Share

One look at Mr Gammon’s catalogue of intricate, outlandish, entertaining and jaw-dropping costume work for movies, TV, commercials and music videos shows that he’s not a man tied to a particular genre.

Whether it’s dressing a cast of kids for a Sainsbury’s-flavoured festive show in The Big Night (yes, he created plug-boy), giving flair to some stylish gents in Nicholai Fuglsig's Sapeurs work for Guinness or outfitting a Welsh mining love story for Alt-J's Pleader, there’s no mistaking his distinctive flair for the eye-catching yet authentic in his work.

We caught up with Mr Gammon off the back of his lovely, retro NASA-inspired work for Sam Pilling’s Rocket Fuel music video for DJ Shadow, to chat to him about the secrets of the job, pop promos he’s particularly enjoyed and what 2020 holds for him.

Click image to enlarge
Above: Concept artwork, photo shoot images and the final product for Mr Gammon's work on Sainsbury's The Big Night commercial.


How did you get into costume design?

My journey into costume design started as a gradual evolution from studying fashion both on the streets of London and at the Royal College of Art, where my graduation collection of tailored outfits was inspired by the best in cult British TV from the 60’s and 70’s mixed with my own unquestionable swagger. 

Think ruffle shirts as biker jackets, gun holsters for Super 8 Cine Cameras with Sequin jewel-encrusted jeans and velvet frock coats. 

Rock and roll!

From that, I marketed my collection to stylists dressing bands and artists of the day, back in the late 90’s. Did I mention The Rolling Stones, Adam Ant, the Spice Girls and a bunch of Brit Pop? Oh hell yesssss. 

Click image to enlarge
Above: A pic from Mr Gammon's Royal College of Art Collection and the jacket he created for Mick Jagger on The Rolling Stones' Voodoo Lounge Tour 


At what stage do you normally get involved on a project? What are the first steps?

Once availability has been established through my agent, then it’s a read of the treatment, the director’s pitch to record company/artist for their vision for the film they want to create.

I usually request the track to listen to, funny how often this isn’t provided. And I play it repeatedly. 

Especially if I like it. 

I then establish a dialogue with the director by sharing references images. This is a bane for my assistants, finding the right images is not a trip down the Google path of bullshit. 

We, as costume designers, are but a cog in a much larger machine working with other departments - production design; camera department; location; casting; hair and makeup - to produce the best-looking film we can.

I want to provide visual images that are a reflection of the film we are yet to make. 

So if you are referencing a woman in jeans, then the location, the setting, the casting, hell, even the grade of that image all helps in getting towards the beginning of a relationship between costume design and director. 

It’s got to be good.

Above: Mr Gammon [left] and director Tom Kuntz. Photography - Erik Ian Schaetzke


It’s important to set a tone for design to get a feel for what the director is after. We, as costume designers, are but a cog in a much larger machine working with other departments - production design; camera department; location; casting; hair and makeup - to produce the best-looking film we can. 

Once ‘the look’ has been locked down, the work of sourcing, buying, designing and making come in. And, depending on the script, this will determine the lead time to prepping the job. Then fittings and alterations if need be.

I won’t do a fitting with a cell phone and a cluttered background.

I love fittings, it’s the turn of the designer to really shape the look of the film. 

I treat mine like a photo-shoot. 

I have a colorama, for a plain, non-distracting background; my own lighting rig to light the actor/ performer as best I can; a decent camera (I’m rocking the Fuji XT3 SLR.).

I won’t do a fitting with a cell phone and a cluttered background. 

Remember, we are trying to establish the look of the film. It’s all about ownership.

Guinness – Sapeurs

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source

You work in commercials/film/TV and music video - does the process change between them? What's the most fun?

Fun is the operative word. 

Even if a shoot is a shit show, you have to bring the fun to any project that you design.

Think of every project as a celebration of the fact that you get to do your thing. The work is a gift.

You, as costume designer/stylist, are responsible for sprinkling that extra bit of magic on a shoot.

Sometimes, in a commercial, styling can become a ‘thing’. Know this: it very rarely is. 

DJ Shadow featuring De La Soul – Rocket Fuel

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Show full credits
Hide full credits
Credits powered by Source

It’s just concerned people needing to have a voice. Everyone has an opinion. 

Just own and steer them. Reassure them. 

We all have to answer to commissioners, recording artists, directors, executives, ad agency creatives with their own fears and anxieties. But none of them dress as well as me.

So the process is different and yet the same.

Filmic is the key. I usually like to feel that a commercial and music video isn’t trying to be a film or movie, it’s a scene taken from a film or movie. Totally different.

We all have to answer to commissioners, recording artists, directors, executives, ad agency creatives with their own fears and anxieties. 

But none of them dress as well as me. Haha

Click image to enlarge
Above: Behind the scenes pics from Rocket Fuel. Photography by Vitaliy Mariash.


What have been your favourite music videos to work on? Why?

My absolute favourite music videos have been:

DJ Shadow featuring De La Soul, Rocket Fuel, directed by Sam Pilling.

