Fascinating People…Meet Cirque du Soleil Costume Designer Liz Vandal

Part 2…To read Part 1 of this interview, read it here

We were talking with costume designer Liz Vandal about her amazing creations for the OVO Show. Liz and Cirque du Soleil are based out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Liz Vandal's costume creation

How do you choose the fabrics and trims for your ingenious costumes? Are they sourced locally?

“We use fabrics from all over the world. Once we find the basic fabric, we transform it, sometimes with sublimation, which means printing the color, or motif, onto the synthetic fabric. Sometimes we dye it, when the fabric can be dyed, or we may create permanent pleats. Sometimes we put a coating on it, plastic or some other type.  Often it’s a combination of some or all of these. We rarely use a fabric with a ready-to-use pattern. At Cirque we have the luxury of creating our own prints and textures”.

Unlike regular apparel, these costumes would seem to require a fair amount of engineering. How do you figure out things like stingers and wings, and still allow for comfort and movement as well as stress?

“Coming from the dance world I was already used to considering the comfort of the artists. The idea is simple. The fabric on their body has to stretch, and nothing can be in the way of their movements while performing.  The key is: understanding the body. I’ve worked with dancers for 20 years. Experience has taught me what flatters the body, what sublimates it into an exceptional human sculpture, without fabric getting in the way…experience and feeling it on my own body. At my shop we always make the prototype on me, so I can feel if it is right…very kinesthetic!”

How large is your staff?

“When I worked for Cirque, I designed and THEY produce the costumes. I did not make the costumes in my shop. Our costume production team was over 50 people. At my little shop, we are 4, Yveline, my partner, 2 seamstresses, and myself. We hire more when production requires it.”

You also need special footwear. Is the footwear outsourced to a manufacturer or done in-house?

“I know everything is done at Cirque, even shoes.”

What was your biggest challenge designing for this show?

“To evoke (summon forth the spirit) not imitate. Also to get used to the Cirque du Soleil machine! It’s BIG! It was a shock

Costume by Liz Vandal

coming from a small enterprise and trying to fit into a multi-national mentality. Like an anthill, everyone has a role and you need to understand what it is. It took me a few months to realize that all I had to do was design and not worry about production or ordering fabric, or any of the rest of the processes. Imagine, for 20 years I supported the team, now the team was supporting me. It was very intense. Like a loooong marathon, getting more intense as you near the end.

At Cirque, it is the ultimate way you can live , it is a designer’s dream, but in exchange you have to give them the ultimate of you….and they do, squeeze you like a lemon.”

What’s next for you?

I am now working on a big show for Washington Ballet, Alice in Wonderland.  We will be using high technology partnering with the company MTI for fabric transformation, exploring more and more of what I learned working for Cirque du Soleil.

“Through my study of line I try to make the body dynamic and reveal its intrinsic beauty.”

— Liz Vandal, costume designer

To learn more about Liz Vandal and the extraordinary costumes created for OVO and other shows go to: www.lizvandal.com and  www.cirquedusoleil/en/shows/ovo/show/costumes.aspx

OVO is running in Chicago until August 21st, and will open in Calgary, Alberta, September 17th, and Mexico City October 30th.

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Article by Liz Riley for Phoenix Fashion Week

“The Resource For All Things Fashionable”


  1. June 5th, 2012

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