We Speak to Costume Designer Wendy Benstead, Creatives & Short Film

The short film industry is a hive of opportunity for a wide range of fashion and costume designers. With its malleable, experimental genres, and emerging forms of fashion and advertising, short film is the perfect medium to explore the potentials of future clothing design. We speak to costumier and ASFF 2014 attendee Wendy Benstead about her ongoing creative practice and thoughts on the changing perceptions of design in the film industry. Designer for Paloma Faith, Kimberly Wyatt, BBC, ITV and a range of commercial productions, Benstead is an expert in her field and the ideal candidate for advising aspiring costumiers.

ASFF: Did you enjoy your ASFF experience, and were you inspired to make new work?
WB: I enjoyed the event very much – it was an excellent opportunity to network, and to meet passionate people within the film making field. I also had the chance to view some inspiring film works, and discuss all aspects of film making with like minded people. I feel inspired to work with some of the producers and directors I met, and also was propelled into some design thought processes in regards the visuals I saw in some of the short films.

ASFF: Which designers motivate your practice?
WB: In general, I mostly draw inspiration from imagery and clothing construction outside of the film industry, as I like to work directly from external influences to avoid copying. However, costume designers that inspire me include Eiko Ishioka, Sandy Powell, Coleen Atwood and Michael Wilkinson. I also adore the design works of fashion designers such as Vivian Westwood, McQueen and Galliano, and often look to the fashion world for inspiration.

ASFF: In your opinion, why is networking important for creatives and the film industry?
WB: Networking is hugely important as it provides a platform to discuss your art, find other creatives who fit with your way of working, and to discuss potential projects. Its a great way to make introductions, bounce ideas around, and also just to have some really interesting discussions and debates about the subjects you love.

ASFF: What advice can you offer aspiring designers or costumiers?
WB: Don’t be afraid to throw yourself into projects that might at first, seem daunting. You often do your best work when you are being challenged! Give every project your everything, but always work to budgets – you are only capable of doing what the money will allow. Always keep notes or files somewhere to write down things that inspire you or come to mind – I have a ‘notes’ section in my phone to allow me to always write things down as they come into my head. Know your field, find out the specialists who can assist you in creating the looks you want to achieve, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask. Build good relationships, be determined, be fierce, be dogmatic, but above all, be nice.

ASFF: This year saw the inauguration of fashion and advertising at ASFF. How can these genres offer a new perception of short film?
WB: Fashion and advertising is a huge new platform in the short film field, and there is some amazing work being done for both big budget commercial campaigns, and smaller works as a means of showcasing fashion as visual media. Film, especially short film, doesn’t always have to have a narrative. Creating visually stunning works as a showcase for a clothing line, or indeed a brand outside of the fashion world, can be an exciting way to introduce new work to the market. Short film funding is getting easier, with start ups and crowd funding, and so many smaller brands and commercial enterprises are looking to create short films to generate interest, rather then relying on a static shoot, or a standard commercial style advert. Its great that advertising is being so creative within short film. It still leaves room for the scope to create independent works in a more narrative way – but being free to work in a more fashion focused visual is obviously extremely exciting to costume.

To find out more about Wendy Benstead’s work, visit www.wendybenstead.com and follow @CostumesByWendy.

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1. Wendy Benstead design (2014). Photograph courtesy and copyright of Michael Sweeney.