Interview: ‘Star Trek: Strange New Worlds’ Costume Designer Bernadette Croft Talks Fashion in the 23rd Century
It’s hard to compare which fandom is more opinionated. The saying goes, “no one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans.”. Arguably, the modern fan movement started with Trekkies, who managed to save the beloved sci-fi series Star Trek from cancellation in 1968, securing a third season and thus syndication on television where it became the cultural juggernaut it is today.
Almost fifty years later, the bright, multicolor Starfleet uniforms are still sold in Halloween stores or hand-crafted by cos-players to wear to conventions. This is the landscape that Bernadette Croft entered when she was hired as a costume designer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Her work is guaranteed to be seen by millions, and all of the scrutiny that comes with it.
Awards Radar spoke with Bernadette about her work on the latest addition to the franchise.
Were you a Star Trek fan prior to working on Discovery?
Bernadette Croft: Growing up, I was more of a fantasy fan. So I loved The Princess Bride and Labyrinth and D ark Crystal. So I wasn’t really introduced to Star Trek until I worked on the show with Gersha Phillips on Discovery. I was her assistant in season one. And then I co-designed a couple of episodes in season three. I think like working with her and seeing her attention to detail really got me hooked. And since then I’ve you know, watched every recent Star Trek and I must admit, my favorite is Lower Decks.
Building on top of 4 decades of material must be a challenge. How do you approach your designs?
Bernadette Croft: Yeah, I mean, it’s a big challenge, for sure. And I feel that it isn’t TOS (The Original Series), and Discovery takes place 55 years in between. So for me, these two shows visually a very different. But I wanted to lean into what Gersha is doing on Discovery, which is very sleek, very cool, edgy, very tailored. And then for me, for TOS, I feel like there’s this like vibrancy. This is casual vibe. It’s nostalgic. So yeah, I wanted to kind of marry both of these shows together. And yeah, I think we’ve done it. We’ve used like the silhouette of Discovery, the kind of casual vibe of TOS. And I agree, I think we’ve like we’ve we found a happy medium.
Was there any, specific designers that you’re a fan of that you were trying to lean towards or sneak into the show at times?
Bernadette Croft: Definitely the work of Tricia Phillips, I worked with her closely on Discovery. And William Theiss who was the costume designer of TOS. It was important for me to lean into the nostalgia of TOS which was like I said, the vibrancy and the color and the fun. And that optimistic spirit I think that TOS had and I just really wanted to highlight that throughout the series I feel that my favorite designers are definitely referenced: Alexander McQueen, Iris Van Herpen.
There’s a story that Rebecca Romain actually requested the dress uniform. Do you often work with an actor to try to find the right look for a specific character?
Bernadette Croft: Yeah, I love collaborating with actors. Because we come up with the best ideas together. There are many departments that contribute to an actor’s portrayal of a character. So it’s not just costumes, it’s hair, and makeup and prosthetics. And even like, dialect coaching or stunts. I was thrilled when Rebecca came to me with the idea of bringing back the dress. And I loved having to modernize it and give it a Strange New World spin. But yeah, if she can actually do anything in that dress, she’s totally badass. She’s amazing. And we can give individuality to all of the characters when they wear their uniforms. Sometimes we didn’t have a lot of prep time. And they often don’t have a moment to even do much research of their own. So we’re the first point of call, when someone steps into a costume. And they kind of embody it and they walk differently. They talk differently. So yeah, it’s such a collaborative process.
Strange New World’s takes place in the 23rd century. The materials and fabrics are obviously going to be very different in the future. So how do you approach that?
Bernadette Croft: We have to look at all our different vendors and see which have the best kind of fabrics that would suit our needs. For our uniforms, our fabric is a poly-technique that’s bonded with micro-fleece. So it’s wrinkle free, it’s moisture wicking, so it draws moisture away from the body. We just need that sporty kind of fabric to help within the filming process. Because we want to make it look like the the uniforms are 3D printed exactly to the actor’s body or the character’s body, for instance. And so everything’s meant to look like perfect on their body. So we have a few tricks up our sleeves for sure. I love researching fabrics. And I think on Strange New Worlds, we all love textured fabrics, anything with a metallic quality. We always love when there’s a bit of a shine for camera. We often do camera test to make sure things have the right quality and lighting is so important in this process.
Beyond the uniforms, you have to design fashion from different planets and species that we have never met before. How do you go about creating the styles of brand new civilizations?
Bernadette Croft: I draw inspiration from the script to start with. For instance, in episode two, was described that the Dyleb, which is a new alien, were living in a dry and arid environment, they were to look nomadic and earthy. So I often do a deep dive into Pinterest and just gather images that, to me speak to whatever alien we’re at creating. So lots of images of tone and texture and color. So I put together mood boards, that kind inspires the team. And then they can start doing their own R&D. We together come up with looks for these new aliens. I feel like the Dyleb are one of my favorites that we’ve created. Anna Pantcheva is the incredibly talented key textile artists on our show. And she really helped bring those aliens to life through textiles and dyeing. We use a lot of different processes: boiled wool, silicone covered embroidery, ice dyeing, rust dyeing.
And then we have Jennifer Johnson, who’s our amazingly talented key effects builder. And she constructed those really intricate pleated hats. That was very much inspired by Iris van Herpen, who’s a designer that I totally adore. And I think in episode two, you’ll see it just briefly, but yeah, we’re really proud of the Dyleb.
I just want there to be an episode of the Dyleb. Like, can we bring the desert back and just have a full close up? We had so many layers and the background actually looked amazing as well. And you just see them as little, tiny figures in the background. But I mean, that’s just one part of the job. We have to put everything into every single character, every single costume, even if it’s background, because you never know what the camera’s gonna pick up. So that’s our job, we have to make sure everything tells the story.
If I was the head of Paramount, what I would do is have a fashion show of all the all the different aliens throughout this season, dressed up as aliens and have them come out walk the catwalk.
Bernadette Croft: Okay, that’s such a great idea. Let’s get let’s kick it up the chain.
Will Strange New World uniforms be available for Halloween season?
Bernadette Croft: Oh my gosh, really great question. To be honest, like, what about making it yourself, from found objects? I was lucky enough to judge the cosplay competition in a Chicago convention. I honestly was so impressed with the talent. And honestly, I’m inspired by them and their creativity and their drive for the art. So yeah, it’s super fun. And just like as an aside, my costume designer assistants and I went to Chicago, and we put on the uniforms of Strange New Worlds and just pretended to be cosplayers. And we got in and we were looking around. But we got found out in like a second, people came up to us and we’re like, rushing up and saying, ‘where did you get this fabric’? ‘Who’s your vendor’? ‘How’d you how’d you buy this’? We had these silly back stories that we had made up, alias names and stuff. But as soon as they knew it, we were just like, we can’t hold this up.
You can view Bernadette’s incredible work in the galleries below and on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds each week on Paramount+.
Originally published at https://awardsradar.com on June 20, 2022.