Why ‘Joker’s costume designer decided to ignore the comics entirely

All it took was a personal letter from director Todd Phillips for costume designer Mark Bridges to agree to work on Joker Phillips’ gritty, controversial reimagining of the “Clown Prince of Crime’s” origin story.

“He said that he wanted to collaborate with me, knew that I had worked with Joaquin two previous times, and thought we’d have a great ride with this,” Bridges tells Inverse. “I was very flattered that Todd would take the time to ask me to join him.”

Bridges has been a costume designer for three decades and won two Academy Awards (and a jet ski, which he donated). He’s worked with Noah Baumbach, Paul Greengrass, David O. Russell, and on all eight films directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. But with Joker, Bridges faced what might have been his greatest challenge yet: creating a distinct look for one of pop culture’s most iconic villains.

Heath Ledger as the Joker in 'The Dark Knight'
Heath Ledger as the Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’

The Joker is one of the few comic book villains arguably as famous as the hero he clashes with, and one of the reasons he stands out among all of Batman’s antagonists is how he’s presented. From Jack Nicholson’s 1950’s pop art design, to Heath Ledger’s now iconic punk rock-inspired look, to Jared Leto’s much derided high fashion; how the Joker is dressed is equally as important as the man who puts on the face paint.

Prior to Joker’s release, Inverse spoke to Bridges over the phone about his work on the movie, why he didn’t bother looking back at the comics for inspiration, and why he didn’t want to have the Joker prancing around in terracotta.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

joker

Inverse: Seeing as this is a comic book movie and with it comes more scrutiny than you’re used to, was there any hesitation at all in taking on this particular job because you would be designing the look of such an iconic character?

Mark Bridges: I was looking forward to it. I think it was all about Todd and the way he presented it as being a departure from what one would typically think of a comic book movie. It was going to be grittier, more urban, more based in a kind of reality than a series of magical events.

And I go from different genres all the time. I’ll do a Noah Baumbach and then I’ll do a Paul Thomas Anderson, and then I’ll do Jason Bourne. So I’m always trying to do something that I haven’t done before. So between Todd’s passion, my love of working with Joaquin, and just wanting to try something new I was looking forward to it.

Jack Nicholson in 'Batman' (1989)
Jack Nicholson in ‘Batman’ (1989)

When people think of the Joker, they have a very clear idea of how he’s presented: purple suit or jacket with either a green or yellow shirt. Was it always your intention to go in a different direction when it came to this Joker’s presentation?

It wasn’t always my idea. It might have been influenced by Phillips’s attitude that this was a standalone story. That it wasn’t connected to anything else. A lot of my choices were rooted in this character, Arthur Fleck, and also something Todd wrote in the script about Arthur owning a suit that he’s had for years, which ultimately ends up being this joker suit.

So what made you decide to go with the kind of color scheme that the Joker ends up having?

I think it was written in the script that it was terracotta. But I felt like a more 1980’s color was maroon and terracotta is more typical 70’s. And it’s not as strong. I think that reds are always more expressive. I think reds always communicate more emotion.

joker

Joker marketing has focused on Joaquin when he’s full on Joker, but I’m very interested in how you put together the clown for hire outfit we see him wear early on in the film.

The silhouette is very reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin – the size of the pants, the smaller jacket. My little conceit, I really love when a clown has a tiny hat on. So that was my little touch. Because as he’s getting chased by the young gang, there’s something kind of sad about the whole thing when all he’s trying to do is make people happy, and he ends up getting beaten in an alley.

I wanted to try a bigger hat, a regular sized Derby in an homage to Chaplain, but then I thought that a miniature Derby is more my own taste, my own little miniature homage to Chaplin.

When I think about a character and I think about how would Arthur put together this outfit? My idea was that maybe that jacket was a 70s sport coat that he got off a thrift store, the shoes, very inexpensive, and certainly seen better days. The pants, he either saw a clown that he liked and then sewed patches on his pants or he got them off of a guy who got out of the clowns business and bought them for 20 bucks.

Charlie Chaplin in 'The Gold Rush'
Charlie Chaplin in ‘The Gold Rush’

Did you look through any of the comics for inspiration?

