Costume Designer Genevieve Graham

The highly regarded Costume Designer joins us for Notre-Dame

Costume Designer Genevieve Graham

Her story so far

Genevieve Graham graduated from The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in 2017 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance), and a Masters of Fine Arts (Design for Performance). When designing costumes, Genevieve takes character as the starting point, and places the designer/actor/director collaboration at the forefront of her design process. In 2017, Genevieve received the APDG (Australian Production designers Guild) award for ‘Best Emerging Designer’, for her production and costume design for ‘Eurydike and Orpheus’, directed by Priscilla Jackman. That same year, she designed the costumes for The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s ‘Bittersweet Obsessions’, a new Baroque opera. 

After graduating from NIDA, Genevieve was appointed costume designer for series 2 of Channel Seven’s television program ‘Drop Dead Weird’. Since then, she has designed costumes for both stage and screen, including The Ensemble Theatre shows: ‘Diplomacy’ Directed by and starring John Bell, ‘The Appleton Ladies Potato Race’ directed by Priscilla Jackman, and ‘A Christmas Carol,’ directed by Damien Ryan.

In 2022, Genevieve designed the costumes for two new television series': 'Appetite' for SBS, and 'The Disposables' for ABCme. Earlier that year she was lead costume buyer for the Australian Netflix hit series 'Heartbreak High’, and most recently, the costume buyer for the highly anticipated paramount plus series ‘Paper Dolls’, and season two of the Logie winning series ‘Colin From Accounts’. 

The costumes of Notre-Dame

"The costumes are an echo of Paris and the Notre-Dame over time. In my research I looked at both contemporary and historic photographs of the cathedral in its prime and glory, as well as photographs from after the fire. My inspiration became the paradox of the beauty and awe-inspiring structure, and heartbreak and devastation on the faces of onlookers, the smoking wood and limestone and steel debris at the foot of the Virgin Mary. I looked to artists’ different interpretations of the Notre-Dame such as Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Victor Hugo. The orchestra’s black and white suits are inspired by the architectural shapes and lines of the charcoal sketches, as well as a timeless French chic look. The suit is a symbol that has always intrigued me, the way it can be manipulated to form meaning, or to challenge convention, the powerful silhouette that means everything on one body and nothing on another. 

It was important to me that the choir became a piece of the building itself. Their costumes are an ode to the white limestone and grotesque gargoyles of the Notre-Dame. I wanted to give the impression of the cathedral post blaze - the devastation, yet unexpected beauty in the exposure of the internal workings of this great icon. There’s an ephemerality in the layers of fabrics, the unfinished hems and raw edge lapels. The exposed seams, pockets and lining echo the bare bones of this once mighty symbol. The deconstructed  suit - a traditional symbol of power and success- is the sudden collapse of the spire; a mighty architectural feature becoming a match stick in the powerful blaze. The idea that something once thought indestructible and eternal, can be turned to dust. Yet, a thing from which hope and narrative can still be reborn.

The colours of the choir allow for the lights of the stained glass window to reflect onto them, to fill the colourless space with light, colour and life - much like the vivid colours of the art inside the cathedral itself. The choir is a distant memory as well as a modern representation of Paris; a marriage of history and high fashion.  

The actress is a symbol of optimistic curiosity and spirit. She is a drop of saturated colour in a world of ash and limestone. We wanted her to look like you or me; a real world person, a guest of Paris who experiences a journey of enlightenment, then devastation. 

Victor Hugo treads the line between our contemporary world and his historic world. We depict him as an artist - almost a hipster in contemporary speak. There is an alluring ease and romance to the relaxed and worn nature of his clothes. We want to get a sense of the author but not be tied to re-creating the man himself- the actor is Victor Hugo but he’s also romance and imagination. 

Together the orchestra, the choir and the actors give us an impression of the world of the Notre-Dame before during and after the fire, and the dichotomies that seep through the walls of the icon - the ugly and the beauty, the despair and the hope, the chaos and the calm, the darkness and the light."

Genevieve Graham joins the brilliant creative team for Notre-Dame, our epic Season opener that debuts on the Brandenburg stage on 22 February.