Mad Men to Turbans

New York Times
Travel

‘Mad Men’ to Turbans

Tara Billik

Janie Bryant, costume designer, in Morocco.

By EMILY BRENNAN

“I’m not a big shopper,” confessed Janie Bryant, costume designer for feature films and for “Mad Men,” the AMC television series whose season finale was shown last Sunday. She finds much more inspiration in traveling to far-flung destinations and, say, riding a camel, than in riffling through clothing store racks.

“With each experience, my eyes are open to more,” she said. “I love to experience the culture wherever I am, live how they live.”

Below she talks about the countries and cultures that have inspired her work.

Q. How does travel influence your designs?

A. I find myself taking photos of architecture, which I keep in a file as a reference for designing fabric prints. When I was on the Greek island of Santorini, I photographed these scrolled, intricate iron gates at the entranceways of hotels, houses, even stairs. While on a cruise to the Panama Canal, we stopped in Cartagena, Colombia, which is one of my favorite cities. There, I kept taking shots of door knockers. The Spanish colonial buildings are painted these beautiful pinks, yellows, blues. Each one has a different style of door knocker, in the shape of fish and animals, cast in copper or a kind of gunmetal.

Q. Did you pick up any items to keep during that trip?

A. In Huatulco, Mexico, I picked up this beautiful fabric they use for tablecloths and blankets. It’s like a fine wool challis, with huge squares of red, orange, indigo, green. I wanted something traditional from Colombia, so I bought an alpaca hat and fur pillows. I still regret not buying a raw emerald — Colombia is known for them. They’re not cut, but textured like amethysts. My mother bought a pendant and sometimes I think, “I wanted that!”

Q. When you’re shooting on location, how do you adapt to the new environment?

A. I spent two months shooting “The Hills Have Eyes II” in Ouarzazate, Morocco. While on set, I learned how to wrap a turban. I bought this seven-foot-long piece of cotton, dyed in this gorgeous sky blue ombré. The wind can get so intense, you have to wrap the turban around your face and put your sunglasses on to protect yourself. We also lined our eyes with kohl, using a piece of carved camel bone, to keep the sand out. It’s so beautiful looking, but there’s a practical reason, too.

I was there so long I got the chance to see other parts of the country, too. One weekend, a group of us drove to Skoura, an oasis 45 minutes outside the city. So you’re driving through the desert, and there’s nothing green forever, then suddenly there are palm trees, the sound of water. One night, we were heading to dinner, and there was a man renting rides with his camels. I said: “Pull over. We have to ride the camels.” So we took a spin, and that’s what started my obsession with riding camels, which is nothing like riding a horse. It’s like you’re on top of a mountain. When the camel walks, you feel the cushion of his feet with each step. It’s so soft.

Q. I’m always struck by how the characters in “Mad Men” dress differently when they’re on vacation. Are you a different character when you travel?

A. In January, my husband and I went to Vietnam for our honeymoon. We stayed at this beautiful resort, An Lam, on Ninh Van Bay, outside of Nha Trang. There were 35 private villas, each with its own pool. Nightly, we took sunset cruises and toured the bay during the day. So it was all about the bikinis, little dresses, high-heeled sandals, cover-ups in chiffon, lace, crochet.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 17, 2012, on pageTR3 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Mad Men’ To Turbans And Kohl.
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Posted on June 16, 2012, in Morocco News, Visit Morocco and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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