Writers create from nothing. Directors impart their vision. And actors share their talents to become a character. However, a costume designer brings their gifts to make a character look and feel authentic. Jany Temime has been leaving her indelible mark on films for more than 40 years. Creating the look and feel of an unknown character is hard enough, but imagine how difficult it must be to design for beloved and well-known characters like Harry Potter or James Bond?
Well, Temime did just that and continues to dazzle us with her incredible costume designs.
Temime is from France, but has spent much of her life traveling the world on film sets. She always wanted to be a costume designer, and when she was in primary school, she made the costumes for the school play. She went on to college where her parents wanted her to study something practical—she has a master’s degree in French and Latin—and later worked at Elle magazine for a short time. Then, film projects came, and she worked her way up to being one of the most sought-after film and TV costume designers.
In addition to designing costumes for the last five Harry Potter films and the last two James Bond movies, Temime recently worked with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence on Passengers, as well as on Victor Frankenstein, Gravity, The Wrath of the Titans, In Bruges, Children of Men, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and many more. She has been nominated for many awards including BAFTA, Saturn, and Costume Designers Guild Awards, which she won for Skyfall and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 as found on IMDb.
With this being the 20th anniversary week of the publishing of Harry Potter #HarryPotter20, it is the perfect time to chat with the super smart, creative and oh so funny Jany Temime. She dished about her passion for costume design, what it is like to dress Daniel Craig, who were her favorite characters to dress in Harry Potter, why she loves to use Prismacolor when making her sketches, what she likes to do for fun, what advice she has for people who want to become costume designers and more.
Michelle Tompkins: Where are you originally from?
Jany Tremime: France, but I live in London now—20 years or so.
MT: You also spent some time in the Netherlands too. Is that correct?
JT: I married a Dutchman [laughter]. I married a Dutchman so I lived in Amsterdam for 20 years, but I was traveling all the time. And then so yes, yes, I had a very international life.
MT: Which languages do you speak?
JT: In total?
JT: Well, I speak French of course [laughter]. I speak Spanish. I speak Dutch. I speak English. Mother tongue.
MT: That’s impressive. I’m always happy when people know more than one.
JT: I don’t know. Yes well, I speak bad everything so [laughter].
MT: How did you first become interested in costume design?
JT: First I always sincerely always wanted to do it. From my little, little, I mean from my early I remember I was dressing doll, I was making costume for them and let them play against each other. At school, I was organizing play and I was dressing the people. Then after that, I did it— and when I finished university my first job was at Elle magazine and then very quickly I switched to film because I wanted to do film and that was a way to get in. I always, always, always wanted to do it.
MT: Which university did you go to?
JT: Nanterre in Paris. So I did a revolution in ’68. That’s actually why I came to Elle. We were quite successful. All the students who had done the revolution we were quite cool people to use [laughter].
MT: What did the training process for becoming a costume designer involve?
JT: For me, I did a masters in French and in Latin. I don’t know my parents wanted to train for the proper job. They saw that costume was nothing because they were themselves working in fashion they thought that I should be an intellectual [laughter]. So they forced me to get a degree, actually a masters. And I also did art history on the side. And then when I was working at Elle, I fell in love with an actor and that was it [laughter]. I went into film straightaway.
MT: Was your first job as a film or television costume designer?
JT: Washing the shirt of course [laughter]. That’s what one does when you start. No, but in Paris, you had to go through the union things. So you had to go to first to be a trainee on three films. And then after that, I began straightaway and started designing short film. Then I got married, moved to Holland and started designing films straightaway. Lots of photography actually. I did photography and commercials, but it went very quickly. I cannot say I spent 10 years. Within two, three years I was already designing costumes.
MT: How is designing costumes for men different than designing for women?
JT: Well, men are a lot easier than women [laughter]. Saying that, it’s actually men are easier than women because if you tell them that they look good they believe you and women don’t. They always think that they know better. In a way, working with a woman is more stimulating because men get bored with fittings but women are never bored looking at themselves in a mirror. So you can have a longer time of work. You know men, after five minutes, they want to get out of it. It’s a different process. But basically you don’t have men or women, you have good actors or bad actors. Working with a good actor would always be an extremely good experience. Working with a bad actor would always be a terrible experience, whatever they are, male or female.
