SYFY Talks, Fashion, Fillory and Fun with a Magicians Costume Designer
Ever wanted to step inside the creative mind behind some of Fillory's finest fashion? Well, now's your chance. In this exclusive Q&A, The Magicians Costume designer, Magali Guidasci, talks inspo, Season 5 and knowing exactly what Eliot would wear if he ever travels to the moon.
SYFY: What were some of your favorite looks to create for Season 5 of The Magicians?
MAGALI GUIDASCI: Sean Maguire who played two characters which were both so different, as the pig man, Sir Effingham, and as the Dark King of Fillory which were both very interesting looks to create. Then there was the new look of Fillory 300 which was based in the style of the Fillory we know but more toned down, austere, monochromatic, with metallic tones to reflect the more sinister rule that is now going on under the new ruler. This also meant creating different styles for our main cast. Suddenly they are no longer royalty, no longer kings and queens but instead posing as servants and warriors and regular Fillorian folk. So this was very interesting to establish. Brakebills in the 1920s was a fun episode as well, which led to a lot of vintage shopping but also recreating 20s fashion in our workshop. The episode in which we had a moon party had our office coated in glitter and sparkles, there was a lot of crafting of accessories going on which was a lot of fun as well.
SYFY: When you design for The Magicians there are lots of different worlds and experiences to create for -- from the fantastical looks of Fillory to the grayed-out 1950s style of the Library. Do you have a favorite world to be in with the characters?
MG: I love all of the worlds, because being in all these different worlds is exactly where I can use my passion for history and the story of the population to inspire the design. So all of a sudden you are given the opportunity to create little worlds, which each has its own style and history. So in that sense there is not necessarily a favourite although in some ways Fillory becomes the most interesting because in itself is a mix, like a portal of various worlds and various periods of time.
In Fillory you can feel an influence from eastern russia to Asia to modern Europe. Especially because Fillory has various tribes in it such as the Lorians, the Fairies, the floating mountain people. Some of these are inspired more by nature than by a fashion of a certain period. The people of the floating mountain and the stone queen in season 3 for example were inspired by mountain goats. I imagined them to be people that lived on the rock like mountain goats do, almost camouflaged against the mountain, with accents of fur. The inspiration for the fairies I drew from the praying mantis. Whereas the 50s style of the library was something that was strongly suggested by the writers of the show. They were very set on keeping this kind of classic visual, yet though it's inspired by the 50s I wouldn't say it's the 50s straight on.
SYFY: What are the most challenging aspects of Costume Design for The Magicians?
MG: Timing. Timing is key and as much as I can anticipate for our principal characters in knowing their sizes, when it comes to new characters I have to rely a lot on the terms of how to make a unique design happen within the constraints. And most of the time we are limited to just a week or sometimes a couple of days to design for a completely new character and sometimes the casting comes last minute and depending on the actor you then have to rethink your entire strategy. There is always something new to design for each episode which plays in a different time or different world, for a different character we have never seen before.
SYFY: When you are designing for each unique character's personality considerations on The Magicians, what kind of criteria go into your choices? And what research is most useful for you in your process?
MG: The character within the story line and his environment guide my imagination. The thinking process is always, "how does it tie up in the story?" The storyline is always the key and the characters story within the story. With our regulars, after so many seasons it's easy to know where you are at with each character. Where is the character emotionally, what does the character want to project to the outside world, that will define the style and progression of the character. Once you have been with a character for a while, you know who they are and how they've evolved, so that if the writers were to send Eliot to the moon I would know exactly what Eliot would wear in space. So for new characters, the challenge is to find something that will counterbalance the series regulars, because it doesn't matter to me how small or big the role is, each character has to be just as important as our regulars in their own style in order to help tell the story.
SYFY: How much do the actors influence your design choices? And are there any kind of collaboration elements you can share?
MG: It is almost always a collaboration. It has to be. At the beginning, the actor comes to the first fitting with an idea of what they think the character will be but its not precise and I present through clothing where I think they could be at and from there it's already a collaboration. So even if they didn't necessarily envision what you are presenting to them, you can tell if they feel it in the way they look at themselves in the mirror during the fitting, in the way their attitude changes and then you know if you are on the right track or not. So therefore it's very important to establish a certain level of trust with the actor right away, so they feel comfortable expressing their concerns or their excitement so you can build the looks of these characters that they are then going to portray on screen.
SYFY: Do you have any tips for super-fan cosplayers who want to recreate looks from the series?
MG: Actually I am so impressed with what they come up with. With the little information that they have by seeing the costumes on their TV. I don't know if they are pausing the show to look at the details of the costumes on screen, but I have to say I am impressed by the level of detail of the costumes they recreate, so I'm not sure what kind of tip I could give them.
SYFY: If you had to wear any of The Magicians character's clothes in your real life for a day, whose wardrobe or what look would you choose?
MG: I think I wear a little bit of everything in a way. There is definitely a lot of gypsy in my casual wear, so a lot of Penny in certain ways. There are micro details of all the characters that are somehow a part of my everyday style, but I wear things depending on how I feel on each specific day.
SYFY: How would you describe your personal style? Do you have any rules for yourself in your own shopping habits?
MG: I love vintage stores because there are storytelling pieces which you can combine with a simple pair of jeans etc. I like to go to stores where the style is not being constrained by the general trends because they are trying to talk to people who are trying to find themselves through their own unique style. These are the kinds of stores I like to support as well as shopping environmentally friendly, this is very important to me as well.
SYFY: What inspired you to pursue a career in Costume Design?
MG: I actually had no intention of becoming a Costume Designer or even working in film. When I was young I wanted to be a dancer. I was in Paris studying dance and I was lucky enough to have a mentor who really took me under his wing. But then I got injured. My life took a complete detour at that stage, I didn't know what I wanted to do if I couldn't be a dancer. That's when Jacques Perrin took me on as his assistant on a movie, he got me busy doing other things so I wouldn't be focused on this big failure. Occasionally I was the double of one of the actresses, so I was often trying on all these amazing dresses and then it happened that they needed help in costumes and I started to feel that this is something I might want to do.
So by being in Paris and having the doors open to all these couture houses and seeing that incredible work that is behind all of these designs, I just suddenly thought, I think I could be good at this, I think I get it. So actually becoming a designer for me was more of a happy accident, but looking back at the path which brought me here, it was absolutely what I was meant to do.
Want more Magicians fashion? See some of their best looks in this dazzling photo gallery with special commentary from Magali Guidasci! See The Magicians in action in the final episodes of the series, Wednesdays at 10/9c.