© Greg Sick
At The Velvet Onion we try to bring you a different, deeper view of the comedy you love. It was with this mission in mind that we hunted down the Stylist and Costume Designer responsible for the fantastical costumes in Luxury Comedy, to find out how the improbable from Noel Fielding‘s imagination is brought to life with a sewing machine. Mog reports.
One of the things that strikes you about the cast and crew of Luxury Comedy is their dedication to the cause. When you listen to them talk about their involvement in the two series, it’s clear that this was no mere job. The loyalty and commitment that Noel has inspired amongst the team has created a tightly-knit family of can-do’s, happy to go to the ends of the earth to make everything perfect. And Ameena Kara Callender is no exception.
I meet Ameena at her Hoxton studio, surrounded by the colourful chaos of what she does. She looks exactly as you’d hope a stylist would: an unselfconscious mish-mash of clashing colours and patterns, sparkly sandals and powder pink socks; an unexpected balance point between the fabulously exotic and the genuine girl next door.
She tells me that she has always enjoyed dressing up; when she was younger she used to make outfits for nights out with her Mum and Gran from the fabrics they kept in their sewing cupboard. However, she didn’t train as a stylist – the origins of her creative education were fine art, sculpture and painting.
One of her specialisms at college was 3D craft and design, which gave her a useful grounding in working with plastic-based materials. “It’s why I’m able to make these more bizarre sculptural costumes for Noel. All of the random things I’ve learned over the years came together in this one job, which harnessed all of it all at once.”
Originally connected via a mutual friend, Ameena has known Noel for years, but it was at his art exhibition at Maison Bertaux in 2010 that he asked her if she wanted to work on the show. Ameena was particularly drawn to an installation at the exhibition which turned out to be a precursor to the Jellyfox sketch from series 1.
“I really vibed off the animations that he’d done with Nige,” she says. “Noel asked ‘Do you want to make some Leigh Bowery type costumes for me?’ and I was like ‘Hell yeah – that’s right up my street!” she laughs.
Given that Noel has such clear ideas of his own about the look of the characters in the show, I ask her how the creative development process plays out between them. “Working with Noel is amazing. He’s a visual artist, and that goes across the spectrum of everything he does.”
“He draws constantly, and a big part of him coming up with a character is drawing it and figuring out what it looks like. Sometimes they pretty much have the outfit on that they’ll have on when the character comes into the real world, but sometimes he’ll leave it open for me,” she explains.
Taking on that level of responsibility can sometimes be a little daunting; trying to second-guess what Noel wants for a character or working out what would surprise him (in a good way!) can be a challenge, particularly when most of the characters are unlike anything that’s gone before. “You don’t know what really works until you go through the magical process; you can’t get out a reference from Dazed & Confused and say ‘I want him to be like that’, because it’s a whole weird, insane new concept.” she explains. “I’ve spent nights with matchsticks to keep my eyes open doing designs to show Nige and Noel the next day!”
© Ameena. Illustration on jumpsuit by David Shillinglaw