How to deliver the Queen of Soul to the large display screen with the correct quantity of glamour and, properly, respect? Enter Clint Ramos, who’s behind the costumes for the brand new movie about Aretha Franklin, “Respect,” starring Jennifer Hudson within the lead position. Ramos has a comparatively quick record of movie work however is well-rooted within the stage world. He grew to become the primary individual of coloration to win a Tony Award when he took house the trophy for 2016’s “Eclipsed,” and is presently a double nominee for the 2021 Tonys, for scenic design for “Slave Play” and costume design for “The Rose Tattoo.” He was beforehand nominated for a Tony for his work on “Once on This Island” and “Torch Song.”
Here, Ramos talks with WWD about how he put collectively the luxurious, dazzling costumes, largely all bespoke, for the brand new movie, out at present.
WWD: What you about “Respect” from a fancy dress perspective?
Clint Ramos: Aretha and her music has been kind of a staple in my family. My mom is Aretha’s era, and so I heard the music and she or he adopted her profession, love and her life. So I’ve all the time been fascinated [by her], notably in how she’s remodeled over time. But I believe as Liesl [Tommy, the film’s director] and Tracey [Scott Wilson, the screenwriter] began reformulating the script for the film, I bought increasingly enthusiastic about the opportunity of exhibiting a very severe window into this legendary psyche. It’s kind of simple to only observe the trajectory of her profession as a result of it’s documented. But I believe what, to me, was essentially the most fascinating half was how she was being offered when she wasn’t onstage, when she wasn’t performing, and kind of making a extra holistic image of the girl.
WWD: What have been the methods you went about sourcing these particular costumes? Were lots of issues customized?
C.R.: Yeah. I might say, 75 to 80 % of what Jennifer wore within the film was bespoke. For me, it was essential that I wanted to do all of her clothes bespoke: a), due to Jennifer’s proportions; Jennifer, truly, is a really tall lady and Aretha wasn’t. And I didn’t wish to be topic to solely classic clothes. There’s a coloration story that I’m attempting to go for, and I need it to be actually deliberate when it comes to how specific costumes have been being deployed by Aretha to convey her emotional, psychological and political state.
WWD: What was your analysis course of like?
C.R.: The analysis began actually with lots of studying biographies and magazines of that interval. But not solely her biography, however her father’s biography [and] Clara Ward’s biography. Particularly additionally how [her father] C.L.’s church was truly a very massive affect on what we now know because the Civil Rights Movement within the United States.
I plunged into all the images that have been accessible. Our film, though it spans three and a half a long time, lots of Aretha’s seems weren’t photographed. Right? Because she wasn’t well-known then. So I needed to cobble that collectively by way of archival inventory or actually previous black-and-white images. Or in a lot of the circumstances, previous to the Columbia [Records] years, it was actually simply me conjuring up what she would’ve worn. We began the film truly within the late ’40s, early ’50s, after which we resulted in 1972 with the Amazing Grace live performance. But lots of the images that I used to be taking a look at, notably within the early a part of Aretha’s profession, have been in black and white. So I believe most of what I did was, by way of analysis, reimagining what these colours might be.
Numerous my analysis actually was going into African American church buildings. Because none of that is on-line. You go church by church by church. Atlanta, Detroit, New Jersey, which could be very near the place I’m based mostly in New York. So I went into these church buildings and mentioned, “May I see your archives please?” And then I went in there and really checked out what the choir appeared like, what the soloists appeared like. So lots of what you see, notably within the early, early years earlier than the Columbia years, have been actually conjured up by way of these images, by way of these church-specific archival images.
WWD: How did you create private touches that felt “Aretha?”
C.R.: Aretha, in contrast to what lots of people assume, truly got here from a really higher, middle-class African American household. They had means. Her father, his footwear have been all the time bespoke. He had a haberdasher. So I believe a part of what I used to be attempting to convey was that she got here from this sort of gospel the Aristocracy.
WWD: Given your background is usually in theater, what have been some variations with this venture?
C.R. It’s scale. I believe for me, a fancy dress is a fancy dress is a fancy dress, whether or not we do it for movie, dance or theater. A costume is a costume is a costume. Right? But whenever you multiply that by a thousand or 1,500 folks. Like as an example, after we did Madison Square Garden, for that Respect live performance, we dressed 1,000 folks, no less than. And then there have been church buildings of like 300, 400 folks wearing Nineteen Fifties, Sixties clothes. It’s actually nearly scale. And being good about the way you divide the labor, and being additionally good about who’s a part of the staff, so you may act as one cohesive organism.
WWD: Were there particular designers or runway exhibits that impressed you?
C.R.: I used to be taking a look at lots of, within the early, early years, Bonnie Cashin. Numerous these American designers. And then in her ’70s interval, I checked out lots of Missoni. Particularly on the knits. And I checked out lots of Yves Saint Laurent.
Aretha was an impartial dresser. She didn’t have any loyalty to any designer. As a matter of reality, she’s well-known for truly calling out the style trade for being sizeist. Even means earlier than we thought that was acceptable. I bear in mind, I believe even within the ’70s, she mentioned [in the pages of WWD], “Calvin Klein and Valentino should really pay attention to larger-framed ladies.” So lots of the designers that I have a look at have been simply when it comes to tendencies. All of the hand-beading is finished bespoke. I checked out Yves Saint Laurent, lots of the Dior stuff that was hand-beaded, notably for the robes. We open the movie with this enormous occasion: there’s lots of Schiaparelli influences there, notably in coloration and likewise Charles James stuff. I wished it to look actually lush as a result of it was a kind of actually lovely, type of heady occasion inside their home that that they had virtually each weekend.
And then Coach despatched us lots of their archival purses, which was actually, actually useful. And additionally Roger Vivier did a group, a Sixties assortment, that was actually acceptable. It was good timing.