Costumes & Characters
Designer Philippe Guillotel conducted extensive research into the history of cinema to devise concepts which
some 250 artisans brought to life in the costume workshop at Cirque du Soleil. It took him three years of intensive
research to complete the project. He searched the Musée des arts et métiers in Paris – where you can find
everything from the first chrono-photographic gun to the earliest sound projector – from top to bottom.
He also screened innumerable films including the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin and Georges
Méliès, as well as the first films made with Thomas Edison’s pioneering cinema inventions. The costumes he
designed let IRIS follow the major stages in the evolution of color in film, from black and white and sepia,
through Technicolor and colorization to the deliberately saturated colors of films like Dick Tracy. The
symbiosis between the costumes and the technical inventions of cinema is particularly striking in the
half-human/half machine 'hybrid' characters.
Buster & Scarlet
Buster is a melancholy composer in search of true love. Somewhere between
reality and make-believe, he spots the girl of his dreams: Scarlett, a naïve
actress who longs to become a movie star. But will Buster and Scarlett find
each other in the real world?
The symbiosis between the costumes and the technical inventions of
cinema is particularly striking in the half-human/half machine 'hybrid' characters.
- "Camera Men" whose costumes include a camera mounted on their
head or chest.
- "Sound Man" wearing a large carbon fiber cone.
- "Screen Man" whose costume conceals a 135 sq. ft. screen that
comes out of his stomach.
- "Praxinoscope" wears a skirt reminiscent of one of the first
animation devices. Based on the stroboscopic effect, this costume illustrates
the decomposition of movement. The circular structure of the skirt reveals –
through slots as it rotates – two boxers in action.
Some of these costumes have a useful function in the show, such as the two hybrids fitted with cameras that
capture the action on stage. “I’m a devoted fan of Jules Verne’s universe with all its mechanical gears and
rivets,” says Philippe Guillotel. “When I see an old wood and brass camera I immediately want to make a costume.
And I want everyone who sees the IRIS costumes to immediately think of one word: cinema.”
Philippe Guillotel usually singles out five or six materials per show which he uses in every possible way.
For IRIS, these included soft Lycra which can be made to look woolly or glossy, silk stretch nylon, which
drapes well and can be printed with reflective designs, and natural cottons and linens. For Philippe, the
fabric is less important than the body of the artist. “You can imagine the best costume of the world, but if
the dancer or acrobat doesn’t wear it well, the effect will be lost,” he says. “The IRIS dancers have magnificent
bodies, and it is this beauty that I have tried to emphasize.” That is certainly the case with the acrobats whose
costumes were inspired by corsets that were fashionable in the early 20th century, plus a little nod to Roman
times. Even though he used a lot of leather for the corsets, Philippe relied mainly on modern fabrics and high-
tech materials such as carbon fiber for their protrusions – for reasons of flexibility, comfort and lightness.
The influence of Dick Tracy is front and center in the number that pays tribute to gangster movies. The
artists who leap up and down the buildings from trampolines hidden in the stage floor are wearing bright
red, yellow and blue tartan suits. In the Aerial Ballet number the costumes of the bungee-jumping “diamond
women” are studded with nearly one million Swarovski crystals. In the air, the artists themselves are not
as visible as the brilliance of the stones, which give their bodies a smooth and bright look.
The costumes worn the by the Icarian Games “Kiriki” characters are an evocation of costumes in the films of
Georges Méliès. The hybrid Furniture Characters are artists whose costumes make them look exactly like pieces
of living room furniture: two chairs, a lamp, a table and a moose head on the wall. At one point, as part of
a movie, they all come to life and unfold in a matter of seconds. And some costumes pay tribute to various
rofessions and crafts associated with cinema, including screenwriters, makeup artists, cinematographers,
carpenters, decorators, painters, electricians and lighting designers.