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LACMA's Costume Council hosts the weird, wonderful costumes of Cirque du Soleil

June 23, 2011 | 10:33 am

CIRQUE Costume Sketch -- 12 homme camera(legal) -- June 2011 The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Costume Council hosted a panel interview with Cirque du Soleil costume designer Philippe Guillotel and a sneak peek at his costumes for Cirque's upcoming show, "Iris: A Journey Through the World of Cinema" at the museum's Bing Theatre Wednesday night.

And though it was -- quite unfortunately -- difficult to understand what felt like half of what Guillotel had to say (he has a very charming, very thick French accent), the whimsical, downright oddball costumes for the forthcoming production were wonderful to behold  — melding prop-type objects such as old-time movie lights and film canisters with high-tech fabrics to facilitate the show's jaw-dropping acrobatics (which were on display through a quartet of Chinese acrobats whose bodies bent around one another's like a barrel full of snakes).

The show, which features music by Danny Elfman and previews at the Kodak Theatre July 21, is meant to celebrate the origins of filmmaking, so the costumes employ lots of early 20th century style hallmarks, including spats, waistcoats and lace-up boots for men and women. 

We first saw Guillotel's wild costumes — which include an Asian-inspired "shadow tamer" who tames shadows with his floor-length, top-knotted ponytail, and an old-timey movie usher whose jacket makes up half of her fringe-lined concession tray  — in the costume designer's vibrant sketchings (projected onto a large screen).

CIRQUE Costume Sketch -- scarl color2 -- June 2011 Then we were treated to the real thing, as performers from the show marched down the theater's aisle in full regalia — affecting a Dr. Seuss book come to life.

Guillotel called the costume shop at Cirque du Soleil "the most important haute couture workshop in the world," manned by more than 200 full-time employees who bring fantastical creations to life — and keep churning them out over the life of a show, which can span up to 20 years.

A former fashion designer who previously designed the costumes for Cirque du Soleil's "The Beatles Love" show, Guillotel said, "It's always about motion and costume for me ... I always think about how the costume will move with the body."

-- Emili Vesilind

Images: Philippe Guillotel's sketches for "Iris." Credit: Cirque du Soleil