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“The grass is green where you water it…”

This week we talk to local Kartika Leng who once again is designing the costumes for Whaingaroa Youth Movement’s dance project at the end of 2012.
How did you first become involved in costume design?

It all started with our children really, I would make fairy dresses for my daughter and her friends, which I adored doing.
I made a vampire cape for a Halloween Party one year, for Jahvik. The next year I had lots of orders for Halloween costumes. It picked up momentum from there.
I have always been in clothing production to some degree. Costume is easier for me because of my overwhelming desire to embellish. I have to refrain from making my mainstream fashion pieces gimmicky or ‘themed’, an editing eye is crucial for commercial fashion. It’s much more natural for me to make my costume pieces more in style.

Take us through the process of brainstorming through to the final designs.

Initially I get together with the choreographer who sets the tone and is always inspired and excited about the project, it’s infectious.
It is a sensory driven process, the music, the lighting, the venue and the range of movement are all absorbed into creating the garments to enhance all of the surrounds.

What is your favourite part of the process?

I love it all. The ideas, the excitement, the exploration of materials, concepts, designs, patterns, colours, techniques, the challenge and seeing them manifest from inside my head and brought to life on a stage.

What is the most challenging part of the process?

I’m sure any ‘creative’ working under a deadline can understand the most challenging part is how all the other areas of your life can get neglected. I’m very lucky to have a family that is very supportive of my mess and bizarre meals and routines!

What design are you most proud of?

My most recent was ‘The Whispering Birds’ production in the Hamilton gardens, Red and White silk robes. They were bold and striking looking while being soft and fluid in motion.
What can we expect in this years production?

Whaingaroa Youth Movement is one of my favourite collaborations due to how much community involvement there is. I think this is reflected in the styling of ‘You Are Here’.
This year we have taken a different approach to costume production. There is a lot of ‘up-cycling’, re-using garments and materials that were available from our community. Individualizing most garments so they have a personality and customizing them for the dancers and the story they are telling.

Best advice you have ever been given?

“The grass is green where you water it”.

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