Julian Day: On fashioning Diana for the screen
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I interviewed Diana‘s London-based costume designer via telephone to gain insight into his aesthetic experience. Julian Day has previously dressed Emily Blunt, Kristen Scott Thomas and Helen Mirren in various films.
Laaleen Khan: Julian, you’ve reinterpreted iconic Diana dresses to perfection, with startling results. What did you have in mind when depicting the style evolution that occurred in the last years of Diana’s life?
Julian Day: I had a look at the reference, a number of pictures, and reinterpreted it to take into consideration the height and shape difference between Diana and Naomi. I reinterpreted those clothes to give the same impression for Naomi’s shape. It’s very pared down, much simpler, less complicated. Fashion plays a big role in her (Diana’s) life. Towards the end of her life, she liked to pare down what she was wearing (and kept it) simplistic.
LK: Are there any other iconic moments from Diana’s life you would’ve liked to aesthetically recreate from her earlier years, such as her wedding day complete with her fairytale gown and the dazzling Spencer tiara?
JD: Not really. In all fairness, some of the things she wore when she started her relationship with Charles were not particularly nice. I think, as she got divorced from Charles and away from the royal family, she was able to use her own style decisions. She became more of herself. She was a fairly stylish lady.
LK: Oliver has said that he was looking for the right vibe with his casting choices rather than lookalikes. What was your experience like recreating Hasnat and Dodi for the screen?
JD: It’s about interpretation of a look in a sense. As a costume designer, I’ve got to be aware…I did a bit of research into the royal household, what they wore. It’s all about creating a mood. We were never intending on making a documentary. This is a film. You interpret it in a way to benefit the film.
LK: What was your criterion when selecting jewelry with Chopard and accessories with other brands? Was anything specially made for the film?
JD: The jewellery was all chosen with Diana’s style in mind, all from past and present collections. Things she had worn. Tod’s produced bags and shoes, original bags they’d made for her. Jimmy Choo produced the classics that she wore. Oliver Goldsmith produced a range of sunglasses that she worn.
LK: How many of Diana’s Pakistani outfits did you recreate for Naomi? Did you enlist any Pakistani or Indian fashion labels for any of these?
JD: I luckily am married to someone of Asian origin and (am aware of) the intricacies of wearing the shalwar kameez. We went to the Asian areas in London and chose fabrics and had them produced by seamstresses here.
LK: How many outfits were there total and how much time did it take to design and produce them?
JD: Between 100-120 different costumes for her. I only had 6 weeks to do it all and very little money.
LK: Are there any plans for a spinoff retail collection of apparel/jewellery inspired by the film?
JD: Personally, I would find that quite distasteful. No, not as far as I would I know. That’s my personal opinion. A jewellery company in America recreated her engagement ring.
LK: If you were asked to work on a biopic on the Duchess of Cambridge, how would you dress Kate?
JD: (She began with) Reiss and the highstreet. Designers are getting to know her now. She’s got her own style. Diana created a style for the royal family. Kate is following in her footsteps, a proxy really. Kate is a fairly classic dresser, I don’t know much about her and I don’t follow the royal family (closely). Her and her husband dress very normally and I wouldn’t change a thing.
LK: Are there any other notable figures whose style you admire and would be interested in depicting for the screen?
JD: I’ve already depicted John Lennon. And F1 racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda and in Rush (starring Chris Hemsworth). I’d be interested to do Elton John’s clothes. He certainly had a style of his own. And Napoléon.
LK: What are you working on at the moment?
JD: A film in Nantucket about Moby Dick, set in 1819 (In the Heart of the Sea).