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Andor // NOVEMBER 30, 2022
Syril Karn’s pristine Pre-Mor uniform — complete with “pockets, piping, and some light tailoring” — is more than a hint at the character’s fussy nature and desire for the kind of order promised by the Empire. It’s also one of costume designer Michael Wilkinson’s favorite scenes in the series’ premiere episode, “Kassa.”
“I love that scene. Those two actors are so fantastic. And if I may say so, the costumes tell you quite a lot in that scene,” Wilkinson tells StarWars.com. “You have the precision and fastidiousness of Syril Karn’s uniform that he has personalized, customized, and made exactly how he wants it to be. And then his boss, on the other hand, is wearing a uniform that’s crumpled and dirty and has a couple of stains down the front of his shirt and a jacket he shrugs on that he’s had for 20 years.”
The two variations are among hundreds of costumes that Wilkinson and his team designed and fabricated for the actors on Andor, with all 12 episodes in Season 1 now streaming on Disney+. “I really enjoy playing with the language of clothes,” he says. “We wanted these things to be so rich with meaning and deserve repeated viewings that you could go deeper with it all. And, you know, it’s the only way that I really know how to work, to actually construct these backstories and worlds and civilizations so that everything has meaning. Otherwise, it’s fashion design, not costume design.”
Wilkinson recently sat down to talk about how his work helped telegraph Cassian Andor’s character evolution, the heartbreaking backstory of the costumes on Kenari, and the one item he kept from his time working on the production.
In the planet-hopping story, no two planets are more crucial to Cassian’s development than Kenari and Ferrix.
Although the former is only glimpsed in flashbacks, Kassa’s time on Kenari form the foundation of the character we know as Cassian. After an industrial mining disaster, the children of the planet are left to fend for themselves, a tragedy Wilkinson expressed through found and foraged clothes. “It’s your classic Lord of the Flies scenario,” Wilkinson says. “So they have this wild, primitive, feral kind of feel to it. And maybe that explains a little bit of older Cassian’s innate wildness and rebellion.”
To echo the clan’s circumstances, Wilkinson envisioned the survivors crafting their own clothing language by utilizing the remnants and cast-off uniforms left behind by their parents as well as other natural elements. “We figured the kids would’ve used the uniforms of the adults to sort of chop up and repurpose. It had this primitive mix with work wear that they’d customized with feathers and beads and trinkets and stolen or foraged elements from the urban world that they used to live in, a mixture of modern industrial mixed with organic jungle textures.”
In contrast, Ferrix is a carefully curated community of industrial entrepreneurs, whose dedication to salvage is reflected in their rugged, utilitarian garb. Wilkinson wasn’t content to create a handful of silhouettes and dye them a variety of colors, making the people of Ferrix look more like they were wearing uniforms. Instead, he and his team infused individualism into every costume, reflecting the character it was worn by. At the outset, he encouraged his team to consider unique details to inform the design. “What is their job? Where do they get their clothes from? How does their clothing reflect what they do, who they are, and what’s important to them.”
Japanese workwear inspired some of the silhouettes, the latest in a long history of legendary costume designers like Trisha Biggar on the prequels looking to our galaxy for inspiration. “Part of the success of Star Wars costuming is that there’s always some connection with costumes that we know from our planet,” Wilkinson says. “There’s always something that the audience can connect with and relate to. It gives you a shorthand, but then there’s this wonderful abstraction and modernization of those influences. It’s always coming from a place of authenticity and cultural resonance.”
The costume department went so far as to create different logos and unique symbols for in-world brands, repair shops, and individual businesses, deepening the lore and the tangibility of the planet with each specific detail. “We really went deep with those sorts of things,” Wilkinson says. “We chose the coolest and most interesting workwear elements between quilting, safety gear, and protective materials and things that created this world of Ferrixian clothing,” Wilkinson says. The wall of gloves, a collaboration between set designers and the costume shop, speaks to the ritualization of work in the Ferrix community, while some stand-out characters got more unique silhouettes to differentiate them from the crowd.