MT: What is one of your worst experiences that you had designing for someone?
JT: I would never tell you that [laughter].
MT: Without saying a name, could you tell the story?
JT: No [laughter]. No, no, I could tell you the story. I could tell you so many stories. But basically you know it’s always of course actors are people who very much have an image of themselves. The ego is what defines an actor, and then sometimes it’s very hard to tell them the truth about how they look. They are very aware of their image and even more now than maybe 20 years ago. I think that social media created a very strong need of belonging to the image that they want to create and sometimes that they forget— because of that, they forget about the part they are playing. And our job is not to dress the person, but to create a personality for a film, to create a character. And unless the person that you are dressing accepts that character, it’s impossible to create a costume for them. Because at the end of the day, you do a fitting with an actor or an actress alone in front of the mirror, but when they play, they are surrounded by three or four characters and their costume has to be complementary to the other people. And it’s very hard to explain that to somebody saying, “Okay, you want to wear red but this other character is already wearing red and she or he is already in the film since three, four weeks, so you cannot change him [laughter]. You have to accept another color.” And then the drama starts. I’ve had big dramas [laughter]. But you learn, you learn, you learn, you learn, you learn. And then after that, they kiss you because they know because at the end we are always right [laughter]. We are right, because we have a distance. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And because if we don’t believe that we are right, we cannot go on in that job.
MT: What is the process from beginning, middle to end on how you design clothes for a character?
JT: First you read the script, and you should have an idea of what that person could be, that character could be. Then you have to have a very strong, very good discussion with the director, what he or she wants to have from that person, what that person should bring in the story. That’s a very analytical part. Because always the casting is giving you some idea, because you think why did he or she cast that person? That means that’s the direction he wanted to go in. And then you have to present— I’m doing always lots of mood boards to find out what attracts them, what they like, which sort of character they like? So I will do for a woman, different sort of possibilities. Something romantic, something light, something dark, then I see where it is going or where she’s going to. I work with two or three. I work with many more men director than women director, but it’s always the same approach. What is the direction they want to go? And when you know the direction they want to go and when you know what they want to achieve, then you start designing. And when I start designing, I always start doing a sketch with color and that’s actually how I came in contact Chris Markelov because they have a huge range of coloring and that makes things a lot easier. Because, a lot, the first thing that you do when you design, when you start sketching, is to have to look for fabric. We need, in the film that I am doing, we need so many multiples of every costume that we need an astronomical amount of fabric. We need a minimum of 200 yards. And then you don’t find that so easily, so I used to sketch in color and immediately send the fabric buyer to get there, to get me a sample, very quickly. Because when I knew what we can get, and especially on characters, not so much the principal because a principal we always get them long in advance, but the smaller character, those are always cast at that last minute and we have to turn a costume quite quickly, so it’s always good to know which sample they would bring me and where and how I can develop the costume and then, as quick as possible, do some sketches, show some fabric and immediately go to the director and wait for his reaction because we cannot start really cutting before we have that.
MT: How do you get high-profile jobs like Harry Potter? Do you still have to audition?
JT: I don’t think they found me in the telephone book [laughter].
MT: Is it just by reputation or do you have to put out a bid?
JT: I didn’t bid for the job, no. They came to see me. No, no, Alfonso Cuarón wanted to work with me and I wanted to work with him and then the studio thought it was a good idea. That’s how I got it. I also got it because I sincerely thought that I wanted do it much more modern and that was Alfonso’s idea as well. I just wanted to make it a normal kid and then a normal teenager. The next door teenager in an urban family and then I just wanted to give it a much more realistic look, which I thought would be the key [to] the success and I think I was right.
MT: Is it harder to create a costume for a character people already have an idea of, like a Harry Potter or a James Bond, rather than someone that people may not know already?
JT: No. It’s a lot harder because— in the case of Harry Potter, when we started number three, we started the kids were older, so it had to be a new design. But it was a new— you see, I picked up number three a formula which was already successful and I said we have to change it all. We have to make it older. We have to make it a lot more edgy, rougher and, you know, it’s always hard to convince people. And then that was a big ridicule, but I was not the only one to take it. I had the director behind me. In the case of Bond, it was the same story. I had the director record behind me because some members want to do, sort of create for Bond a new image. Something also a little bit more edgy and a little bit more modern because we were in 2013 and the hero had to be a little bit more adapted to the modern time. So it’s always hard when you take a franchise in the way. In a way, you are helped because it’s a success before, but in another way because you helped a successful story. It’s always a bit difficult.
