Yeah, that was an amazing fabric. I really love that. I made the identical suit up for Brian Fuller. Because he was all he was always quite covetus of Mads’ suits. So I had to reorder some of that fabric. I have a picture of him (and Mads) somewhere standing together in the same suit.
– Christopher Hargadon.
Who is Hungry?
In episode #140 I speak with Christopher Hargadon costume designer for the TV series Hannibal. In this exclusive interview Christopher talks to me about the process, working with the tailors, what happened to the suits, what it was like working with Mads Mikkelsen etc. Hannibal the series ran over 3 seasons, and Christopher designed the costumes for each one. An amazing series, highly recommend it, I’ve done a break down of all the episodes and the key pieces from Season One and Season Two. (Working on Three).
Christopher Hargadon recently received an Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes category for his work on Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. However, in this interview he speaks exclusively about Hannibal and designing those imperious suits for Mads Mikkelsen.
My interview with Christopher Hargadon
PB (Peter Brooker): I guess you’d already seen the film’s previous films, had you read the books that what kind of fan level were you at going into this project?
CH (Christopher Hargadon): I never watched any of it. It’s not really the type of thing that I watch. I don’t really watch documentaries on mass murders. I mean, I’ve seen a few but I just, it’s not something that I focus on because I just feel that if you take in too much of it, it’s it’s hard to see your way. So I try to focus on the the brighter things. However, obviously I’m aware, the good and the bad in society and also the humour. I mean, if it hadn’t been done with humour it would have been a bummer.
I think it would have been unwatchable.
But when I watch it now, and you’ll see an angle on Hannibal’s cheekbone and he’ll say something with his, beautiful Danish accent and then there’ll be a ring of a bell. I mean, like an updated Film Noir, absurd. I really, I really appreciate every part of it now. Yeah,
Working with Mads
PB: Was it was easy to work alongside Mads because he does wear suits, so well.
CH: Well, first of all, he’s very trusting of the costume designer. So I mean, Mads […] he’s very casual, he’s very kind of sporting. The amazing thing about him is when the camera stops rolling, he’s back to the normal Mads smoking a cigarette outside in the sunlight. Which he loves. In this particular case, Hannibal was very immaculately put together, and very refined, very cultivated. And it was interesting, I knew I’d be building so I had to start with fabric, which is where I generally start for any character when I’m building. And I just looked at all the different woollens, and the ones that really kept jumping out at me were different types of plaids.
I did examine pin stripes and all that type of thing. But the thing that didn’t go banker or didn’t go corporate, and didn’t look just plain, was the plaid.
I was willing to evolve that, but Bryan Fuller loved it so much. He just said, Let’s stick with the plaid. So I’m very glad that he sort of gave me that direction because it’s become his calling card, really. And as far as Mads goes, he’s like a Christmas present.
All wrapped up, wearing a suit and his hair back. I mean, he was impeccable. He also has a dancer, gymnast background. So he holds himself beautifully. I mean, yeah, he definitely was made to wear a suit. But you know, when you see his other roles, he’s scrappy. And he’s a drug addict and all these types. I mean, I was just fortunate that I got to dress him up.
That special moment?
PB: Can you remember the moment when you got enlisted to be the costume designer for Hannibal?
CH: Hannibal? Oh, well, that’s an interesting story. To be quite honest, I tend to pursue projects that are light filled, and not involving that type of nefarious activity. So I was actually working on something, it was kind of an intense time on that particular project when I was called in, and the people were so nice.
There were about seven of them, Brian fuller included. And I think the one of the main directors who, who stayed on throughout, and they were all really, really kind and very enthusiastic. I had my book with my swatches and sketches. And some of them were touching the pages. I mean, it was really quite sweet. Anyhow, lovely interview, I walked out of the place, I was driving into the parking lot, and I got a call with a job offer. And I was actually kind of surprised, because it often doesn’t happen quite that quickly.
And I wasn’t actually sure if I wanted to for the show, despite how nice people were. So I asked if I could have little time to think about it. And I can’t say that I’m necessarily the best at judging my moves throughout my career.
So about a week later, the producer called me to ask me if I thought about it, and actually, I hadn’t thought about it at all. So I had a little discussion with her. And I told her my dilemma, but I wasn’t really sure that the subject matter was really in tune with me. And she said,
Well I wouldn’t show this to my mother and it’s not really my thing, either. But I think that it’s going to be a really amazing project.
And then I thought why am I being such a prima donna? Why don’t I just go for it. And honestly, it was one of the most lovely projects I’ve ever worked on. Brian’s very cinematic in his vision. He is a perfectionist. The actors still stand up in my mind as one of the most beautiful film and TV families I’ve ever worked with. I just loved all of them. And, and also just for me personally on a design level, the characterizations were so distinct.
