On Sunday August 23, 2015, Cirque Du Soleil’s Varekai presented its last performance in South Florida. For those enthusiasts who enjoy Cirque Du Soleil productions this show was a pleasure they will remember for a long time to come. For a group of ten young fashion students interested in costume design the show has left them with memories for a lifetime and perhaps even a pathway to their futures.
For the first time in the area, Cirque Du Soleil’s Varekai hosted a contest for the students of both Miami International University of Art and Design and the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Ten students of these two local schools were chosen to submit costume designs that adhered to strict guidelines set by executive team at Varekai. On Wednesday, August 19, 2015 the students were invited to a special V.I.P backstage tour of the Varekai wardrobe department and a question and answer session with Head of Wardrobe Collette Livingston and Varakai Publicist Julie Desmarais.
Students got the opportunity to see the costumes up close and to see how the wardrobe is staged and maintained each day to keep the costumes in tip-top shape for every performance.
The students asked professional and well-considered questions about every facet of costume design and maintenance for a Cirque Du Soleil show. They asked about design and production of costumes. They wanted to know about career paths with the organization and the possibility of someday designing costumes for Cirque Du Soleil.
Ms. Livingston pointed out that students should show all steps of their design process in their portfolios. They need to demonstrate everything from original concept to the construction of an actual costume sample.
Several students also shared their interest and respect for the organization and mentioned specifically that they really appreciated the fact that Cirque Du Soleil did not use animals in their shows but instead created fantastical creatures through expert use of costume and make-up.
After the question and answer session it was time for the winner of the contest to be announced. The excitement in the room was contagious as students waited to see if their designs had been chosen. Ms. Livingston and Ms. Desmarias started by sharing the work of the three top finalists and explaining why they were chosen. The decision was very difficult since the group had done such a good job, however, the top choices were made based on longevity – how well the design would hold up to repeated performances and washing, shape and color. Also, of prime consideration was how well the design would fit into the look of the show. After the three finalists were introduced, Ms. Livingston, announced the winner, Ms. Jezra Pierre, a student at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. The other two finalists were Dante Villalobos and Sebastian Cubides both students of Miami International University of Art and Design.
As a surprise each student was given a ticket to see the show. In other words, everyone was a winner.
Both Fashion Directors, Charlene Parsons, of Miami International University of Art and Design and, Sheila Walden, of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale expressed how proud they were of their students. Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Fashion Director, Sheila Walden, also made a point to mention the hard work and dedication that top prize winner, Jezra Pierre, gives to her studies and her design and construction work. “She’s always in the lab working on her projects.” Ms. Pierre herself mentioned that she takes extra classes and electives whenever she can just to learn more about her field. This young woman is obviously an up and coming talent to watch.
Several of the students mentioned that they will be creating the costumes they designed as part of their portfolio work. I’m really excited about making my costume,” Fort Lauderdale student, Pam Reagan, mentioned. “I’m making a pair of pants out of feathers, I can’t wait!”
In closing, there are two additional points to wish for, one is that Cirque Du Soleil continues to encourage and support the next generation of costume designers and the other is that these students continue to thrive as the next generation of costume and fashion designers.