For example, Bix’s costumes speak to the character’s practicality and utilitarianism. “We created a great jacket that I’m really happy with. It’s quite a cold planet so we incorporated elements like texture, a fleece lining, and a sort of Carhartt aesthetic,” Wilkinson says.
Maarva’s red jumpsuit is a nod to her status as a Daughter of Ferrix, echoed in the cloaks worn by the funeral procession in the finale. “For me, she’s almost like the heart of the whole series,” Wilkinson says. “She’s a very capable woman. For her young self, we wanted to sort of evoke that, I guess, pirate swagger with her big swinging linen duster jacket. When we see her as her older, more mature self, she’s retired from her business but is very much a pillar of the community.
And Maarva actor Fiona Shaw made Wilkinson’s job easy. “[She] looks just so, so great in clothes and can carry off so much. She loved the idea of the linen jumpsuit that we developed for her. We like the idea that she only has small variations of what she wears in the series. It has sort of a soft, slightly defeated quality to it. It does nod to the iconic reds of the daughters of Ferrix. And by the time we get to the finale, that red has really been amped up to be a really strong symbol of the spirit of Ferrix.”
Coruscant and beyond
Back on Coruscant, Wilkinson paid homage to Biggar by styling Mon Mothma in flowing robes that evoked the sense of style seen in her deleted scene in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. “I thought about people who perhaps work at the [United Nations] building in New York, but are from different countries,” Wilkinson says. “She comes from a wealthy family on Chandrila, but she is now stationed on Coruscant. The idea was to bring elements of clothing from her home. We came up with a set of colors and textures mostly drawn from other iterations of Mon Mothma. I really leaned into the pale neutral tones. I loved all of those slightly shimmery organic textures, hints of metals. But what I really was fascinated about for her costumes was the fact that she’s playing a role. That sense of the public self, the private self. I saw her Senate gear as her armor. It’s what she puts on to go into the Senate and to fight for her causes. And then we get a few moments when she’s at her home where she’s a little softer. She’s a little more vulnerable. Who is the real Mon Mothma?”
In similar fashion, the character of Luthen Rael demanded two vastly different looks for his galaxy-galivanting work as Axis and his public persona as an antiquities dealer to Coruscant glitterati.
In some cases, the location helped set the tone for Wilkinson’s costumes. When Cassian finds himself on Narkina 5, he and the other Imperial prisoners wear stark white uniforms and bare feet. “I wanted them to have a memorable quality to them,” Wilkinson says. “We found this great fabric — we wanted them to almost feel disposable, that you’d wear them one day, be hosed down and then put a new, fresh one on the next day. So we found this great papery material and I came up with symbols, like a sort of branding of the particular prison, that we did in orange. When you see all the great different castings in that prison, the different shapes and sizes of inmates all unified with this uniform, I’m really happy with the results.”
By contrast, the native Aldhani shepherds and the mission crew’s disguises called for natural fabrics. “Everything is very dark and textural and organic,” Wilkinson says. “You really get the sense of this incredible Star Wars universe, which is so full of diverse planets.”
Wilkinson is already hard at work on Season 2 of the series, designing Cassian’s next look and evolving Mon Mothma from stressed-out senator hiding money from the Empire to leader of the Rebel Alliance. But to remind him of his time on Season 1, he kept one small token from the production: his fabric swatch books. “For me, it’s very personal,” he says. “It’s like a visual journey of the almost two years that I spent making Season 1. As I flick through them, all the memories flood back. Every fitting, all the lineups of the hundreds of extras that we clothed from scratch. It’s this lovely sort of distillation of Season 1.”
And while it may not be as recognizable as Cassian’s red Aldhani cap or Bix’s coat, “that’s priceless,” Wilkinson says. “That sort of thing is priceless.”
Associate Editor Kristin Baver is the author of the book The Art of Star Wars: The High Republic, host of This Week! In Star Wars, and an all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Follow her on Twitter @KristinBaver.
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