They evolved in a certain kind of way each season, it moved in a move forward. So it always kept it very interesting for me. I was really very pleased to have done it. Plus it actually garnered quite a following. A nice kind of following. But I was kind of surprised, the most intelligent people in the room would be the ones who were fans of that show. So I was lucky. I’m glad I didn’t listen to my initial instincts.
And the tailors..
PB: Can you talk about those relationships working with the tailors Antonio Valente and Garrison Bespoke?
CH: It’s always a great gift to find a tailor who understands our process. Because first of all, we work with ridiculous time parameters. And also there’s all levels of tailoring, obviously, so to find people that really understand your need… I come from a design background in fashion and tailoring so I’m crazy with pins and fittings. There’s not a lot that gets out of a fitting without pins. I look back on that show now, and I’m so used to having a cutting room with one or two cutters and a little army of soldiers and that sort of immediate – ‘evolve as you go’ kind of situation. And when I look back on that show, we really did have quite a skeleton crew.
It wasn’t a large group of people and all the building really was farmed out which, it’s hard to control obviously, because you’re not in constant dialogue with the people that are working on it. But it worked out well. Now, they’re getting bigger. And subsequently, we have more support. Or I have more support in my particular experience, which I love.
I still use tailors, I use tailors on The Umbrella Academy, and there’s two that I use a lot. This current season of The Umbrella Academy, I have to do a whole range of 1920s Hotel uniforms. I wanted them to be sort of within the ‘Busby Berkeley’ – he also very specifically dyed colour and metallic accents. Within the parameter of our workshop, it’s easy, but to actually give that to someone else to do on a contractor level, it’s complicated. We gave them all the instructions, but they actually did amazing work.
Into the light
PB: Did you have to coordinate some of your suits in the outfits with lighting? Because it’s all lit very dark.
CH: Yes, I like to dialogue, obviously, with the DLP and the hair and makeup and their production design. But sometimes on these productions, the speed that we’re operating under, sometimes those slip by the wayside. And after the first season, a few of us went individually for interviews. I guess they were behind the scenes or something like that. I was the last interview and the gentleman asked me about colour because some of the colours that I use, the lightning was quite dark. And at one point with DLP (Direct Light Processing) said,
I’m going through my existential crisis.
[…] and I’m like, Oh, my God, it’s getting darker and darker. So I, consequently brightened up some of the tones. I was like popping the colour of it. And the interviewer said, so yeah. What about the colours? And I said, Well, you know, I was doing this just to sort of balance out a little bit. He said, Well, that’s interesting, because the DLP came in yesterday. And he told me that Christopher Hargadon’s colours were so great that he had to keep darkening down the light.
PB: After season one, does the budget go up for something like this?
CH: I don’t recall the budget going up. I mean, sometimes the budget goes down because the studio wants, eventually a little more profit or something like that. The thing about Hannibal was it was really, I think more people watched it since it actually was being aired initially. So it was kind of a risk, NBC was carrying it, and it really was way out of their usual orbit. So I mean, kudos to them for having signed on to do it and for doing it for three seasons. Because I don’t think the numbers were huge. So yeah, the budgets didn’t really change.
Yeah, actually, often the budgets don’t change, you just kind of have to try and work around. Hopefully, you’ve got enough to begin with. I mean, that’s one thing I’m very upfront with in the beginning with producers is how much it’s going to cost to actually deliver what is expected. Because you work with directors who want a good product, and they want the whole look to be cohesive, and certainly with our show runners, they wanted as well. From the time I started about 30 years ago on this business, costume has really increased in value. As far as in the minds of studios and producers, that always existed.
But I think that people now notice it more. It’s more of a sort of a living part of the storyline. And so there’s more productions being made that have interesting costuming that isn’t necessarily, day to day, more fantasy, you know? And so because there’s that awareness, I think that studios are now a little bit more forgiving about what kind of budgets and I was working on budgets of $23,000 in the early 90s. I mean, like, full pass, like, wow. That wouldn’t even cover one episode of anything really.
PB: For shows like The Kennedy’s. I imagine the budget requires more for shows that are period driven?
CH: For sure. I mean, I’ll probably build for Jackie Kennedy, I’ll build 40% of it. But once I actually got into it, I thought I can’t put things on here that aren’t historically correct, because they’re so well documented. So I build everything, and the studio gives you a number. And so they gave me a number. And when I do a budget, I literally go down to the socks and underwear and all the markets just like as complete as possible. I tend to find that my budgets are very accurate. So there’s always the unknowns, like stunts or multiples or anything, you have to kind of just make that up yourself, you don’t know how many background they’re going to be you have to make these budgets before you have any information, essentially.
