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HomeCraftsCostume DesignCostume Designer Leonie Prendergast Revisits the '60s in Jimi: All Is By...

Costume Designer Leonie Prendergast Revisits the ’60s in Jimi: All Is By My Side

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Jimi: All Is By My Side, (Photo by Patrick Redmond).
Jimi: All Is By My Side, (Photo by Patrick Redmond).

For the new biopic Jimi: All is By My Side, musician André Benjamin stars as Jimi Hendrix, portraying the pivotal year in Hendrix’s life from 1966-67. Modestly budgeted and scheduled, the film chronicles Hendrix in his last moments as an unknown backup guitarist through the point at which he makes his mark in London’s music scene, which leads to his American breakthrough and legendary Monterey Pop performance.

When she came onto the project, costume designer Leonie Prendergast knew that realism would be her key challenge in creating the costumes. “It’s crucial,” she said. “You want it authentic and sincere. You want to honor him and his fans.”

To execute the vision that the story mandated, Prendergast’s first task was indulging in research during a five-week preparatory period. “I clawed through magazines, books, internet, music books,” she said. “I spoke to people on different blogs. You always say it’s never enough time – you can never have enough. I worked on the film two years ago. I’m still learning loads more. It was not enough time in wanting to know more, but it was enough time to get the job done.”

LR-aib_8_06116Above all, working with director John Ridley, Prendergast’s goal on the film was achieving identical replications of actual Hendrix events and appearances. “To get it to look absolutely accurate was the main thing,” she said. “Starting at the beginning and trying to get the exact fabric, trimmings, buttons, braids is the challenge. They are kind of museum pieces that Jimi wore – certain jackets that he wore so that it looks authentic. That’s the main challenge and exciting part. John wanted it to be as sincere as possible. There were four of the costumes which I replicated that John specifically wanted in the film. He trusted me to get it as authentic as possible.”

In creating the costumes for the film, Prendergast focused on several of Hendrix’s outfits from notable performances. “There were very specific costumes that we replicated of Hendrix,” she stated. “The British Army jacket and gypsy jacket that he wears. It was originally created by Chris Jagger, Mick Jagger’s brother. Plus a bit of his jewelry. The orange velvet-printed jacket. We got the fabric made up from scratch in Scotland.”

LR-aib_9_08791In addition to creating original costumes, many designers of 20th century period films also scavenge nostalgia shops to find existing elements, and Prendergast was no exception on Jimi. “I went to a costume place in London that specializes in men’s and ladies costumes from the 1960s,” she explained. “An Irish lady [in the costume house] lives and breathes the ’60s. She has the most incredible selection of ’60s’ ladies clothes: original go-go boots, you name it. She lent us the clothes from the film.”

Working with a skeletal crew of a costume assistant, one tailor and two costume makers, plus a wardrobe supervisor and wardrobe assistant on set, Prendergast was naturally responsible for the film’s secondary characters in addition to Hendrix himself. “A film could be made about them on their own,” she said. “I put as much emphasis on character development to those roles as well. When you are someone who is so known [as with Hendrix], you really want to honor it.”

Not only did Prendergast collaborate closely with Ridley, she also teamed with the film’s art and camera departments. “Paul [Cross] who is production designer and Tim Fleming, the DoP, and I sit down and talk about images, work out a color scheme,” Prendergast explained. “Tim talks about how he is going to light it. Especially in this film, Tim wanted New York to look different from London. When we start out in NY, it is monochromatic. It highlights the impact of coming to London which is brushed with color. That’s reflected in the clothes to reflect the optimism and excitement of what’s happening with Jimi. We work this out beforehand with John Ridley.”

In hindsight, for Prendergast, a true fan of the period setting of the film, Jimi was a dream project. “I’m really genuinely proud of this,” she revealed. “It was a huge undertaking, and you hope you’ve honored the man. I hope I’ve done that. I put my heart and soul into it. It has been one of my favorite jobs to date.”

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