The ‘Catching Fire’ Costume Designer Talks the Dark Turn in ‘Hunger Games’ Fashion
Hunger Games aficionados will quickly pick up on the tonal and aesthetic overhaul of Catching Fire, the second film in the popular trilogy. The somber sequel finds protagonist Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, once again fighting for her life, while navigating increasingly fraught political and personal ground. One woman played a critical role in this dark transformation: Trish Summerville, the Catching Fire costume designer who summoned a stark sartorial landscape for the much-anticipated movie.
To kick off the new look, the accomplished costume designer brainstormed with director Francis Lawrence and decided, “We wanted it overall to have a darker feel, a moodier feel, an escalated feel, a higher fashion feel.” Summerville captures this ambiance with a mix of ready-to-wear couture pieces and original creations. She took on the daunting task of dressing Katniss and her cohorts, along with 6,000 extras, while simultaneously charting the shift in sartorial sensibility from the poverty-stricken districts of Panem to the decadent Capital.
Summerville’s impressive resume ranges from music videos and tours to commercials and editorial work. Her last big screen project was 2011’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and she is currently working on Gone Girl, which is shooting in Los Angeles (a huge plus for the L.A.-based designer, who claims she’s never home).
Prior to getting a call to meet with Lawrence, Summerville was familiar with, but hadn’t read, the Hunger Games. Once she heard about the project, she bought Catching Fire and was immediately hooked. Like a million other Hunger Games fans, Summerville pored over the novel, attempting to “visualize and figure out certain looks.” But unlike the average fan, Summerville actually got the chance to bring her vision to life. She began by taking a broad approach, “just pulling imagery of anything that inspired me, whether it was trees or animals or skylines, different silhouettes of clothing, designers, and runway fashion.” These images culminated in vision boards dedicated to aspects such as color and mood, as well as character-specific inspiration packets.
In order to capture the growing sense of impending doom and emerging insurgence in Catching Fire, Summerville updated the looks of many of the movie’s central characters. She created a more imposing and authoritative President Snow. “We’ve tidied him up and trimmed his beard and coiffed his hair more, because he has to be more astute and more pulled together and look more fearful and look more regal,” Summerville says. Another key component to building the totalitarian atmosphere of the politically tense Panem was redoing the peacekeepers’ appearances to make them more intimidating. She explains, “You’re not really sure if they’re quite human or if they’re part insect; I wanted them to look like these skeletal preying mantis, and have very low profile faces where you can’t see through their helmets.”
But if there’s one thing scarier than the dark content of Catching Fire, it’s the possibility of provoking the ire of diehard Hunger Games fans. Summerville explains, “It is important to me to please the fans, and that’s why we spent a lot of time on the wedding dress, because we knew that was an important concept for them. And the Mockingjay dress, and of course what Finnick is going to wear.” Still, you can’t please everyone. While Summerville has spent time perusing fan blogs and looking for costume critiques and inspiration, she recognizes that if she tried to translate every fan’s favorite outfit onto the screen, she would have to compromise her own creative autonomy—and would end up creating a four to five hour film. “If you start trying to focus on what everyone’s going to think, you’re never going to be true to what you think your design should be,” she says. So instead of the fans, Summerville attempts to cater to her director, her cast and, primarily, herself.
Summerville cites Katniss, the heroine of the film, as one of her favorite characters to dress. Unsurprisingly, she’s also a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence. As a friend and fellow trendsetter, Summerville couldn’t be prouder of the innovative style direction Lawrence has embarked on. She raves, “I love Jen’s new haircut. I think it’s fantastic that she chose to change, and chose to just do what she wants. She looks fantastic and she has such a beautiful face and such welcoming eyes; I don’t think she could look bad.”
Trendy fans who have already emulated Lawrence’s new ‘do can take their Hunger Games style to the next level thanks to Summerville’s Catching Fire-inspired Net-a-Porter collection, aptly titled “Capitol Couture.” The line, which is set to launch the day before the Catching Fire premiere on November 22, will feature looks for the aspiring Katniss or Peeta, all designed by Summerville herself. Seems like the costume designer is poised to become a fan favorite after all.