Costume designer Grace Wong, founder and creative director of Awesome Costumes, shares with City News the intricate process of costuming.
By Eugene Teh
A key element in a stage production, one that brings characters to life, is the costumes.
Grace Wong, 31, has made a name for herself in Singapore, with her costumes that have been seen at high-profile events such as the Chingay Parade in 2008 and 2012, the Singapore Youth Olympic Games 2010, President’s Star Charity 2011, as well as countless local stage and television productions. She was one of the top three finalists in the Yahoo! Singapore 9 campaign earlier this year.
Closer to home for City Harvesters, Wong’s work has been seen many times on stage at church. She has been involved in designing costumes for CHC’s numerous Easter and Christmas productions over the years. Some of them hold special memories for her.
CHC’s 2007 Easter production was one such event. Wong considers the animal costumes she created for that production to be a ground-breaker for her, one that she had to work three days and nights to create. Another production that brought immense stress to her and her team was the Easter production in 2011, entitled The Centurion. Wong and her team had worked on the costumes while they were overseas, and they were still frantically sewing costumes three hours prior to their return flight to Singapore.
Wong’s work was also seen during the church’s first service at Suntec Singapore, in 2011. “We were experimenting with putting tiny LED lights on the costumes,” she recalls. “It was tough because we had much to troubleshoot on the technicality of the costumes. But once again, God came through for us by sending members to help us counter the problems. The effect of those costumes was simply amazing during the opening song of the anniversary service.” Members will remember watching dancers in the pitch-dark auditorium—their silhouettes lit with LED lights—dancing down the staircases towards the stage.
FROM CONCEPTION TO PRODUCTION
Wong is involved in every major church drama production, each one carrying a unique storyline or settings, and therefore requiring different interpretation in costuming. The era in which the story unfolds also varies. The first thing that Wong has to do when she receives an assignment is to go through the script and understand the era that the story is set in, before discussing in detail with the directors the personality of every character and how they are to be portrayed.
The research and development process–from sketches, fabric sourcing, drafting, to sewing–fills up the designer’s schedule and becomes what she thinks about in the day and dreams about at night. Everything and anything becomes her inspiration.
“There’s a whole lot of work going on in between the ideas to the final costume we see on stage. And of course, knowing the cast personally helps out a lot in designing their costumes. It’s good to have basic information like their body types to what color best compliments them. After all, whatever they wear on stage must help bring out the best in them for the character,” Wong explains.
Even though her schedule is often tough and hectic, Wong says she has much to thank God for. She expresses her gratitude towards her “very sweet husband” who has stood by her, driven her around and even gone to rehearsals with her. She also has a group of dedicated ministry members who have superb attitudes. They constantly look out for one another, cheer each other on, pray and serve together willingly. Whenever the deadline is tight and requests and changes keep coming in, they will meet the challenges and stick closer together.
Support from family and co-workers are not the only things Wong rely on to cope with her heavy and demanding workload. There are also certain principles she stand by that keeps her grounded. “We need to constantly guard our hearts and be extra mindful with what we say and how we behave. We need to be very objective and have the love of God all the time. The focus is really to get the show together and bless those who come to watch. So it’s a collective effort of every individual.”
These are principles she applies not only when working with her team, but also when she deals with her clients.
As creative people are always full of ideas and are constantly changing, says Wong, communication is the key to ensure that what she has in mind meets what the directors have in their minds. Most importantly, there must be peace and agreement in the way they communicate.
“There are moments when I will want to try out new ideas and styles that may seem risky. Thank God that the directors I worked with are fantastic people who allow me to try out new ideas. Having worked with them for a few productions now, we’ve built a strong relationship and a synergy that helps bring every production to new heights.”
Speaking of her success in the industry, Wong believes that God has given her the skills and abilities to imagine and to create, and she wants to use her talent to glorify Him, to be salt and light in her industry.
God has opened doors for Wong, not only to be successful, but also to be a beacon of light to others. She shares of how she and her team have been doing costumes for Cosplayers recently. Some of these clients talk about their lives and some of their stories are heartbreaking and sad. She befriends them and accepts them for who they are, loves them as how God would and offers a listening ear to them.
“We believe that through our sharing, they will come to know Christ eventually. I am comforted to know that even in my busy schedule, I’m still able to meet a need and heal a hurt,” she says.
Grace’s company, Awesome Costumes, can be found online at http://www.awesomecostumes.com.sg/. The company specializes in creating costumes for theater, dance, entertainment events, cosplay, and school performing arts.