No we had none of that. I did look online on what the Joker looked like when he first appeared in the ‘40s. It all just seemed just a little too contrived for the kind of movie that Todd wanted to make. We really weren’t a DC movie -– we were a Warner Bros. picture shooting in New York: Our own standalone, Mean Streets kind of movie, as opposed to anything that had been done in the DC world before.

Even though this movie is about the Joker, for most of the film, we’re with Arthur, someone who doesn’t really have much fashion sense. But just because a costume isn’t flamboyant, doesn’t mean that there wasn’t work put into it. So how did you approach the look of Arthur before he becomes the Joker?

My work is all about storytelling, so I wanted to make choices that spoke about who he was, his economic status, and how much he cares about how he looks. He’s an invisible person, so the clothes became a little invisible. Not terribly expensive clothes, and not terribly stylish, they’re more for practical purposes.

joker

You’ve worked on many period pieces in your career: Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, London in the 1950s. And now you’re working on a Gotham City that’s based on New York in the late ‘70s to early ‘80s. What research did you do to capture the time period?

There were some films Todd referenced, those wonderful anti-hero films that came out in the 70’s, we looked at all of those. Man on the street photography, television and news reports; we looked at what the The Johnny Carson Show was like, what the The Merv Griffin Show was like, afternoon talk shows. It’s really a collage of influences, heavy on the visuals and heavy on the flavor of that moment in time in New York, when it was just an uglier place.

Speaking of Johnny Carson and Merv Griffin, how did you approach De Niro’s character of late night talk show host Murray Abraham?

What those men wore were good quality men’s wear at the time, they were always impeccably tailored. I worked very closely with the production designer Mark Friedberg, because I knew that there was going to be very colorful show curtain, and we wanted Robert to be separate from that. The teal wool three piece that he wears, it’s one of the colors we see in the show curtain; when we see him on TV, I had him in a white suit in front of that dark wood paneling. I think it worked out really well.

This is the third time you’ve worked with Joaquin Phoenix. He lost weight before, for his role in The Master, but for Joker, he’s lost a considerable amount of weight. Did his transformation change how you approached working with Phoenix this time?

Well, you never knew when he was really hungry, if you know what I mean? You had to think twice about how you approached him (laughs). It was funny, because his body’s evolving and we’re trying to make things, and by the time you’ve made it, he’s lost another eight pounds. So it was constantly like, “Oh, we might need to take this in a little more.” I did notice he was really much thinner than The Master. He took it in stride with the discipline of a champion, but at one moment I was like, “I’m not sure my tailoring can keep up with your weight loss.”

Joaquin Phoenix in 'The Master'
Joaquin Phoenix in ‘The Master’

Working with the same actor on multiple occasions, does it make designing outfits for them easier? Because you know what fabrics and colors work for them?

It’s always a reboot, because we’re always creating a different person. I might know that they need an arch in their shoe or something, but other than that, it’s a fresh new page in a fresh new notebook. But collaboration gets easier. It’s not like you just met somebody and not sure who they are.

What are you working on next?

I’m in Santa Fe Right now. I’m working on a film with Tom Hanks called News of The World based on a Paulette Jiles novel. So it’s another little departure for me.


Joker is in theaters now

Christopher Inoa is a freelance film and animation reporter. Follow him on Twitter for cool anime GIFs and more.

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This Emerging British Designer Now Has Rosalía’s Stamp of Approval

Rosala with an Asai bag.Rosalía has reached the rare upper echelons of pop stardom where she can wear just about anything that strikes her fancy. Her wardrobe is dotted with trendy brands like Saks Potts—she posted three different versions of those candy-colored fur-trimmed coats that have quickly become a fashion girl staple to her Instagram a few months ago—and designer pieces from legacy houses like Louis Vuitton, as she wore onstage in Rabat, Morocco at a festival performance in June. Burberry’s Riccardo Tisci even created two different custom black, crystal-adorned outfits for the artist’s MTV VMAs experience this year (she walked the red carpet in one and performed in the other).

But in spite of this unlimited fashion potential, Rosalía consistently sports pieces from small, DIY brands and emerging labels. Just take the patchwork pants she wore last month (with a Prada T-shirt, no less) from Los Angeles-based designer Julie Kucharski, who creates custom, pop culture-inspired garments under the name Left Hand L.A.

