Spanish costume designer Paco Delgado created a world of fantasy and drama through costumes in the new film “Les Misérables.” (Photo/Courtesy Universal Pictures)

“Les Misérables” costume designer creates elaborate world of drama, fantasy

Paco Delgado is so much more than a costume designer – he’s an artist who has spun an elaborate world through clothing that conveys drama, fantasy, passion and grief. In one of the year’s most highly-anticipated film, “Les Misérables,” his costumes are the centerpiece upon which the story unfolds.

With a star-studded cast including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amanda Seyfried and Helena Bonham Carter, the film is an epic retelling of a classic Broadway musical about love, loss and the ties that bind humanity. And it is Paco Delgado’s costumes – whether a policeman’s outfit or prostitute’s rags – that make the story come alive.

“The thing is, I love how clothing that convey a message to people,” says Delgado, who lives in Barcelona, Spain. “Fashion is a matter of inspiration coming from the inside out, while costume design involves a project of shaping everything around the point of a story, a time reference and a director – and that’s my passion.”

Delgado always loved drawing and sketching as a child, but entered college with the intention of studying physics. But with a circle of friends who were stage actors, the appeal of the theater drew Delgado in and using his scientific knowledge – proportion, mathematics – he began designing theater sets. And more often than not, being a set designer in small-budget productions in Barcelona (?) meant that Delgado created costumes as well as sets.

“Films seemed like a natural challenge,” says Delgado, who has designed the costumes for well-regarded Spanish films like “The Skin I Live In” and “Biutiful.” “In my first movie, I made many mistakes, but I think those have helped me gain the experience I needed to approach something on such a large-scale like ‘Les Misérables.’”

For “Les Misérables” – which hits theaters December 25 – Delgado worked closely with director Tom Hooper to create each of the many looks in the film.

“We went back to the essence of the story,” recalls Delgado of how he approached the project. “I read the original book by Victor Hugo and walked on the streets of Paris to get a feel for these characters and how they lived during the 1800s.”

Creating the costumes for the film also had a set of very unique challenges – for example, Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman each underwent dramatic weight loss for the film. To work around that, Delgado says, he created several multiples of every costume and used techniques like bleaching the clothes to make them look aged and convey an evolving plotline through the clothing.

“There are lots of little secrets to my work but it’s all in order to tell a beautiful story,” explains Delgado. And should he receive an Oscar nomination for his work in the film? “I don’t think about these things.”

“If it comes, great – but if not, my best award is to have made a great movie.”

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