Jürgen Doering kicked off his career with a design gig at Karl Lagerfeld followed by ten years working under Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent himself. And now? He is one of the leading French costume designers for film, having dressed big name Hollywood stars such as Chloe Sevigny, Jane Fonda and, most recently, Kristen Stewart in her new movie Personal Shopper. We caught up with Jürgen in London to chat working in fashion, designing for film and his definition of style – with a little bit of life wisdom thrown in for good measure. Here’s what we learned…
How did you get into costume design?
I studied Haute Couture at a fashion school in Paris and got the chance to work with Karl Lagerfeld when he was just starting out at Chanel. I learned so much from him because he was always full of ideas, wishes and dreams and he made them all come true. Later on I went to Saint Laurent and stayed there for ten years. Yves was intelligent like Karl, but had a completely different way of looking at women – but with both I learned about myself that I like people that are demanding in an aesthetic and intellectual way. Olivier Assayas, the director of Personal Shopper, is the same, which is why we work together so well. My first film was actually with him and it all started from there.
In what way does designing for films differ from designing for a fashion brand?
The psychological aspect is really important with cinema and costume design. You have to indicate who the person is, but you can’t make it too obvious. It has to have a hidden message.
In Personal Shopper clothing has a really important role – Kristen plays a stylist who picks clothing for a famous actress and discovers a twisted pleasure in trying on the clothes herself. How was working on a film that heroes clothing as part of the story?
Nothing in the film was coincidental. I asked Olivier how he sees things and how he feels about each character. Then I asked the actors, because in the end they are the ones wearing the clothes. Olivier cares a lot about his actors being comfortable in their character, and we want the clothes to help them be able to do that. The part and the personality come first – not the clothing. Especially with this story.
How was the transition between Kristen’s characters’ really casual personal style, to the glamorous clothes of her client she tries on?
It was very natural. Kristen can easily jump from jeans and t-shirt to a Couture dress. She always looks good because even if she wears really luxurious things she doesn’t change her attitude – she is who she is. We were working together and got on the same page pretty easily. Everything came naturally with her.
Do you have a dream story you would like to work on?
I would love to do historical films – about medieval times or the Renaissance. If the story is really interesting you can compose an aesthetic around it and enter into a new world. Another My Fair Lady would be amazing!
What is your favourite film costume ever?
Anything in The Leopard by Luchino Visconti. He was crazy!
What’s your advice for young people who would like to get into costume design?
You have to learn the craft from masters. It’s not by them explaining it to you, but it’s all about you! Go to a school to learn the basics and the technical things, but then it’s all about making connections in the industry you want to work in. Any connection you make is important, so if the person doing costume doesn’t give you a job, try and get one with the director or anyone involved in a film. Any way you can get in, is a way in. Never give up.
Personal Shopper is out in UK cinemas March 17.