Françoise Fourcade

Costume designer - Born A King

"I was so surprised by the warmth and amazing welcome I received. I felt safe and accepted."

When did you start in the film business?

I grew up with a love of fashion, costume making and history. I always created clothes. The person looking after me after school was a hat maker and she taught me to sew, knit, crochet and embroider. Even though I come from the countryside of the South of France and have a Master’s Degree in Political Economy and Sociology, fate had a different plan for me.

After moving to London, I met a person that told me Angels Costumes were looking for a French speaker to work with the French costume designers and I jumped at the opportunity. Angels have the largest privately owned collection of costume for film, theatre and television anywhere in the world. They trained me and taught me everything I know about the costume trade. When the time came for me to live the adventure, travel the world and be on set, Angels were nothing but supportive.

Describe your job?

A costume designer is a person who plays with fabrics and shapes and builds a character's personality using clothes. I personally favor period or fantasy films and love creating a look from scratch.

What productions have you worked on internationally?

I started in the wardrobe department in 2000 and have worked all around the world. My biggest highlights are the Harry Potter films, the James Bond film, Spectre, the Italian Renaissance show Da Vinci’s Demons and Far from the Madding Crowd.

How did you come across Born A King?

I was Assistant Costume Designer on a show called Emerald City directed by Tarsem Singh which was a fantasy show reimagining The Wizard of Oz. The line producer was Stuart Sutherland and he asked if I would work on Born A King in Saudi Arabia.

What were the challenges you faced coming to Saudi Arabia?

I was aware of the cultural differences first hand as I had travelled in the Middle East before. I came to Saudi Arabia twice; the first time was for research and I was so surprised by the warmth and amazing welcome I received. I felt safe and accepted. Everyone was polite and so excited about taking me to different cultural things like tea and the local cuisine. And of course the vintage markets!

My second visit was for filming, that on the other hand was tricky. We were one of the first international films to shoot in Saudi and the lack of experts and technicians was expected.

As a female designer, facing cultural differences such as dressing a male actor made it complicated, but we got around it. Everyone around me understood the difficulties and everyone was positive and helpful. The thing I noticed in the Saudi crews was the enthusiasm of treating this as more than just a job. Even though circumstances were frustrating at times everyone smiled through it and got on.

How were you able to get the design details?

The first time I came to Saudi was for research. I visited the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives which had the original attire from that period. The details were important, for instance the width of the embroideries on the period bishts, so much narrower than the contemporary ones, the pattern of the long hanging sleeves on the traditional Saudi thobe or the correct placement of the belt and sword. I wasn't able to touch anything but I took a lot of pictures to start a look for the original costumes I was planning to design. I went back to London where I found even more Saudi outfits in The British Museum.

What was one of your best moments or satisfying moments?

Perfecting the details to me was the most satisfying moment. At the end of filming, we took black and white pictures of the cast in their costumes and compared them to original pictures from the 1910’s. You could not tell the difference between the original pictures and the ones we took on set.

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