Cedric Plumb: As stylist, how do you define style?
Beatrix Pasztor: Style is everyday life — whether it is captured from the reality of the streets, the essence of a painting or architecture.
CP: How do you create a style?
BP: Style is created by itself. It is a journey in you at every moment. When you have a special project you find out that creating the style of a character can help move on the plot and set the trends of the time with your character-designed portrayals.
CP: How would you describe your own personal style?
BP: A mix of experiences in black. Simply black.
CP: What influence did your studies in Budapest have on you?
BP: The BA in Fashion at the Academy of Arts of Budapest was a good foundation and strongly inspirational. It gave me the wings to fly high and having sensational ideas in styling.
CP: Just out of college you moved from Budapest to New York…
BP: Yes, in 1986. Hungary was a communist country under totalitarian regime at that time, you couldn’t travel at all to Western countries. They were ‘the enemy’ and any visa was forbidden. I was lucky to get out to be invited by my uncle who had emigrated to the States in 1956. When my visa expired I applied for an extension. When the application was turned down by the Hungarian Foreign State Ministry my status became ‘unwanted enemy’. I had no choice than to stay and start working very hard in New York, the city that I had only known in my dreams before. Returning to Hungary would have meant ending up in prison there, so that was clearly not an option!
Bloodhounds of Broadway
BP: I had just found a job in window display at Barneys in New York when I received a phone call one day inviting me to an interview for a film that was starring Madonna, Matt Dillon, Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Grey. I had been in the the States for a short time only, so it was a huge challenge to read the script in 1920’s jargon and to draw up the visuals in one night, and styling my own outfit for the next morning at the same time. Who knows how I got the job, but I know the director remembered my Yohji Yamamoto cardigan, black cycling shorts and golden 1920’s eyeglasses. Working with Madonna was a great collaborative experience. With the little money available we used fashion ideas to create 1920’s style in our gangster movie.
CP: You moved to Los Angeles rather spontaneously in 1988.
BP: Luckily I met my dear friend Suzy Landau, Martin Landau’s daughter who invited me to her mother, Barbara Bain’s house in LA and helped me to prepare my interview with Gus Van Sant. Not knowing what Hollywood was or how to drive, Suzy’s and her mother’s generosity gave me the strength and fundamental help needed to start my carreer.
Gus ask me in the interview how I could design his 1970’s movie set in Portland, Oregon, when I did not grow up in America and I had not experienced the hippie style? I said, ‘Don’t worry, under communism in Hungary everybody is still wearing 1970’s clothes now. I’m more of an expert in this than anybody else in the US!’ I got the job and it became a longterm collaboration.
BP: My dream came true through working with Terry Gulliam. With Terry the work was hard but imaginative, exciting and fun! He left me a free hand to design the Red Knight with total creative trust. The best challenge was to transform photographs of homeless people from Central Park in New York and to adapt their everyday sculptures of structural surviving outfits to the final designs of Robin Williams character called ‘Parry’. The resulting search for the Holy Grail with my fantasy-styled characters was exhilarating satisfaction.
UP: How do you see the relationship between star and style?
BP: Style is a very individual self expression and it varies among the stars. Some stars are always stylish because they love certain aesthetics and beautifully designed clothes. I love and enjoy when the actors/actresses have a good sense of fashion proportion and style about themselves because it helps tremendously in my fittings to find their characters. This is true whether they are acting in modern or period films. If an actor/actress understands style I truly believe, they can develop their ideas in acting much further and a good film cannot live without an artistic mind of style.
My favourite example of how a film can hold a strong design concept and style over decades is Bertolucci’s film The Conformist. I loved Sharon Stone’s fitting for Basic Instinct 2. It took 15 hours to figure out her 40 costume changes, but she was very passionate and open to mix vintage with contemporary couture fashion pieces. Sharon is unique, she was born with an incredible, limitless sense of style.
UP: Do you have any personal highlights?
BP: In every film you live through a personal highlight because of the excitement of achieving a complete picture in the end,...
- BP: Special moments were… creating costumes for Madonna, having been chosen to collaborate with the unique mind of Gus, traveling with Terry through his imaginative journey, working on an Oliver Stone movie, and last not least working with the most incredibly spirited women directors of the world: Mira Nair (Vanity Fair), Jane Campion (In the Cut) and Niki Caro (Vintners Luck).
CP: Favourite movies?
BP:The Brothers Bloom, directed by Rian Johnson, starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi and Vintners Luck, directed by Niki Caro. Designing and styling The Brothers Bloom was a unique fun experience because I wanted to create a highly stylized look for madcap characters: the eccentric millionaire / hermit heiress, in her exotic and ludicrous New Jersey mansion (Rachel Weisz), the stylish film noir brothers (Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo) and the sexy Japanese silent explosive expert (Rinko Kikuchi). This poetic adventure story was perfect to mix vintage and contemporary designer clothes. It was a great experience of working together, Rachel even offered to use her favourite vintage 1960s short black mini dress with white ruffles and her grandmother’s 1940s fur coat. Niki’s film challenged me to design a male fallen Angel. It is the hardest thing to do!
CP: Can you name some people you particularly like to work with?
The list is so long... Sharon Stone, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Weisz, Jeff Bridges, Colin Farrell, Mark Ruffalo, Jude Law, Adrien Brody, Richard Gere, Robin Williams, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, Uma Thurman, Sienna Miller.
BP:What do you enjoy most in your work?
If I can achieve timeless, original, and revolutionary costumes that tell the story.