Recently, respected Portland fashion designer Adam Arnold was commissioned to design the costumes for the world premiere work by Matjash Mrozewski that will be part of our upcoming Chromatic Quartet program. To begin the design process, Adam brought in some of his clothing samples from his line and asked Alison Roper and Lucas Threefoot to put them through their paces in our studios.

Arnold describes his process and some of the insights he gained from this first trip to the studios below:

From Adam:

Because I design and create bespoke garments for people, and am inspired by construction and practicality, it has put me in the position to create clothing that fits a person’s function in life as well as their body.  For the ballet, both are demanding, and create a unique and exciting challenge.  I am approaching this collaboration by thinking of the dancers as people that have unique clothing needs, rather than making finished costumes that need to be altered to fit the situation.  To start this process, I asked to have dancers in my sample garments as they do what they do best, move.  By having them dance in my samples in the studio, I can see where a garment experiences stress, and approach it as a design problem that needs to be solved.  I was hoping for torn armpits, and ripped and blasted inseams, but was pleasantly surprised to find that my samples held up pretty well on their first try.

Of course some changes need to be made, for a dancer is a specific kind of client…
Reintroducing seam lines and adjusting the grainline to meet their needs is where I get excited about the challenges that movement poses to design. As well as fit, I am concerned with fabric and, being a lover of natural fibers as well as a bit of a bit of a purist, have made an oath to myself to do this project with as much natural fiber as possible. Here is where the dancer/client comes in again. They can give me valuable information on how a garment feels next to their skin, and I can judge it’s strength and durability based on how it performs in the studio. Much the same way a dancer practices in the studio for the stage.

Stay tuned as we track the full design process for this exciting world premiere work.

You can see Adam Arnold’s completed designs in the world premiere of Matjash Mrozewski’s The Lost Dance , one of 4 short works at Oregon Ballet Theatre’s spring program, Chromatic Quartet, opening April 19th at the Newmark Theatre.

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