Ron Howard‘s Rush recreates the ritzy, golden age of Formula 1 racing in the 1970s. The film is based on the true story of the rivalry between British driver James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and his opponent, Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). To help bring the glamorous world to life, Howard enlisted costume designer Julian Day, best known for his work in the 2011 film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
Merging the world of fashion and racetrack entailed careful deliberation and execution, but fortunately Day was already familiar with the world he was recreating. “I grew up in the 1970s, so I was fully aware of the clothes and my father was involved in Formula 1,” Day said. “I used to go to the circuit as a child and got to know a few of the drivers of the time.”
Howard gave Day the license to create freely and the freedom sparked the collaborative creativity even more. “Ron’s a great director,” he said. “He’s very collaborative but he’s also trusting. I would obviously speak to him on as much as possible but what was great was that he really trusted what I was doing. He let me go with the ideas.”
Day’s approach to the costumes was not to just make a typical 1970s movie. His goal was to make the look timeless, instead of repeating the stereotypical patterned shirts with flared pants ensemble. “I think sometimes the ’70s is quite misrepresented and only one year is shown, ’74 or ’78, but I wanted to give a general overall feel of what the ’70s felt like.”
To bring the glamour of the Formula 1 world to the screen, fashion houses Gucci and Ferragamo were enlisted. “They have a vast library with their collections and it was a different approach with both,” Day said. “For Gucci, we used original pictures from their archives for Olivia Wilde (James Hunt’s wife Suzy) and we adapted some of those pieces. With Ferragamo, I took along some pieces I had found and they reproduced them. I looked at the pieces of their current collection and we adapted them in the choice of fabrics and the shapes we used.”
From his research, Day discovered that the colors of Formula 1 were mostly primary colors – reds and blues and greens, which he applied to the color palette. “We used [those colors] for the track, for the crowd, very visceral colors, really strong bold colors,” he explained.
Dressing Hemsworth and Wilde’s characters was especially a joy to Day. “I loved all the characters for all their different aspects, but Olivia was great to dress. She looks great in all her clothes. She wears the clothes really well and I really love all her clothes, but then again, I love all of Chris’ clothes. He was also great to work with. He just looks great in clothes, whatever you create… I had an absolute fantastic time and dressing all these great people was really extraordinary.”