In this ebook excerpt from Tour of Memories, costume designer Grace Snell discusses revealing class through costume in The Souvenir, sourcing period costumes, and the art of collaboration. To read the full interview, get your copy of Tour of Memories: The Creative Process Behind Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir now.
Joanna Hogg uses costumes as a subtle way to reveal character traits and history. Are they insecure, using layers to cover up? Does red betray their passion or anger? Do they wear pastels because they are meek or calm? What do the similarities or differences in what two characters wear say about their relationship?
Costumes are particularly useful as an indicator of class — one of Hogg’s key pre-occupations. In Unrelated, the subtle class difference between Anna (Kathryn Worth) and her posher friends is implied in her less expensive clothing. In Archipelago, the cashmere sweaters and the shirts designed for cufflinks are a clue to the family’s extreme wealth.
In The Souvenir, Julie (Honor Swinton-Byrne) is from a posh upbringing which she wishes to hide, so her daywear is often very comfortable and casual. But her clothing still betrays her wealth: her wardrobe is vast, and the fabrics are expensive. She is able to pay for a tailor-made suit and gown when she goes on a trip to Venice.
Anthony (Tom Burke), on the other hand, has much less wealthy origins than Julie,, but he wants to project an image of extreme wealth. He has a well paying job, so he has enough money for the impressive tailor-made suit he wears throughout the film — but that is the only suit we see him wear throughout the film. But as a heroin addict, he lacks money for anything else.
The Souvenir marked the first collaboration between emerging costume designer Grace Snell and Joanna Hogg. Snell spoke to me about the class details in her costume design, how she came to understand the film’s characters enough to design an entire wardrobe for each of them, and how she sourced the clothes for The Souvenir.
Seventh Row: This was your first film with Joanna Hogg. Can you describe your process for working with Joanna on The Souvenir, from the point where you joined the project to the point when your work on the film was complete?
Grace Snell: It was quite a difficult interview process. I had about four interviews. Joanna works closely with Stéphane [Collonge], the production designer, and on her last few films, he’s been the costume designer, as well. But when The Souvenir started forming, they realised it was too much work; they had to find themselves a costume designer.
Because Joanna hadn’t had a costume designer before, it was very exciting. Nobody quite knew my role. They’ve got such a tight-knit family, and they’ve worked together before on loads of films. So I just cracked on how I would normally, really.
Joanna’s quite a visual person, which I’m sure most directors are. They respond well to images. I just started researching. I brought a library up to Norfolk: 100 books. I just did lots and lots and lots of research, put it all on the walls, and invited Joanna in. We started talking, and she was so generous with her inspirations. She’d bring some of her own pieces [of clothing from the ‘80s] that we could talk through.
Towards the end [of the process], we’d formed quite a close professional relationship, and we could then discuss things more deeply. I think, by the end of the film, I had her trust, so I could start making more decisions on my own.
She’s so busy, but I’d try to grab 10 minutes every morning before we were shooting because her process is day by day. Although we do have a schedule, and we know roughly what’s going to happen, we just approach each day with new information, and we have to respond very quickly to that.
Read more excerpts from the book here.