- Courtesy ELOPE
“Ideas for costumes come from many different places — market trends are a big influencer,” says Marlene Lloret, the company’s chief development officer. “Customer requests are also a driving factor for determining each season’s line of wearables and props.”
In recent years, with the increasing popularity of comic, anime and other pop culture conventions, as well as year-round Renaissance, pirate and steampunk festivals, the demand for costumes and accessories has grown, as has the need for more innovative and dynamic pieces.
The back wall of ELOPE’s creative floor is covered with concept boards created by team members. Magazine clippings, hand-drawn sketches, color swatches and other bits of inspiration adorn poster boards and show the idea process for new costumes and props. Their goal? To create well-made, whimsical pieces that can’t be found anywhere else.
Even the company’s licensed products have a certain amount of creative flexibility. While you’ll never see a zombie Moana or vampire Snow White — there are some brand guidelines to follow, after all — the design team is given room for interpretation: A character like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas is elevated through a mask that moves when the wearer speaks; a Transformers Optimus Prime helmet gets reimagined in plush form with metallic fabrics.
Artistry is a group effort at ELOPE. The design team’s composed of professionals in fashion, graphic design and even industrial engineering, led by Lloret and the company’s co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Keith Johnson.
When it comes to costume creation, Lloret notes that even an idea as simple as a hat has multiple questions that must be asked at the beginning of the brainstorming process: What material is it made of? Is it sewn or blocked? Knitted or sculpted? How will these choices impact the final result?
Once those questions have been answered, the team makes a technical sketch, which gets sent to ELOPE’s sister factory, where they build a prototype from the sketch — if the idea is workable. There are occasions, Lloret explains, when a visit back to the drawing board is ordered. Wearable art, it seems, has some restrictions.
“Sometimes an idea is good, but it’s not production-friendly,” says Lloret. “We might have to produce 400 quality pieces, so it’s important to balance creativity with practicality.”
Once an item makes it to the sample phase, the team perfects the piece. This process can take months, particularly in the case of new costuming technology, where engineering is perfected alongside design. Meanwhile, there’s packaging to create, photos to take and marketing to devise. But it’s the end product that Lloret and crew care about the most.
“Our goal is to create fun, extravagant wearables,” she says. “We want our work to reflect and enhance the creativity of the people who purchase it.”