Now, Rosalía is spotlighting a piece from yet another emerging designer. While in the City of Lights for Paris Fashion Week, the Spanish artist posed in a cinched shirt dress, which she paired with a deep blue flame and snake-printed bag—with matching shoes, of course—from British designer Asai. You might recognize Asai’s signature semi-sheer, patchwork, tie-dye shirts from your Instagram feed, or from major editorial shoots with SZA, but Rosalía has now proved that the fledgling designer could have what it takes to enter the accessories big leagues, too.

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No slowdown blues for Japanese designer brand Miniso

Japanese designer brand Miniso, which already has 120 stores in India, plans to double the count by Dec 2020, Tyrone Li,  India Head, Miniso told Moneycontrol.

Miniso Ìndia will add 20 to its store count by December, and another 100 by December 2020, taking the total count to 240.

For this, Li said Miniso will be targeting tier-3 and tier-4 cities. The present ones are concentrated in tier-1 and tier-2 cities. A Miniso store in India with a size of 1,500-2,500 sq. ft incurs an investment of Rs 1.5-2 crore.

Miniso was co-founded by Japanese designer Miyake Junya and a young Chinese entrepreneur Ye Guofu in Tokyo, Japan.

Miniso, which entered India in 2017, offers value products for low prices. Miniso has shown a rapid growth in terms of establishing its presence across the country.

Li said everyday Miniso launches 16 new products.

When asked whether the slowdown has affected Miniso’s sales, Li said: “At Miniso, we haven’t witnessed any slowdown because at Miniso we sell quality product at low price.”

In fact, Li is confident on India’s economic growth and that is why they are keen to expand quickly.

He believes Ìndia is the most important market of supply chain for Miniso after China.

Miniso has strong plans for the Indian market, and is keen to increase local sourcing.

Miniso purchases and manufacturers products in India but designs in Japan and exports it to different countries.

Li pointed out that Miniso has purchased products worth Rs 42 crore so far this year from India and exported to other countries.

Speaking about purchasing goods target, Li said: “We will purchase worth Rs 50 crore worth of goods from India and export it to other countries by Dec 2020.”

Currently, Miniso purchases goods from 40 countries.

After partnering with Flipkart, Li said they are also in talks with Amazon for selling Miniso products on the e-commerce platform.

On September 16, e-commerce marketplace Flipkart announced a partnership between its independent value platform 2GUD and Miniso India to capitalise on the upcoming festive season.

The Japanese retailer has already has tie-ups with Shopclues, Paytm and Snapdeal for selling their products.

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The first ever labradoodle wasn’t a designer dog, he was a guide dog

A white labradoodle wearing a leather harness stands in a garden.

Thirty years ago, Wally Conron was asked to breed a non-shedding guide dog. Looking back, he worries that he created a monster.

“I bred the labradoodle for a blind lady whose husband was allergic to dog hair,” he says.

“Why people are breeding them today, I haven’t got a clue.”

In the 1980s, Wally worked as the breeding manager for the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia, now known as Guide Dogs Victoria.

Most of the time, that meant breeding Labrador pups. But one day he received a letter from a blind lady in Hawaii whose husband was allergic to long-haired dogs.

“She wanted to know if we could come up with a dog that she could use as a guide dog and her husband wouldn’t be allergic to,” he says.

At the time, Australia and Hawaii had similar quarantine provisions so a partnership had been struck up between Guide Dogs Victoria and Eye of the Pacific, a Hawaii-based organisation for the vision impaired.

Initially, Wally saw the task as fairly straightforward — “the standard poodle would do the job”.

But after trialling 33 different standard poodles, Wally came to the conclusion that the poodle didn’t have the right temperament to be a successful guide dog.

All the while, Wally says he was very aware of the “poor lady sitting in Hawaii with no guide dog”.

So after three years of attempting to find a solution, Wally came up with the idea of a brand new crossbreed —”a dog with the working ability of the Labrador and the coat of the poodle”.

Enter the labradoodle.

The experiment

Firstly Wally needed to find a suitable standard poodle to breed with one of the Guide Dogs Victoria Labrador bitches. He didn’t have to look too far afield.

“Our boss had one, a standard poodle, that as far as I knew it had no hereditary problems, so I used it,” Wally says.

So one afternoon in 1989, Wally brought Brandy, a Labrador bitch, over to John Gosling’s house to meet Harley.

Nine weeks later, Brandy delivered the first known litter of labradoodle pups.

