From a south-east London studio, Prangsta creates fantastical handmade costumes for theatre productions, events, and individuals. Its client list includes The Globe Theatre, Secret Garden Party, Bestival, Time Out, Daisy Lowe and Rhys Ifans. We caught up with manager and head stylist Holly Jade O’Leary to find out more…
Mel [Wilson] started Prangsta in 1998.
The building was derelict so she went in and improved it, put in the flooring and all the electrics and set up her workshop. Gradually over the years it has become a legitimate business. I’ve been working here for the past four years.
I don’t think you need a background in fashion to be a stylist but you need creative flair. If you want to go into costume design, it’s good to have a solid basis in design because if you’re working to an haute couture standard, it’s so exact and precise – you can’t just pick it up.
I like working with mythological fantasy best because you get to be playful and creative with the styling. At the moment we’re doing some work [like this] for the Goblin King’s Masquerade Ball, which is taking place in May at the Old Vic Tunnels. I like the raggedy, ethereal look because you’re using things that are distressed and you can play with them on the spot.
We’re also working on making our 1920s collection amazing because the demand for it’s getting higher and higher with The Great Gatsby [film] coming up. It’s just being one step ahead: seeing what’s going on and forecasting what’s going to be popular costume-wise by looking at what films are coming out.
I try to guide whoever my client is to what’s going to suit them, rather than them looking at a picture and saying, “Oh I really want this”, because sometimes that’s going to work and sometimes we have to say, “No sorry that’s not going to happen”. It’s marrying someone’s vision for their costume with something that’s going to fit them well and go with their colouring and body shape.
We get everything second hand – from markets, second hand fairs and charity shops – because that’s the ethos of the company. And having dug around for our raw materials we spend weeks re crafting ,disecting and remaking them into Prangsta's exquisite creations. That’s how Mel started it: recycling everything, keeping production in England by us. It’s a protest against throwaway culture. When you’re wearing something that’s been made with love, it wears differently. If [a piece of clothing] is made by people who appreciate the way the fabric moves, it’s going to feel like magic when you wear it. Something made on a mass production line, that is poor quality and made by people who aren’t in particularly good working environments, isn’t going to last long – you’re going to throw it away because you’re bored of it or it’s going to break.
A lot of people might say, “I want to be a costume designer” but you’ve got to be doing it constantly, putting your heart and soul into it. My advice for young costume designers is: don’t put up with your work being second best. Make sure that you’re doing it to the highest quality it can be and if it’s not quite perfect take it apart and do it again.
All images courtesy of Prangsta.
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