Why? The freedom, the passion of a great filmmaker, totally uncompromising and clever director, hard work and laughs. Oh, and that mixed with a cast of astronauts, Stanley Kubrick and 60’s film crew characters, President Nixon & President Brezhnev and military Personnel from both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Nailing the period costume so the viewer does not even question it.  

Working abroad and checking in some twenty cases of excess baggage to the Ukraine. I love shooting abroad - just check out my Instagram: @mrgammon #mrgammontravels

Alt-J – Pleader

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Credits powered by Source

Alt J, Pleader, directed by Isaiah Seret.

Why? For the sheer beauty of the finished film, the beautiful cinematography by John Lynch, a period and style of design that I have never designed before and the fuck ton of awards it acquired for production and its director. 

Though saying that, it’s been over two years and I have not heard from you, Isaiah… Always here for you Mr Seret. 

The Avalanches – Frontier Psychiatrist

Credits
powered by Source

Unlock full credits and more with a Source membership.

Credits
powered by Source
Credits powered by Source

The Avalanches, Frontier Psychiatrist, directed by Tom Kuntz and Mike Maguire.

Why? Because it stemmed the beginning of a friendship and working relationship that has bridged the decades with those two remarkable directors. 
I can honestly say that there are forks in the road that take you on a career path and that, dear reader, was one of them.

Imagine an entire village of oddballs entering an 80’s throwback talent show where their actions and costumes represent different ‘samples’ that make up the track. Poetry in motion.

Most of the cast are probably dead now, though the girl that hits the donkey’s arse to the music I worked with last month and she is rocking the age of 94. Damn.

In fact, that job’s so old I took Polaroids as continuity images. 

Above: Polaroid continuity images from Frontier Psychiatrist.


Busted, What I Go To School For / Year 3000, directed by… er, fuck knows.

Why? Secured the deposit on buying my flat.

Above: A delightfully retro monster, created for Tom Kuntz's Did Somebody Say Just Eat commercial.


Whose work in the field, apart from your own, do you most admire?

Wait, so you are asking me which costume designer takes the food from my table and makes my child go hungry at bedtime?

Then let’s forget the usual Hollywood fodder of recent Academy nominees, give most of us the opportunity of a decent script, a decent budget, time and we could all fly.

I mainly admire the unsung heroes, the costume designers and stylists who may not be known for the most famous of work, but are just terrific at what they do. 

I admire the work of James Acheson, Michael Kaplan, Ray Holman, Rosa Diaz, Shirley Russell, Morton Haack, May Routh, Nancy Steiner, Theodora Van Runkle, Patricia Norris,  I could go on.

But I mainly admire the unsung heroes, the costume designers and stylists who may not be known for the most famous of work, but are just terrific at what they do. 

Above: Mr Gammon [left] putting the finishing touches to an actor on the Pleader shoot.


What's the biggest secret about your job?

Biggest Secret? Be fearless. Own your Department. Be compliant (if need be). Be cheeky (especially this). Be polite (we are not savages). And speak up. 

But mainly.......

BE THE ONLY ROOSTER IN THE HEN HOUSE.

What's your favourite thing about the role?

Listen, we can talk about how great production design is and the wonderful contribution my production design brethren and sisterhood bring to a shoot, but remember one thing: I dress the bodies that stand in front of that shit. Ha ha.

The beauty of great costume designer is to not look like you were there at all.

Seriously, it’s being in complete control of a department and bringing a wow factor to a project that makes something look like the difference between wallpaper and something that just feels remarkable. 

Whether you are styling that reluctant popstar or making a naturalistic filmic piece of work with a cast of thousands.

Remember the beauty of great costume designer is to not look like you were there at all.

But my favourite thing? The people.

Click image to enlarge
Above: On the set of Pleader. Photography - Jake Dypka.


Are there any directors/creators you would love to work with who you haven't yet? 

I want to work with the new blood, the hungry, the uncompromising like the Sam Pillings, the Daniels, the Tom Kuntz and the Nick Balls of this world. Who I enjoy designing for immensely. 

Give me new, young, female and male visionaries of the roaring 2020s.

It’s a sad reflection of the industry that the days of working with new directors in their youthful twenties is still so rare. There is still an apprehension to giving opportunity to the hungry. 

Give me new, young, female and male visionaries of the roaring 2020s.

Especially from the big labels and corporations and brands.

Click image to enlarge
Above: Stills from Nicholai Fuglsig's Sapeurs, work for Guinness, costumed by Mr Gammon.


Likewise, any genres?

Give me a Western. Yes, a dirty in the mouth, darn tootin’ Western. Grit, grim, sweat and 19th century swagger.

That, or Science Fiction. That is a genre that needs a rethink. Not all sci-fi has to be the offspring of Blade Runner.

What's up for you in 2020?

It's funny, for all the years I’ve been doing this, I’m still craving the work as if it's the beginning. 

Yes, it’s always the beginning.

So for 2020 more interesting projects: long-form and short, a cast of thousands and an excess baggage list as big as terminal 5.


www.mrgammon.net

Share