MT: Now, which are some of your favorite costumes that you’ve created for the Harry Potter universe?
JT: I keep on saying it’s Bellatrix. I love Bellatrix [laughter]. I love her character. I love her costume. I love the fact that she is such a bad woman and she became such a symbol for— there were so many little girls wanted to be Bellatrix. And that’s the one that I prefer. I don’t want the little girl want to be a princess. I like the little girl who wants to be the b***h like Bellatrix [laughter].
MT: Which were some of the costumes that were most challenging to create?
JT: I think it was Voldemort. Voldemort was challenging because it’s not evident that the devil should be in green silk. And I made it in green silk because first I thought he has to be a Slytherin which was important in the story, to explain why the Slytherin— meant to explain the whole story of the Slytherin. And so I thought that being in silk like that, a layer of silk like that, that he would be on the same level as Dumbledore. It would be the bad image of Dumbledore. But it was quite daring to establish that visual balance between the two characters, but I thought it was a challenge and I thought that it works much better than if I would have dressed him in black with the little worms.
MT: How did you come up with the designs for the characters who started as young kids and grew into young adults? How did you alter their styles over the years?
JT: Evolution. I don’t think I changed. Nobody changed. They evolved. Not one of them, I didn’t change any one of the kids. I just had the slow evolution depending on their— I never bought into the trap of suddenly Ron becomes a 60-year-old man. He is 60 because of his personality, but not because of what you wear. He is a Weasley. He is poor, he has a wrong sense of self, but his personality and kindness shines through that. Not one of the characters is really changing. It’s just the story evolution.
MT: Do you keep any of your work?
JT: No, I don’t keep everything. At the end of the job, I make the selection of what I want to keep and then— you mean the designs or the costumes?
JT: I always take a little souvenir, or receive a little souvenir, but I don’t keep it because the studio always keeps the costumes for exhibition purpose, for marketing purpose, for lots of things. But I always take a little thing just as a remembrance.
MT: Are you ever asked to design special outfits for celebrities?
JT: Yes. But I mostly say no because it’s a completely different job. I design a character. I don’t design just a red-carpet dress. That’s not my thing. I’m not a fashion designer. I need to have the support of a script to be able to design.
MT: How big was your team with Harry Potter?
JT: Oh huge! Two hundred? But you have to think that we had three units. But two hundred is what— there must be more in Star Wars now, I don’t know. Two hundred is a lot— when you think that you have a work room with 50 people already. So you know, work room and breaking down that takes a lot of manpower. Then you have the people on set. It’s a lot of set people for kids. So actually, my creative team we were maybe three. We were three and maybe there was two buyers. Quite a small creative team. It’s more the manpower, the people on set, there has to be a lot of them when you have so many kids.
MT: Do you go through many drafts of costumes before you start sewing?
JT: Yes! Oh, yes! So it’s really a creative process. The work in progress can be— but sometimes you’re lucky and you have it straightaway. And sometime it takes you a lot longer. And I always think that the longer time you have in prep, the longer you take. If you have a short prep it has to come overnight and then you are a genius straightaway. But when you have time then you take your time. I’m pretty quick. I’m not the sort of designer— I mean, I know a colleague of mine who has four costumes of everything and they don’t know. For me, I know straightaway when it’s good, when it’s not good. It’s more that sometimes the director wants to have two choices. But for me, I always have a feeling that when I am ready, I’m really ready and I know what it should be.
MT: What are some costumes that you’ve made over your career that you’re most proud of?