Wally was thrilled, although still slightly apprehensive, unsure if any of the three pups would be suitable guide dogs.

“It was great, but I still had worries. Were they non-allergic? Were they going to be suitable?” Wally says.

Coat clippings and saliva from each of the pups were sent to Hawaii for testing and just one of the pups came back compatible.

That pup was named Sultan.

Temperamentally, Sultan was considered the best of the three labradoodle pups, so Wally says he was trained up and sent off to Hawaii to begin work as the world’s first labradoodle guide dog.

A gimmick that caught on

With Sultan in Hawaii, Wally says he still had two other labradoodle pups that would make great guide dogs — except no-one wanted them.

Despite a six-month wait for a Labrador guide dog, Wally says not one family was willing to take one of the Labrador crosses.

Out of sheer frustration, Wally went to the Guide Dogs Victoria PR department.

“I said ‘can you get onto the media and tell them that we’ve bred a special breed? A breed called the labradoodle — it’s non-allergenic’,” Wally says.

So it was then that the name labradoodle was invented: a desperate attempt to get guide dog clients on board with this new crossbreed.

And quickly it became apparent that the demand for the labradoodle went well beyond the vision impaired community. Guide Dogs Victoria became inundated with labradoodle enquiries from all over the world.

“I could not visualise the publicity that a crossbred dog would get,” Wally says.

“Cars would stop and people would get out of the car and say to me, ‘excuse me what sort of dog is that?’ I’d say ‘it’s a labradoodle!'”

The reason the labradoodle took off was fairly straightforward, according to Jessica Hekman from the Broad Institute in Boston, who researches dog behaviour and genetics.

“A lot of the way that we think about dogs is the story that we can tell about the dogs that we’ve got,” Dr Hekman explains.

“Having the story, ‘well this dog is just a mix of a couple of different things’ — it didn’t used to be a good story.

“So when you start attaching cool names, then it starts turning into a new, cool story.”

The regret

It was amongst the media hype that Wally says his feelings about the labradoodle began to change.

“I realised what I had done within a matter of days.”

As a professional dog breeder, Wally says his biggest concern was always about breeding the healthiest pups, but he believes that didn’t end up being the case for a lot of labradoodle breeders “who got on the bandwagon”.

“I realised the reason for these unethical, ruthless people [was] to breed these dogs and sell them for big bucks,” Wally says.

The popularity of the labradoodle was overwhelming and Wally became increasingly concerned about the quality of the breeding process being adopted. Thirty years on it still haunts him.

“I opened a Pandora’s box and released a Frankenstein’s monster,” he says.

“When I’m out and I see these labradoodles I can’t help myself, I go over them in my mind.

“I find that the biggest majority are either crazy or have a hereditary problem. I do see some damn nice labradoodles but they’re few and far between.”

But not everyone shares Wally’s regret.

John was equally as surprised by the uptake of the breed but saw it as a positive turn of events.

“We could never have thought it was going to become so prolific,” he says.

“Our thinking was particularly toward guide dogs and vision-impaired people who had a difficulty with an allergy, but it’s gone way beyond that.

“It’s actually turned out to be something, in my opinion, quite fantastic.

“I don’t have regrets at all.”

Dr Hekman says labradoodles are just one of many dog breeds with runaway popularity.

“My feeling is while there are certainly a fair number of people crossing poodles to anything and everything — and maybe not always in the wisest way — there were always people out there trying to meet the insatiable demand that we have for dogs,” she says.

The labradoodle legacy

Even though Wally still regrets creating the labradoodle, his science experiment back in the late 80s led to numerous successful labradoodle guide dogs, as well as kickstarting the entire “oodle” trend.

The origins of the cavoodle, groodle, jackapoo, schnoodle, golden doodle (the list of poodle crosses really is endless) all stemmed back to the birth of Sultan and his labradoodle siblings.

Additionally, the original labradoodle guide dog, Sultan, served as a highly regarded guide dog — so much so that when he was due for retirement his owner struggled to decide who should adopt him.

“The challenge that the client had was that there were so many people who knew Sultan, they all wanted him when he retired,” John says.

John had ongoing contact with Sultan, doing annual check-ups in Hawaii. So when it came time to retire, Sultan’s owner approached John and asked if he would like this highly sought-after dog.

Sultan was flown from Hawaii to Melbourne and spent the last three years of his life with John.

