When you watch a movie or series, you probably pay a great amount of attention to the costumes used. Especially if it takes place in a setting much more different than our own. Sometimes you wonder what the costume was made of, how much work it took, and who made it. Maybe you might want one yourself. But that’s something else altogether. Like any great production, a good story is all that much better with really elaborate and finely crafted costumes. I had the pleasure of speaking to Angelina Kekich who designed many elaborate amazing costumes for the TV mini-series, The Stand, inspired by the work of Stephen King, an amazing author well-respected by my own brother. I’ve done some costume design myself, but not as well as her. She told me what it went into some of these outfits and how elaborate the plans were. I was thoroughly impressed.
HNMAG: So I understand you’ve done elaborate work for Stephen King’s The Stand. What were some of your prime responsibilities?
Angelina: I worked with a visual consultant in Los Angeles for the first 10 weeks of our pre-production to the overall production. We created over 500 visual boards for our characters, and as we know Stephen King is extremely explicit in his novels about each of the characters and their journeys. It was really important for us to be able to take each of the characters in the novel and script, then look at their personal journey. Basically, their emotional, psychological, and mental states before the pandemic hit. Once the pandemic hit, they’re either traveling off to Boulder [Colorado] or Vegas, so all of this affects them.
HNMAG: What went into making the costumes suitable for the characters?
Angelina: We looked at colours and textures and layers, and basically got into each of the character’s minds and seeing where they first start and how they end. A really great example is Harold. His whole life he’s been rejected by his own community and not having any friends, rejection from his own family. He tries to write, and his writing is rejected. We wanted to show that emotion through wardrobe. A lack of confidence, a lack of awkwardness. It was really important, I worked very closely with Owen Teague on this. It was very important to get the awkwardness, in his mind he’s got this Hawaiian pastel shirt, these Khaki pleated pants, and in the novel it’s described that he’s wearing cowboy boots. Owen and I talked about doing something different from cowboy boots because that’s kind of astute Mr. Texas Man. We came up with the idea of these militant kind of Patton boots, and it was just amazing with this awkward costume. As the characters travel, we see more confidence in the way that Harold dresses and to the point where he brings Annie to Bouder, Harold gets his first friend which is Weizak and gets the nickname “Hawk”. He’s part of the body crew in Boulder, so we wanted to show that there was this sense of confidence, him trying to be part of this community and different from the young boy that we saw in Maine. Then when we see Harold getting more and more into the dark side, and he starts to get darker and darker into his costume. We did this for each of the characters throughout the whole show.
HNMAG: You’ve made quite a fantastic piece for Ezra Miller. Where did you come up with the materials to make it fire-resistant?
Angelina: I worked really closely with Ezra Miller as well. As for Trashcan Man, it was very important that we make it different from the adaptation in 1984. One of the things that Ezra told me is “Angelina, I don’t serve flag, I serve fire. I don’t want anything on my body unless it serves fire.” We basically had to create this character and he was fine with having very little on. We created and built this utility vest and he was able to grab something out of any pocket from gunpowder to bullets to wires. Of course, we used the fabric kevlar, that’s known as heat-resistance. We also built belt around his waist which had all sorts of utilitarian stuff that he needed to create fire.
HNMAG: When it comes to designing costumes, what factors do you keep in mind?
Angelina: The costume that we built also had to have purpose as well and had to be realistic. We were around flames and we did have him climbing through tunnels. Everything that was on him was practical, it was not just a costume. When building stuff, we want to make sure they show the character.
HNMAG: How long did it take to make that outfit?
Angelina: I worked with the props team and a particular builder who we work with a lot. Working with Ezra, we probably spent close to 4 weeks. Ezra came in for a couple fittings and we would look at costumes. He would say “Great, Angelina.” Then we would sit and have a talk with props. I would tell them “It’s important that I have this and this.” The other thing about Trashcan is before we meet him, he’s come out of prison. One of the things that was really important to Ezra was that he wanted to show something from his prison uniform. We took a piece of prison uniform and he took it home and did the numbers that would’ve been on his prison uniform as art work. Then we attached it to the back of his utility vest as if he had sewn it on to never forget that memory or the psychological time that he had spent in that prison.
HNMAG: I understand you also outsourced vintage jeans. How did you manage to do that?
Angelina: Those are vintage inspired. When I worked with Alexander Skarsgård, we built Randall Flagg and one of the things about Flagg’s costume is that we’re taking a novel that was written in the 70s and had an adaptation in the 90s. Working with the creators of the show, it was really important that we modernized it. It was important that we stayed true to Flagg as that was really important to Stephen King. We looked at different interpretations of Dark Man/Flagg by artists from the mid-70s all the way to now. Stephen said this was one costume he didn’t want to change as it had to stay true to the character because it’s something that the viewers are able to identify. We did a lot of resourcing in Los Angeles, New York, and Vancouver. For Alex, we probably had over 6 rolling racks of denim. Jean jackets, denim shirts, denim pants and the pieces he chose and we fell in love with was inspired by Wrangler’s vintage designs that they came up for that year. The choice we made had a very 1950s or light 70s feel with a bit of rockabilly. We flipped the jeans, cut the bottom of the cuffs, put the collar up. We altered it to be very tailored to Alex’s body. One of the things about Dark Man/Flagg is that he’s able to control certain creatures such as the raven, the rats, the wolves, and he’s also able to control scorpions. We designed a scorpion belt for him, I worked with a designer in Vancouver and an artist. The scorpion represents fear, intimidation, and the ability to control. It was important for us to give the denim outfit a timeless feel and giving it the Scorpion belt buckle added some characteristic to it. Alex being such a wonderful person was able to carry it.
