January 31, 2023

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How Clothing Designers Look For Steve McQueen’s “Mangrove”

4 min read

Director Steve McQueen’s “Small Axis”, a five-part ethnographic “mangrove” now featured on Amazon Prime. Over two decades, the films have tied five films together with reggae music and costumes with the Indian experience of the West.

Costume designer Jacqueline Duran oversaw five films, while individual designers worked on each installment. In “Mangrove”, Lisa Duncan created the look for the film, which tells the true story of Mangrove Nine, which clashed with London police in the 1970s.

Duncan broke his process and created the look of characters like Frank Criclow (Shawn Parks), Darkas Ha (Malachi Kirby) and British Black Panther leader Althia Jones-LeConte (Letia Wright).

What were some of your conversations with Steve McQueen and Jacqueline Duran about capturing the look of “Mangrove”?

Jacqueline went to my agency to talk to her about mangroves and justice for me to come. It dates back to 196868-171711 and once I got the script I started researching the area and putting the mood boards together. It was the image for the main character, the background actor, the artist and the community. I added pictures of the police and the march.

I did a lot of research, going through the books, the news and everything I found.

London then had a variety of melting pots for hikers, starting with hippies, which style spoke to you in that study?

I looked at the people in that community. I looked at hundreds and hundreds of images. I went to the library and archives. I was reading the script to see who the characters were.

I matched the images I got with each character. I’ve been looking for teens and young children. These people were on the street so I got pictures of kids playing in the street. I looked at the markets and presented it to Steve. And from there I shopped for the characters.

From blazer to shirt – how did you want to dress Frank based on photos and news images?

He doesn’t have that many pictures – maybe three. I had a photo of him outside the court, and the rest is documentary.

I wanted to be authentic during that time. So, I’ve been shopping from the wine seller and the wine market ped it was thinking about its environment and work. I knew he worked in a kitchen, so he would cut his own hands. So, I worked to find a dress that fits her lifestyle.

He did not have huge clothes. He had a coat and a blazer. I got the coat made from a photograph of that period. The fabric was the hardest thing because I had to see the weight of the wool. I don’t want to see it expensive. I wanted it to look believable – I was always looking at their budget.

How did you want to dress Leticia Wright as Althia? What was his palette and style based on?

There is video footage. She looked very casual and she was always wearing dangling earrings. He had a PhD. Students and would not have a big dress. I looked at her life – she went to a trade union meeting in college – and it was about making her short dress.

I put him on a blue polo neck because I had an image for reference. I kept her simple in corduroy trousers. Her costumes were practical and heavily influenced in the 1960s.

For that my palette was brown, organic and cinnamon. I bought almost all of her clothes. Most of it was copied from the original pieces and then I fit them to the actor. There was this great pair of vintage jeans that I got for her that was right for her and fit in proportion to the character

I loved the women in the community.

I like to do women. I loved doing Auntie Bessie. We made a few things for him. Her dress was practical. The fabric was old, but they didn’t look old. She had house clothes because of working in the kitchen. I had pictures and it was worn by my grandmother. She had pop socks and it was a description of my grandmother so I put them on her.

The focus was that it was a community of working people. They were in the mangroves, but the best clothes were on the court and at the party and when they went out.

For these moments, I wanted women to dress with pride and dignity because they behave with so much prejudice. Their costumes were also their armor and so they had to be well presented. They were the backbone of the community, holding on to their families.

The great thing about these clothes was that they were more than cheap, the quality was even better. I rented some but I can go out and buy a lot. I got amazing clothes and they look so great. I had to remind my team that we weren’t arranged for their “soul train” and that it was for practice. But the quality was so good that everyone looked so great among them.

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