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Costume Design student India Arbuthnott talks about her time at Wimbledon and her final piece


Written by
Jane Cuppage
Published date
22 June 2018

BA Costume Design student India Arbuthnott is originally from Elgin, Scotland. Her admiration for Alexander McQueen’s unique and stunning fashion designs stirred her passion to become a designer. She told us more about her love of costume and her final pieces for this year’s Summer Show.

Please tell us a bit about your background and how you came to study at Wimbledon?

From a young age I  have found myself mesmerised by costume in theatre, film, opera, musicals and dance. I longed to be involved in the creation of these memorable and exciting images.  I am very passionate about making and creating turning something ordinary into something extra ordinary. I am extremely passionate about history, fascinated in particular by the 18th century, fascinated by the idea of mixing historical silhouettes with unconventional materials.

I knew Wimbledon would be the best college for me to learn about both historical and contemporary costume, while being able to push myself as a designer and maker. The friendly and encouraging atmosphere at Wimbledon made me choose this college for my degree. I wanted a course in which I could be expressive, mixing my artistic style with costume creation and Wimbledon has been able to provide me with this!

Please tell us about your current practice:

As part of my practice I wanted to look into the influential nature of costume design, how it creates the ability to make an audience aware of an issue. My issue being pollution and contamination of the earth, I believe costume design should be at the forefront of sustainable textile design. I chose to create my pieces from recycled textiles and found objects, making a fun-house mirror reflecting its culture back towards its audience, exposing them to the future of design. This also plays off of my strength as a costume creator, being an excellent sculptor. I learned to use my interests, looking into unconventional ways in which material and costume can be used, utilizing taxidermy, metalwork, foam, sand sculpture and experimenting with materials to create a theatrical piece which was still well constructed.

Sketch of the ‘Hansel and Gretel’ witch by India

Please tell us about your final piece for the summer show:

For my final pieces I am showcasing my constructed costume for a live performance piece. My inspiration came from a greater desire to showcase a different approach towards costume design, inspired by both my dissertation and studio work. In my studio practice I wanted to create a piece which pushed the boundaries of costume design.

The Shakespeare play I chose to design for was ‘Macbeth’, as I am Scottish and it’s very close to my heart. I wanted to be able to correctly portray the magic and wonders of Scotland, so this started my research. I looked into the places I visited growing up, inspired by the magical sense of Scotland. Inspired by a Clootie well, (a magical well in which rags are dipped and placed on trees for healing purposes), this gave me the idea of man-made and natural materials coming together. As the witches in the play are the provokers, they control and manipulate the whole situation, I created a piece that is neither just a costume or just a set, but is a hybrid of both which encapsulates two words. A polluted word and a natural and mythical one, thus creating my ‘Macbeth’ puppet theatre.


How have your tutors or technicians assisted or influenced you in your final show?

My favourite workshop in Wimbledon is the casting workshop. I find it to be incredibly exciting and I learn so much each time I am in there. I recently worked on a production of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ as part of a BA Costume Design collaboration with the Brighton Fringe 2018 and utilized the casting workshop to make these incredible bird beak headpieces. Graham is extremely helpful and enthusiastic about projects. It’s an extremely wonderful atmosphere in the casting workshop where you do not have to be afraid of messing something up the first time.

What are you plans after you leave Wimbledon?

I am traveling to New York for six weeks which I am extremely excited about. I love traveling and expanding my knowledge of theatre. From there I hope to gain more work in London. I have a couple jobs lined up which are very exciting.

Throughout my time at Wimbledon I have seen myself grow as a designer and have witnessed myself grow more confident within my designs. I have tried to create exciting and thought provoking work to change how costume can be viewed within the industry, I found myself fully committing and believing in each piece, enjoying seeing pieces come together from a drawing to reality.

I see myself as a much more professional worker, excited to move forward into the costume industry. I am extremely happy and proud with everything I have created. My biggest achievement has been overcoming my self doubt and I have been able to push myself and create things I have never even thought imaginable.

Who or what inspires you?

I love fashion and find a lot of my influences to come from Alexander McQueen, Charles Jeffery and Gareth Pugh. I am also extremely inspired by the work of Kirsty Mitchell. I have so much admiration for Lindsey Kemp and find his work in dance so hauntingly beautiful, I feel this has influenced my work greatly.

Also, I have always loved the east-end of London as there’s a wonderful energy. I love the old tea rooms market where I source a lot of taxidermy and oddities from, I think there is so much inspiration to be found there. I also love visiting quirky museums around London such as The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History, the Wellcome Collection, Hunterian Museum, Barts Pathology Museum, and The Gran Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy – which holds some really fun events!

Do you have any advice for future students considering your course?

I think within this course you develop and create a style, not everything you create will be your idea, or perfect, but the whole course has been an incredible journey. I think there will definitely be times where it seems stressful or you want to quit but you have to push through, because in the end you see how incredible your time has been here and how much you have grown and developed as a costume designer. Wimbledon is like a family, the people are lovely and someone will always be willing to help you.

Related links:

India’s and her fellow Costume Designers work is on display at Wimbledon until tomorrow.

BA Costume Design is now BA Costume for Theatre and Screen

Follow India’s work on her Instagram