns for the queen alone.
They also had to find the right artist to bring the idea to life. “We weren’t just building something, we were creating art,” Larkin says. “There are only a few people on the planet that excel in paper artistry. After extensive research, we were lucky enough to partner with renowned multimedia artist, Jum Nakao, based in Brazil.” Nakao was set up in a light and airy loft in Los Angeles and in a matter of eight days crafted an ornate paper replica of Antoinette’s gown. “The loft was bright and white that could act as a blank canvas where Jum could create. It was incredible because at the end of the week we had something that was artful and beautiful.”
The dress is currently on display at the Wilshire May Company Building at the Grove, where it will stand before moving around the city, and is encased in a grand glass case. “How we presented this dress was just as important,” says Larkin. “Each piece of art needs its own frame.”