HNMAG: You also managed a large costume department. How did it go with overlooking everything that went on?
Angelina: I had an amazing team of 3 assistant designers, coordinators and supervisors on the show. We had a large team that was sewing and building the costumes, we had a breakdown team. All of the aging of Flagg, he basically wears this one costume and I had a breakdown team who show all the different stages and we probably had about 30 sets of this costume. There we show the different stages of aging and grading in denim right to the episode when he destroys Bobby Terry into pieces and there’s blood all over him. On the crew, we’re all true artists in all different areas. Once it came up to designing the stuff in Vegas, we had up to 50 people in our two shops. We had a background shop and a main cast and day player shop. We had shoppers in Los Angeles and shoppers in Vegas that I worked with while shopping down there. Also all of our background that was in the show came in for background fittings. When it comes to having a large crew come in to work on a show of this size and demands, it was important to have people who were passionate and were people who love costumes and understanding of what we were creating and many of us work 6 days a week to get this project done.
HNMAG: What materials have you used in your projects for this series?
Angelina: For me when we pitched out Flagg’s world, we were inspired by Old Vegas, Framont, and Old Hollywood. What I love doing with this whole show is taking vintage pieces so I spent time in Vegas and Los Angeles. We brought back a lot of costumes to dress all of our background and the first thing I wanted to do was create a world that was timeless. We took vintage costumes and showgirl costumes, and we took modernized pieces with it, then created textures and layers to give it a timeless feel. I also worked with an amazing group of gentlemen in Los Angeles who helped me build Rat Woman’s costume. I built a 4 1/2 foot head-dress piece, for Rat Woman I looked at Dragoons (militant hats) and we built this large feathered dragoon style mohawk. We worked with roping and human hair, inspired by Vivian Westwood, and John Paul Gotier. It was a great opportunity working with the show runner and the creators of the show. I had fun and got involved with who the characters are and elaborate from there.
HNMAG: How did you get involved with this particular show?
Angelina: I happened to be on another show and when it ended, a production designer knew I was available, and basically we had a conversation on the phone and said “Look. You’re known as the girl who does post-apocalyptic,” and of course, I’ve worked for Stephen Spielberg designing Falling Skies, and she’s like “We’d love to get you in to meet with these show runners.” and I thought “OMG, what an honour to have this opportunity to try and pitch my idea to Stephen King’s #1 novel in his career.” So I said “Yes, let me in.” and I basically pitched to the line producer first and I think they were really impressed by my visuals and a lot of my ideas that I had was what they were already thinking. They then explained what they wanted me to do. I remember that I went back home and worked on it. I made sure I knew my scripts and I came in and met Josh and Ben who are just lovely gentlemen and I sat down with them to show my visual presentation package. It was amazing, we just connected right away, and they said “YES! you nailed it, this is just we feel about this character.” Then when Josh shook my hand and told me I got the job I was in shock. Usually it doesn’t work in our industry like that, you pitch your idea, then you have to wait a few days. I knew this was going to be a great opportunity for my career.
HNMAG: And how did you get into costume design in general?
Angelina: I had a passion since I was a little girl. I used to make my own clothes for all my dolls, I remember my mother had a lot of friends who were tailors and she would take me to their shop. I just was inspired by these people, their craftsmanship, they were making stuff and they used to give me their scraps. When the time came, I got accepted into Ryerson University in Toronto and I did my degree in design and marketing. From that, I knew I wanted to broaden my design and further my skills. I went and did my master’s in costume design at UBC for television and theatre. I spent 3 years studying and I wrote my thesis while working two major projects while at UBC. Once I graduated, I started going into Commercial world, working with commercial stylists. Then I got into Indie world, working with Indie costume designers as an assistant. Then I was ready to go on my own. My first project was a $5000 budget on this little Indie film I did. I just continued on designing and it went on from there.
HNMAG: Do you follow any specific guidelines when designing for movies and shows?
Angelina: Building a relationship with the show runner or the creator of the show and understanding how he/she sees the show, and how they want to create it. Probably the biggest thing for me and the biggest thing for me and I’ve done since the beginning of my career is working really closely with the actors as well, and trying to get their vision as much as what the studio or the show runner wants. Collaborating all 3 of those so that everyone’s happy. The most important thing is when an actor puts a costume on, I’m helping them tell a story. I’m also helping that actor gain the confidence that they need to create that character in their head. It’s all the different stages and being proud and passionate of what you work on.
HNMAG: Have you ever designed any outfits for fun?
Angelina: (laughs) For my children, my husband, and myself when I feel like. I think my kids and husband feel very lucky to have me because I have a lot of ability to get us fun costumes or create stuff. I have a creative brain, and a very quirky side to me. Any chance I get to make something for me, my friends, or my kids, is always a bonus.
Angelina’s work has been some of the most noteworthy of this particular show, and I have a feeling she’s going to be creating bigger and better things in the future as she keeps working on the costumes she designs. The fact that she’s done so much for The Stand alone shows she’ll be reaching great heights this year.
Want to learn more about Angelina? Check out her official website and her Instagram!