Colleen Atwood is a name that needs no introduction. One of the most sought after costume designers in Hollywood, Atwood has been involved in developing or has been the lead designer for producing the costumes on over 50 films to date, received numerous Academy Award nominations and wining Best Costume Design three times; for the films Chicago in 2002, Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005, and Alice in Wonderland in 2010.
I had the pleasure and honor of doing a brief phone interview with the amazingly talented designer to discuss the magic behind the designs for The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
Having previously worked on Snow White and the Huntsman people may think Colleen already had the costumes for the followup film designed and ready to go. That is not the case.
Creating the costumes for this film was a new endeavor. Even though there was already an idea for the looks, it was necessary to start fresh and give the characters fresh designs.
Some of the most stunning designs involve Ravenna’s dresses so it was of interest to know if Colleen continued on the established theme for the outfits or if there where new style variations incorporated.
“Earlier designs had more gold tones, the designs were almost patina underneath. The idea was to develop on that and give the new outifits a darker tone.”
I was curious to know if she received any input from the cast in regards to their costumes and she mentions that she did receive some feedback in regards to the looks. Mostly it was important to “anticipate movement for fight sequences. Especially incorporating movements with the actors for the huntsman costumes.”
Did Colleen work in tandem with hair and makeup to help create the looks?
“Charlize’s people are very tight. They anticipated things in an amazing way so it was easy to design her outfits. The director had a lot of input as well. It was all a collaborative process. Cool ideas were taken on or adapted to fit the theme.”
The HuntsmanHow did you go about designing the outfits for Freya, who is more of a pure entity as opposed to Ravenna’s darker persona?
“Freya came from a Northern world so she was kept in cooler tones. We used material and fabrics that have reflective qualities like water and ice.”
In the past you have used unconventional materials, like raven feathers for Ravenna’s outfits, what are some other items you used for this film?
“We used elements of 3D printer for Freya’s owl mask and head pieces. We also used fish tail and cut it diagonally to look like ice. More organic leather was used on the outfits for the men such as the huntsmen outfits.”
I also had the chance to ask Colleen a bit about the costume designs for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts in which she also worked. Considering how the film is set in the 1920’s era I was interested in knowing how she incorporated the 1920’s themed wardrobe to JK Rowling’s world. Whether Rowling had any feedback for Atwood or if she had free reign in the designs.
“I had free reign. Rowling visited the set a couple of times and looked at what I was doing. I created the concepts for everything that [Rowling] liked. Since she created the script she didn’t really come onto the set and give a lot of input. She respected the director’s choices and the concept we had created.”
Fans of the ever popular CW super hero series may be surprised to discover Colleen Atwood also helped design the looks for Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl.
Being as how these are some very iconic characters in comic book lore, I was curious in finding out how she brought the costumes to life. Whether there were some items from the comic versions that she kept in the designs and how she was able to stay true to the characters while creating the designs for television.
“[Creator] Greg Berlanti wanted to make sure the [costumes] were more real from far away, from across the street. Each character’s personality is more internal and does not come from the costume but the person themselve. The designs were a collaboration with everyone. I did the principal costume designs for pilots only and wardrobe took it from there.”
It was eye opening and enlightening to discuss the many aspects and thought process behind costume designs and would have loved to spend many more hours learning from one of the industry’s best. To learn more about her designs for The Huntsman: Winter’s War be sure to pick up a copy of the DVD as she gives more details in the bonus features where she dives deeper into the creation of Ravenna’s iconic gold costume (pictured above with Colleen), Jessica Chastain’s outfits and the look for Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman.
Photos from The Huntsman: Winter’s War courtesy of Universal Entertainment.
Photos from Fantastic Beasts and Arrow/The Flash courtesy of Warner Bros.