No, this Broadway costumer doesn't just 'shop all day'

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Finding costume designer Suttirat Larlarb isn't easy these days. Finding her work is easy.

She's costuming an opera in Los Angeles, a TV show in Toronto, she teaches at Carnegie Mellon University and has two Broadway shows — "Waitress " and "Finding Neverland ."

"It's a bit of a crazy time," she says. "It feels like all cylinders going."

Larlarb's credits include "Frankenstein" for the Royal National Theatre, the films "Slumdog Millionaire" and "127 Hours," and the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, where she had to dress 9,000 performers.

She gets to toast her success Friday when she's awarded the TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award by the Theatre Development Fund , a nonprofit that provides access to live theater.

The Associated Press asked Larlarb about how she keeps track of all the images she likes and how she responds to people who think she just shops all day.

The Associated Press: Which was harder, making the everyday costumes for "Waitress" or the fantasy gear of "Finding Neverland"?

Larlarb: In some ways, 'Waitress.' Even though it has modern-day costumes, it's even more difficult I think because everybody puts on clothes and has an opinion.

AP: Is that often the case? One imagines that for contemporary costumes, you can just go to the Gap and be done in a day.

Larlarb: In some ways, I think the scope and the scale is smaller and so more handle-able. There's certainly less to build. However, because the possibilities seem endless, it actually makes it more difficult.

AP: You must get a lot of people who come up and say, 'You have such a great job. You just shop all day.'

Larlarb: This is the metaphor I like to use: Imagine planning a wedding and all the stress that goes into the wedding day — the preparation, the menu, the videographer. Now multiply that by 72 times. And you have to do that day after day after day until the thing is out there in the world. Every day is that wedding but from scratch again.

AP: Are you constantly attuned to the culture? Do you notice shoe styles on the subway, interesting fabrics or colors that are trending?

Larlarb: Yes. I have this system of binders of every interesting image that I've ever seen. Even if it's magazine from a dentist's office waiting room, I will pull out that image — I'll ask permission if it's a dentist's office — and put it in a binder, which are themed by subject and also chronological.

AP: How did that start?

Larlarb: When I was growing and first having the inklings of interest in what I now do, I had saved all these Vogues and Elle magazines and L.A. Times magazines. My mom was so thrilled when I did this finally: I went through all of them and I tore out the interesting images. So I have a binder on 1987, 1988, 1989, all the way to 2010. Between 2010 and now, there's just a huge amount of stuff that my boyfriend really wants me to go through.

AP: Is there one costume that makes you most proud?

Larlarb: My favorite is the dove bikes that we did for the Olympics. At one point it was this whole big animatronic thing and smart fabric that glowed and all this stuff. But because of the budget, resources and the workforce, we had constraints. We actually curbed the idea back down to a very lo-fi version that ended up being better. It had its own magic and it was sort of human-driven — and that was the point of the Olympic ceremony.

AP: Do you feel an extra responsibility to look interesting even when you're just going out to pick up milk?

Larlarb: I love clothes and I have a lot of clothes. I have a lot of cool clothes and I have a lot of comfortable clothes. As I get busier and busier, I still have all those cool, fun things but whatever is convenient in the morning I'll put on.