Katy Perry and Kanye West’s VMA-winning “E.T.” immediately stood out as unique this year, for both its brooding production and its intergalactic video, which ended up being quite a commercial sci-fi thriller. Its aesthetic was out of this world but also instantly recognizable — the signature style of noir futurist Floria Sigismondi, the Italian-born director famous for her work on videos for Marilyn Manson, Christina Aguilera, Muse, The White Stripes, and, of course, The Runaways movie. Her frequent partner-in-crime, Canadian costume designer and stylist Carol Beadle, helped create the synergy for all these striking projects, as well as many of her own. We sat down with Beadle to talk “E.T.,” Bowie and more.
The “E.T.” video was obviously huge. Did you create all of its costumes? Or did you incorporate other designer’s garments?
Yes, it was huge, and fast! Much faster than I would have liked. I feel I could have done more or better with more time, but I always feel that way.
The costume at the very beginning is mine. It is actually a multi-layered, multi-colored body suit designed around the concept and visuals of an amoeba — with more fabric than I have ever worked with on one garment. The red dress was brought in by Katy’s personal stylist, a Russian designer whose name was unknown to me. It had an interesting neckline, and we needed a red dress to represent that burst of flame as she enters the atmosphere.
What is your favorite look in that video?
The white dress to me was the most exciting, and something I wanted to have from the get-go as I think it was the most creative piece on the runway at the time. It’s a Viktor & Rolf. Fabulous! And the last outfit we see her in, which is mine.
Did Katy have any creative/image control for the video, or did she hand over the reigns?
At first, I don’t think she really knew what to think of it all. Because it was moving faster than anyone was probably comfortable with, I think she was a bit on guard. It would have been lovely to have five racks of all her favorite designers, but it just wasn’t that job. As time progressed, she seemed to relax to the ideas and concepts.
What was working with Kanye West like, both on “E.T.” and “Love Lockdown”?
I like him. He has always been kind and courteous to me and has a really good eye, which I respect. I’d work with him again in a second.
Watch the “E.T.” video:
Your first project was 1995’s “Beautiful People” video – an arresting and iconic video. What was your experience in dressing Marilyn Manson and company?
Manson was cool and intelligent. It was all good. There were no demands, we just all worked together. He wanted to wear his stilts, so the rubber coat I had already made had to work with those. I can’t explain that time: it all just came naturally, and the artist and band then came on board. It was Floria and an amazing group of creative people in Toronto, and we all complemented and inspired each other and did some pretty amazing stuff. It is still that way for the most part, except that now there is a fraction of the time, and the artists come with their own entourage of costume, hair, and makeup; that becomes the team the director works with. It’s the way it is now.
How did you find his famous mouth accoutrements?
The mouth accoutrements were designed by a brilliant artist named Kenny Baird from Toronto, and he did much of the amazing art direction you see in Floria’s earlier videos.
What does Floria’s aesthetic represent to you?
I started this career with her. I started working with her during the first year she began directing music videos in Toronto, and that was probably around 15 years ago, in the mid-Nineties. I had just finished school for fashion design and was pulled into the mix by someone who knew me. She was the first and only director I worked with for a while, so it is just the most natural way for me to work. I know I will always have to design something for whatever project I’m working on with Floria rather than just do styling, because she will always want something that borders on the impossible! And I get to marry some amazing Couture ideas, which I love. I know I can take it as far as my creative mind will allow and incorporate my favorite inspirations; fashion and artistically, unusual and alarming imagery. I can bring any of this to the table and it will be considered. That is probably the most unique thing.
In terms of styling and costuming, what challenges and inspirations are unique to complementing her noir futurist video vibe?
I’ve always had a noir sensiblility, which I came about naturally in the late 70s and early 80s listening to punk/new wave and industrial music –bands like Birthday Party, Joy Division, Magazine – typical ‘underground’ bands of the time. I was living in Europe and hanging out in those clubs. There was a lot of dark imagery there. So, the noir aesthetic is just in me – to me, it’s a natural way to see things. It’s not the only way I think, of course, but it’s second nature for me to understand. I guess that’s what made it all click in the beginning and now it’s just an understanding we have.
Do you like when an artist is actively involved in dictating the visual product or do you prefer to conceptualize it yourself?
I like when people work together to conceptualize something amazing. I hate decisions based on someone’s ego to say something. I like when someone comes with an idea, and I have to conceptualize a piece of clothing from that. I like someone throwing me into a room full of kitchen utensils for a Target commercial and saying, ‘Right, make a dress out of that!’
Have you ever been starstruck by one of your clients?
I have been starstruck by Bowie, yes. It’s true. Only because my entire teen years involved listening to his music. As a teenager he was a god, truly. So yes, I was a bit nervous.
How closely do you monitor the runways each season for trends and new costume and styling ideas?
Very closely when I can, mainly the European and Couture collections. I love designers that look forward using new fabric technology and bringing new ideas, like Nicolas Ghesquière for example; he’s very inspiring. I think the best styling ideas come from the street. Also, art and photography books and referencing, costume houses, and, of course, also what other people are doing. I love fashion and art; I love designing clothes. It is my world, and I wish I had more time and money to to do it on a much larger scale.