The Hindu (Mumbai)

Back in time for shōgun

The costume designer for the lavishly mounted adaptation of the James Clavell novel set in 17th Century Japan, chooses his favourite looks from the show

- Mini Anthikad Chhibber

Shōgun, the 10episode adaptation of the first of James Clavell’s Asian Saga novels, has been praised across the board for its sumptuous visuals. Costume designer Carlos Rosario can take some credit for that. The gorgeous costumes are the result of rigourous research. “I worked on the project for 16 months,” says Carlos on a video call from Los Angeles.

“It was a complicate­d show, set in a complicate­d period, with characters of different ranks. We needed to study the language of the clothing of that period, in order to design the costumes and portray those characters as accurately as possible,” he shares.

Deep dive

Carlos, who loves India, (he lived in Puducherry for seven months and went for an Ayurvedic retreat in Kerala) says the team looked at museum websites from around the world as part of the show’s research. “We looked at period armour and costumes. We bought a lot of books, and were also supported and guided by historians, experts and consultant­s, who helped us understand the Sengoku Period, which is the time frame of the show.”

Paintings were an important resource,

X(Top) Stills from Shōgun; (Right) Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko; costume designer Carlos Rosario. says Carlos, who was born in France to Spanish parents. “We analysed and dissected the paintings of that period, the patterns and colours, because there are no photograph­s then, right (laughs)?”

Edward L McDonnell, one of the executive producers on the series introduced Carlos to Justin Marks, who created Shōgun with Rachel Kondo. “I worked with Ed on one of my first projects as an assistant designer. Right after the pandemic, he sent me an email asking me to meet Justin Marks. I had three interviews, I did a lot of research and got the job,” says Carlos.

Authentici­ty counts

Justin, Carlos says, wanted the show to be as authentic and accurate as possible. “I initially looked for fabrics in Los Angeles and New York. I swatched a lot of fabrics, but couldn’t find anything that captured the essence of the Japanese culture.” Carlos then hired two people in Japan to look for fabrics to use in the show that was prepped and shot in Vancouver.

“All the beautiful fabrics that you see on screen came directly from Japan. They came in bolts of 10 or 11 metres. The fabric was expensive and unique but captured the essence of the period. I convinced FX (producers) and they were supportive. I’m so glad they gave me the budget to import those fabrics.”

Such a long journey

Picking a favourite look in

Shōgun is hard, Carlos says. “They’re all my babies. Each one of the costumes has a backstory and a meaning. It was a long, creative process to create every costume but I do love some of the outfits that Lady Ochiba (played by Fumi Nikaido) wore. I also like two of the

jinbaori Lord Toranaga

(Hiroyuki Sanada) wears.”

The jinbaori, Carlos explains is a surcoat worn on top of the armour. “One of Lord

Toranaga’s jinbaori is made of hundreds of handstitch­ed peacock feathers. The other is a

jinbaori as an armour. We cut hundreds of little wood and metal pieces, which were attached with cording of different colours.”

Big versus small screen

Having designed costumes for movies (Don’t Breathe, The Girl in the Spider’s Web), Carlos says the main difference between the two is speed. “Television goes way faster (laughs). Shōgun is 10 episodes that look like 10 movies, and you don’t have much prep time. A movie is more linear with a beginning, middle and end.”

Having dressed actors from Reese Witherspoo­n and Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line) to Claire Foy, Carlos says he would love to work with Meryl Streep. “She is the greatest and the best. I would also love to work with Jane Fonda. I had the chance to work with Robin Williams before he passed away. I designed the costumes for his last movie (Boulevard). It was an incredible memory.”

Gone with the Wind is Carlos’ favourite classic movie and

One of the reasons Carlos entered the field, the other reason being his grandmothe­r who was a patternmak­er. “I watched her work, putting fabric on the table. I remember her sewing and stitching and I was intrigued. That was my gateway into this world.”

Shōgun is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar with fresh episodes dropping every Tuesday till April 23, 2024

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