©Hannah Sommer

©Hannah Sommer

ANYA JANE MAGEE

By HANNAH SOMMER

Anya is a recent costume design graduate from UAL based in London, England. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Anya and I am 22 years old. I recently graduated from The London College of Fashion, UAL, with a First Class Honors BA Degree in Costume Design for Performance. I was born in London and lived in or close to London all my life and now adore working in London with all the opportunities and excitement here. I have been lucky enough to travel a lot and even interned in New York for a while which I also adored. I am super-excited about my working life which is all freelance or short term contracts and have been incredibly lucky to get off to a great start working literally non-stop since the week I finished my final year project at uni! 

How did you start making costumes?

I kind of fell into costume design as it wasn't something I dreamed of doing, because i didn't know it existed. I always wanted to work with clothes, and thought I wanted to be a fashion designer. I was working as an intern with a renowned wedding dress designer and stylist whilst deciding which university course to apply for. She very kindly offered to take a look at my portfolio and told me that I should look into doing costume as opposed to fashion. After looking into the course, that was it! It really made sense to me as I also love literature, and have always loved theatre and film from a young age. I adore analyzing texts and characters within them, which is fundamental to any costume design work. Costume design is about more than just making clothes. It is about creating piece which tells a character's journey and story.

Who have been your biggest inspirations?

My inspiration is ever changing as I continue to study artists, designers and people.However, Alexander McQueen has always been a key source of inspiration because his collections exude such history and beauty. I love the dark aesthetic and the way in which McQueen took historical inspiration and made it modernly aspirational. I also have always admired the way in which John Galliano creates narratives to inspire his own collections. Photographer Tim Walker has always been a favorite as his work has such a story behind each image, it is hard not to draw inspiration from it.

What materials and design methods do you work with?

I really like working with alternative clothing materials such as metal and plastics, which I combine with fabrics to create some unique pieces. I particularly love working with processes which distress and age materials and fabrics, as this can create a really beautiful effects, and can also be very unpredictable, which I think produces an organic outcome, which can be incredibly beneficial to costume design and adding a history to clothes.

What design periods have most influenced your costume work?

I really love history and historical design - pre 1900. I guess this is where my love of contemporary designers such as Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier come into play, as they are known for incorporating historical influences in their own work. I have always admired structured and structural garments, especially corsets, not only because of the silhouette they create, but the stunning and complex construction they can be made from. I particularly love the 18th Century, however in my own design work, I enjoy mixing the historical influence with more contemporary construction techniques and fabrics.

How does your work tackle issues of mental health?

My graduate project was all about mental health, based around a play dealing with a range of mental health issues including eating disorders and suicide. The ultimate concept behind the work was to illustrate how all-consuming mental health can be, and that it is something that is prominently out of the sufferer's control. I used the play '4.48 Psychosis', by the late Sarah Kane, as inspiration as it highlights the flaws in the mental health system which we see worldwide.

Mental health, the stigma and the political issues that surround it are subjects very close to home. I think it is important to get people talking about it, and to make help more accessible to those who need it. 

What challenges/stereotypes do you have to overcome as a woman?

I have to say I really don't think about my gender in the workplace. I suppose Costume is pretty female-dominated with lots of inspiring women having achieved great things and global recognition due to their immense talent, passion and sheer hard work. But there again there's nothing stopping a man climbing the ladder in Costume and I have already worked with some very talented men alongside the women.    

How well do you think women are represented in present day theatre and cinema?

That's an interesting one...I think it's one step forwards, one step back a lot of the time. For example my last work project for Mary Queen of Scots is about two incredibly strong real women in history but the last film I saw at the cinema, Blade Runner 2049, focuses rather too much on the female role of pleasuring men which felt rather gratuitous and somewhat old-fashioned for such a supposedly ground-breaking concept of a film.  

 ©Hannah Sommer

©Hannah Sommer

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What projects are you currently working on?

I've just finished working as a trainee on the film 'Mary Queen of Scots' making for the title character, played by Saoirse Ronan. This has been an incredible experience so early on in my career and it taught me so many new practical skills which one can really only acquire 'on the job'.  It also gave me some fantastic insights into the film industry as a whole and I adored working with a wonderfully talented team.

My current job is as Costume Assistant on the Christmas TV commercials for Tesco's supermarket, again a fantastic opportunity for me at this stage. After this I've got a few more commercials lined up, as well as some theatre design work for early next year. I'm feeling very lucky to be able to work in various areas of the industry and to get a feel for which direction I want to take in the future.

If you could design any costume fantasy, what would it be?

I would love to design for a historical film, but with a fanciful theme. Historical pieces, although fascinating to work on, can be quite constraining to design for, as it can be very important to keep ideas as true to the original time period as possible. I feel adding some supernatural themes allows for greater creative license, and allows for deeper creativity. Something like 'Pans Labyrinth' - you have the historical backdrop of Wold War 2, to a story about a magical underworld! 

 ©Hannah Sommer

©Hannah Sommer