JT: You know, I don’t know. It’s always one of the last films because there are so many things that I like and that I love. Like I saw not so long ago the yule dress of Hermoine and I thought, “Oh, that was really a cute little thing.” I was happy with it. And I saw a girl at an exhibition last year, they had an exhibition in Paris and I saw, no, two years ago, and I saw the black dress. And I thought it was gorgeous. I thought, “Oh, I could wear— I’m happy that I’ve done that.” You know, it depends on what you like at the moment. But basically they are all your babies and you like them all. But sometimes, some costume give you better memory than other. I still love the school uniform of Harry Potter. I think it’s excellent. I saw it in an exhibition and I thought, “Oh, that’s good. That’s really good.” But it’s funny because I do a big costume exhibition in the Victoria and Albert Museum and I was with all the other designers and each one of us were in front of our costume and we all thought it was better than the neighbor so, I think it’s very human to like what you are doing.
MT: Who are some other designers or customer designers whom you admire?
JT: Lots of them. Lots of them. I like Sandy Powell. I think she’s extremely, extremely brilliant. I think for me, she’s one of the best. There are lots of people that I love very much and then people that I like less [laughter].
MT: Are there any film or TV projects that you weren’t involved with or you wish you were associated with?
JT: I thought, oh my God, I would have loved to do it. No, no, no, I don’t think that I have missed something. Would have loved to do Gone With the Wind, but I wasn’t born [laughter]. So that’s maybe— I would have loved to do Gone With the Wind, yep, for instance. That was something that I would have loved to do. But all the rest, no, not so much.
MT: When you’re not working what do you like to do for fun?
JT: I have a house in the south of France. I drink all day and I look out the veranda. That’s what I do for fun. All the rest I do when I’m working.
MT: Now, tell me about Prismacolor. Why is it so good?
JT: Because their range of colors is extraordinary. They have extremely elegant and sophisticated colors. You have, when I was doing those sketches, I had a possibility of having six shades of turquoise. Six shades of purple. I mean, this is fantastic. And trust me, I’m saying it very from the deep of my heart, I don’t know another brand who give the colors as subtle and sophisticated and fashionable as those ones. They’re very, very, very good. And also, something practical, you can erase them. When you put the pen on this, you have an eraser and you can change it. You don’t have to redo your whole designs. And that’s fantastic, very quick. They’re very quick. The coloring is excellent and you can put one on top of another. You have a special little pen to diffuse. It’s excellent to use, and quick. It goes very quick because you don’t have to create your middle yellow, you have six shades, six forms of yellow. You don’t ever have to flesh tone for the faces, which is excellent. No, it’s really a very quick project, which is what we need to have when we design costumes. You don’t have to do with any description from the book, we need, although you could do it with that pen, but for me, for my special use, I can design very quickly and I can design so many different shades. It can really help, when I design a fabric with those pens, I can have a lot of my buyers, because I can give it a lot of sophistication and lots of possibilities. It’s good for you.
MT: What was your favorite thing about working on the James Bond movies?
JT: My love is the glamour. It’s so glamorous working on Bond. I was telling that story. You can work on 150 films, what I did one better than the other, and then you work on a Bond and suddenly the cleaning lady is interested in what you are doing [laughter]. Suddenly, I was given things. I did at least, I did so many incredible films. I had so many nominations, so many things. But you do James Bond and then the plumber comes to you and says, “How are the girls looking?” Then they get also, it is something that is working for the most glamorous film in the world and dressing and undressing Daniel Craig is something quite nice on the eyes. Daniel Craig is someone you will never forget, I must say.
MT: That would work for me! What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a costume designer?
JT: To really be sure that you want to do that, because it’s very hard. It’s very hard to get in, it’s very hard to become a designer. You need to have knowledge about so many things. You need to have knowledge about film, about costumes, you need to have to be aware of everything which is happening. Liking working in a team, because this is quite important. You are never alone, you’re always with a team of people. And if you are not a team player, you will never make it and that’s quite— and also you have to be sure that you want to work 24 hours, seven days, have no fun in your life, being never at home. So, when I get a girl, a trainee and they come to me and she said, “I’ve always wanted this job. I’ve loved watching your work.” I said, “Okay, you are never going to see your boyfriend, you are never going to see your family and nobody will ever remember you unless you are very well-known after 40 years.” And then, usually, half of them leave because it’s really tough to audition after. But, when you are doing it well, it’s so rewarding because nothing is more exciting than to see something that you put on paper and then see it on the big screen. It’s the most, and if it works, and if you are proud of your work, it’s a huge reward.
[Featured Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for CDG]