“He came to work with me back at Guide Dogs Victoria where he started,” John says.

And then when Sultan died it only made sense to bury him in John’s backyard alongside his standard poodle dad, Harley.

Now in the backyard of this suburban Melbourne home just between the hills hoist and the boundary fence, rests the origins of the labradoodle.

Hovering over two large stones that mark the dogs’ graves, John reflects on Harley and Sultan’s life contributions.

“You were here for a reason,” John says, as if speaking directly to the dogs. “It was a reason for many people to have good guide dogs.

“You did what you had to do and you did your best at that.”

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Biofabrication designer Natsai Audrey Chieza joins the growing list of Dezeen Day speakers

Dezeen Day speaker: Natsai Audrey Chieza

Designer Natsai Audrey Chieza will speak at Dezeen Day on 30 October about future materials including biofabrication and using microbes instead of chemicals.

Chieza, founder and director of multidisciplinary agency Faber Futures, will present her work during a discussion designing without plastic.

She will be joined on the post-plastic materials panel by architect Arthur Mamou-Mani and designer Nienke Hoogvliet.

Born in Zimbabwe, Chieza moved to the UK when she was 17, later studying architecture at Edinburgh University and then gaining a masters degree in materials futures at Central St Martins in London.

Dezeen Day speaker: Natsai Audrey Chieza
Natsai Audrey Chieza will speak at Dezeen Day

Chieza is part of a new generation of designers exploring biofabrication, which involves making materials and products from living materials, as an alternative to conventional manufacturing processes.

Faber Futures describes itself as a “biodesign future agency” and explores how design can come together with living systems to help tackle global problems such as pollution and climate change.

In 2017 she gave a TED talk about her work developing biological solutions to reduce waste generated by the fashion industry.

Natsai Audrey Chieza gave a TED talk about her work in 2017

Her Project Coelicolor, which investigates how bacteria could replace harmful chemicals used to dye fabrics, was a winner at this year’s Index Awards.

Dezeen Day takes place on Wednesday 30 October at BFI Southbank, set on the Thames in central London. Part of the brutalist South Bank arts complex, BFI Southbank has recently been refurbished by architects Carmody Groarke.

Dezeen Day aims to set the global agenda for architecture and design and will address key topics including future cities, transforming design education and the circular economy. See the full schedule for Dezeen Day and read about all the speakers announced so far.

Buy reduced early-bird tickets now using the form below or sign up to receive email updates.

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So you want to be a designer? Here’s how one of the greats will make it happen

The Alessi Design Awards are here — and things just got even more exciting.

A fledgling designer can look to many places for inspiration. From a book or the pages of a magazine such as Vogue Living, learning the tips and tricks of the trade are all part of the journey into becoming an established, career designer. But, like in every industry, there’s nothing better than learning on the job — or from the people who know best.

Alessi’s annual Design Awards, which have seen the iconic Italian brand partner with Vogue Living yet again for the ultimate up-and-coming Australian design award, could see that dream become a reality. With two categories, Emerging Designer and Established Designer, the award fosters talent from all corners of the Australian design industry, with the two finalists of the Emerging Designer award winning the opportunity to travel to Milan to present their big idea to the in-house team.

Now, excitingly, a living legend and design icon has joined the judging panel. French designer Philippe Starck has been announced as one of the judges for the Alessi Design Award, and will be personally involved in selecting the final winner. A known figurehead in the industry, Starck’s prowess as an architect and industrial, furniture and lighting designer has seen him work with a slew of much-lauded brands, including Alessi, throughout his impressive career.

Known within the Alessi family for his unique take on the classic citrus squeezer, Starck designed the ‘Juicy Salif’ in the 1990s as part of the Project Solferino, a working group between Alessi and Francois Burkhardt from the Centre de Creation Industrielle at the Beabourg in Paris. The design was functional and controversial all at the same time, transforming the humble juicer into a staple design object — and becoming one of Alessi’s best-selling products of the era. “He is a living example of my dream: design, real design, is always highly charged with innovation towards the word of manufacturing trade, bringing results that need no longer be justified solely on a technological or balance sheet level,” said Alberto Alessi himself said of Starck’s genius.

Starck is among an impressive list of designers who have collaborated with Alessi over the years, including Patricia Urquiola, Adam Goodrum and Marc Newson.

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