So it’s really just by experience, and guesstimating. I gave a budget, which blew everybody’s underwear off. And then they came back and said, We can get you another 100,000. I said, Well, yes, that’d be great. But this is actually what it’s going to cost. And it ended up costing $6,000 less than my estimate. So as we went along, and then I think the interest grew they became more competent the project was going to have some kind of legs. Otherwise, it’s like, Okay we’re in the 15th week of shooting, and I’m out of money. So what do you want me to do?
Hannibal the Style Guru
PB: With this series I’ve noticed many people would like to do the style guides, have you noticed also that this series of Hannibal has become a manual for people on how to dress?
CH: I can’t say that I go online a lot. But like you once in a while, I’ll just look on my Instagram. When I pull it up. There’s all these Hannibal pictures, which I’ve never seen before. I mean, I always look at those just for fun memories. But yeah, I’ve seen that with several projects that I’ve done, where people dissect it and make it accessible to other people who might be interested. I’m actually blown away at the fan base. Not only at the shows that I’ve done, but other friends of mine. How devoted people are often to a specific series or film. It’s like a modern day phenomenon, I think.
I really appreciate that people are actually noticing our work. I didn’t know if anybody looked at the things that I did 25 years ago. But now you actually get feedback and on Instagram I get questions, I can mentor people who live across the other side of the world. I know somebody who I’ve been communicating with who’s been working for two years on one of those school uniform jackets from The Umbrella Academy, and he wants to get it perfect. So just kind of guiding people or advising them or letting them know, resources. It fulfilling for me, it’s gratifying.
PB: Do you allow yourself time for social media?
CH: The only real way that it happens for me, is I have an Instagram account. And people can approach me through that. And I have a website. So sometimes I’ll get things like, I’m getting married in Bulgaria, and I’d like you to design my wedding or something like that. And unfortunately, some people send those kind of messages through Facebook Messenger, or whatever. And I actually, practically never looked at it.
So I usually see these messages a year and a half after they were sent, and then I have to send an apology. But I mean, for people who are young and interested in getting into the business and are creative – I’m always there for those people. Because we need them and we need a lot of them. And it’s really hard for some people.
There’s a young woman in the UK that I’ve been in communication with, she’s 17 she’s interested, she doesn’t know how to do it or where to go. So sometimes a person like me can actually say, Okay, well this is one way you can approach it now you’re going to get access to people who might be able to give you some direction. Sometimes I am kind of overwhelmed and then send some quick back to talk to you later. Because you do get busy.
PB: I’m about to go get an Emmy. I’ll call you right back.
CH: Your lips to God’s ears.
PB: And what suit or prop would you ideally like to keep from the show?
CH: They always want to keep everything. So I’ve never sort of thought about, taking things. But Gillian Anderson at one point, she’s become a friend over time, and she asked me if she could have a particular blouse [for auction], because she felt that it was something that was sort of slightly iconic. And that’s probably what I would do is something like that. Take something that could be actually used in a fundraiser for some good cause. The thing is, over time, I started collecting and I had a massive collection. And then once you start collecting, people also start bringing things to you, because they know you’re going to have a safe place for their beautiful antique things.
So, I had such a huge collection. And I bought a house in Hawaii a few years ago, and I realised I can’t carry this stuff around with me. Yeah, definitely. And so I basically let go of all of it. So I’m very sort of unacquainted. I like to have clothes to wear. But as far as collecting them now, I appreciate them in the moment. And I thank them for coming through my life but I don’t feel any of that stuff. And people when I let go of my vintage, they said, ‘You must be heartbroken’. I said, no I actually feel very relieved and quite light is actually a really good feeling.
The things that I had, all ended up in a rental house, so people can continue to use them for projects. They’re not away in somebody’s basement. As long as it is enjoyed by other people. That’s my main thing.
The thing that I carry around is art. I have a hard time letting go of art, because art to me really does connect me with an emotion of a time or a place. I understand people who really are invested in it. But yeah, we can’t take anything with us ultimately. So you might as well get ourselves drained.
Further Reading, Credits & Sponsors
- You can read about Chris Kerr tailoring Mads Mikkelsen for his role in Le Chiffre in Casino Royale in the From Tailors With Love book.
- You can find out more about Christopher Hargadon on his website here.
- Special thanks to Christopher Hargadon for coming on the show to talk at length about Hannibal.