Creating the costumes
The first Bowie Collective show was less of what you might call a traditional tribute. It was decided that the music would speak for itself and that no looky-likey action was required; it would be a respectful celebration of Bowie’s life and music.
As the show developed it became obvious that all the Bowie fans we knew were looking a bit disappointed about the prospect of a receding Bowie in civvies, and eventually, with a token twist of the arm, Steve agreed to dig out the make-up and summon the finest costumiers in the land to investigate the re-creation of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most iconic clothes.
The first show saw a reality era Bowie in a sharp Sir Tom Baker black lurex suit for an entire fictional gig. Everyone on the stage that night will tell you it was one of their best gigs ever. The audience were phenomenal, noisy, and amazingly supportive; as committed to re-creating an authentic Bowie experience as we were. Once we had recovered from that first show, we decided that the next one should be an all-out, lights and magic, full costume extravaganza. The audience demanded it and some of them stepped up with thousands of pounds to help us make it happen. At that moment The Bowie Collective was fully formed, and the show you will see tonight was born.
The Collective wig case is now home to five iconic hairstyles. One made by Shepperton wig Company, the other four by Ray Marsden wigs. “Going to Ray’s was very showbiz,” remembers Steve, “one of my fittings was between Noel Feilding and Emma Thompson!”. From the original Red Mullet of Life On Mars to the Blonde Curls of Let’s Dance, these wigs go a long way towards creating the illusion of David in the flesh.
The wardrobe challenge was taken up by Costumier Hannah Geraghty. Back in the UK after several years on film sets in Los Angeles, Hannah brought her design and tailoring skills to bear on some truly challenging garments. The mission: Total authenticity. No velcro! The Freddy Beretti blue suit from the Life On Mars film was tough because Freddy was not a trained tailor, so the suit was unorthodox and the pattern unique. This paled in comparison with the enigma that is the Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat. Myth and legend abound about how the genius designer used a single Union Jack to cut the panels for this Versailles / Punk chimera. After many hours of investigation, deduction and experimentation, we can confirm that McQueen did not make this coat out of a single Union Jack flag. We know how he did it, but we’re never going to tell you. Says Steve, “There are many words I’d like to use to describe that coat, let’s stick with frustrating! It felt great to spend a couple of days with a rusty garden knife and a cigarette lighter – getting my revenge and nailing that ‘Les Mis, bayonets at the barricades’ look…”.
Hannah has worked wonders, way above and beyond budgets and expectations, rebuilding these outfits with an unfailing determination to preserve the spirit of the pieces and end up with garments that would look at home next to the originals in the V&A. And like the rest of us, she’s still not happy and wants to keep making it better… Perfectionists.