This week, we speak to local artist Reggie Doherty who works as a senior stylist at a costume house. A talented costumier, his art focuses on costume design, illustration & styling.

Reggie Doherty pictured for his exhibition 'Guise' (2017)
Reggie Doherty

Hi Reggie! Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm Reggie Doherty and I'm a costume designer/illustrator, costumier, stylist and artist from Wigan. (That just about covers everything I do!) I've always been interested in film and theatre and fashion history and so costume design was always going to be the path I went down.

What inspires your work?

I've always loved old Hollywood films from the silent era to the mid-sixties and have been watching these since I was a teenager. I've always loved the clothes and fashions that all those great stars used to wear like Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davies and of course Marilyn Monroe. I've always felt the personas of these people are works of arts themselves. I think there's something about the twentieth century as a whole, historically and culturally that is fascinating. I tend to look a lot at societal shifts throughout history, such as the Edwardian era into the first world war and how this lead to the rise of the bright young things and flappers and how modern the world must have felt then. And then you get the great depression into world war two which is followed by the conservative, paranoid fifties and then we get things like the hippy and anti-war movements of the sixties and then civil rights, women's lib and gay rights. Queer culture has influenced design, fashion, celebrity and films hugely over the latter end of the twentieth century and still today so this also heavily influences my practice. I think queer culture today still gets inspiration from those old Hollywood things I love and I find it interesting how the two feed one another.

Do you have a favourite project?

Every project is different so it's hard to pick a favourite. Sometimes you're in a dark theatre for nights on end and other times it's a filmset surrounded by people or I might be working remotely, so with each project the approach is never quite the same. The things that do link them though would be a text, usually a script, and a director. So after the first readings and initial discussions it would then usually follow into research – I try to start with books rather than the internet as this was drilled into us at university and I love an excuse to buy a new coffee table book whenever I can. After that it's always a different process, sometimes someone else is the designer and I'm sourcing from costume houses, online, charity shops and car-boot sales. I might be hired to illustrate a designers ideas to hand over to a set of people who will make the costumes and I'm the visual bridge between the two departments. If I'm the designer I might make initial drawings and concept ideas and pass these to a director before production begins and if time doesn't allow it's literally just hit the ground running and start collecting costumes as soon as possible – there's never a simple formula. You’ve worked with The Old Courts in the past, from Sew Social, BYOB and Drink & Draw to your first solo exhibition ‘Guise’ – do you have a favourite memory?

I think the exhibition would be a favourite as I've never done anything quite like that before and it was great for my practice to think of myself as an artist and not just a costume designer – and how can clothing be presented as a work of art. So in Guise I was talking a lot about masculinity and how that's been expressed throughout history through clothing and how that's gone through dramatic changes. I also explored things you usually don't get to do as a costume designer, for instance, I was the one behind the camera taking photographs and editing them and making sculptures with clothing as well. I also loved how The Old Courts had the exhibition alongside one of Jane Fairhurst's whose work was about the feminine and to have my work sitting next to hers was great as I think it changed my work in a really interesting way that I wasn't expecting it to. I've really enjoyed all the events at The Old Courts though and I'm very much looking forward to returning to join in with them in person when we can.

Alongside your job, you’ve worked on some film/TV projects – what did you do?

So my main job is as a senior stylist for a costume house and with them I've been able to get freelance work with some of the designers who've come down to hire from us. There was some site specific theatre pieces and things like that which were great to work on as well, but the majority of my work outside of that has been with the theatre company imitating the dog.

I first worked with them on Nocturnes in their wardrobe department during the filmed sections of that theatre piece. I got to learn about how they created their visual work and also did some prop sourcing as well. I then returned to work with them as a wardrobe assistant on their tour of Heart of Darkness which they created out in Italy which was an amazing experience getting to source things and fit them over there and then get to see it come and tour the UK as well.

Most recently I've just done costumes and props for their project Airlock, which is currently on BBC iPlayer as part of their culture in quarantine specially commissioned pieces. It's a live action graphic novel that has been made using Zoom with all the actors in their own homes which is unlike anything I've ever done before, unsurprisingly! So trying to source and fit costumes when you're working from home and don't have your usual tools is interesting and the time frame was really tight but it was great fun and satisfying to see it come together.

Airlock (2020)
Heart of Darkness (2018)
Nocturnes (2018)

For anyone who follows you on Instagram, it’s inspiring to see how invested and immersed you are in what you do. Do you have any advice for anyone who’d like to get started in costume work?

The most important part of my development has been the study of history and clothing. I'm constantly drawing every day to keep my practice up, especially now, and I always try and read and research and am constantly learning. I think I've just got such a thirst for it that it feels natural to me but it's definitely still a skill I've had to train over the years and get better at.

Thanks Reggie! Where can people see more of your work?

All three episodes of Airlock are now available on BBC iPlayer and across social media platforms for imitating the dog and for my personal work the best place to find me is on Instagram @rdrty where I tend to post the things I'm doing for fun in my spare time alongside career work as well.