Source: Warner Bros


US costume designer Jacqueline West has hidden secret items in the costumes for Dune parts One and Two, including creating a special scarf for lead actor Timothee Chalamet.

Speaking to Screen at the Qumra incubator in Doha, Qatar which she is attending as a ‘master’, West said the tradition of hiding a secret item that the audience doesn’t get to see is one she has practiced throughout her career.

For Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One, West - who received her second Oscar nomination for her work on the film - gave Chalamet a custom-made scarf, “inside his suit, in very fine pima cotton.” The scarf was printed with the Muad-Dib – the desert mouse from the Dune world - and had a practical function for Chalamet too, as “the suit was rubbing on his neck”, West said. In the sci-fi blockbusters Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, a member of a noble family, who is thrust into a war for the inhospitable desert planet Arrakis.

Having not had one in the first film, Zendaya, who plays Arrakis native Chani, received a special “amulet” for Dune: Part Two – although West would not be drawn on exactly what it is.

Comfort was paramount for West in designing the Dune costumes, called ‘stillsuits’. West added “little holes to make them breathable, and we had little fans embedded in those holes, powered by LEDs, so it would help evaporate the sweat.”

The designer said she has been “instructed not to talk about the costumes” for Part Two, but did say designing them was “much more labour-intensive”, and that the outfits will “dive into the different worlds of Dune”, including that of House Harkonnen, headed by Stellan Skarsgard’s Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. The sequel will also revisit the Bene Gesserit, a sisterhood whose members posess advance physical and mental abilities; West described their costumes as “like Egyptian mummy cases”.

Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two shot from July through October last year, in Hungary, Italy, Jordan and the UAE.

West’s upcoming films include Martin Scorsese’s hotly anticipated Apple feature Killers Of The Flower Moon, which she described as “brilliantly done on everybody’s part”. With a stellar cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Brendan Fraser and Lily Gladstone, Killers shot in spring 2021; all costumes are now securely held in an Apple storage vault in Atlanta, Georgia, West said.

Having designed costumes for films including The Social Network, Argo and The Revenant across a 33-year career, West is branching out by designing employee uniforms for Neom, the desert city under construction in north-western Saudi Arabia.

Ten copies

Giving the latest Qumra masterclass to the audience of industry professionals and emerging filmmakers, West revealed she did not watch David Lynch’s original Dune film when studying at Berkeley University in the 1980s, and had heard of Frank Herbert’s novel on which it was based, “but I had not read it.” 

Her mother, a fashion designer in the 1940s and 50s, taught her about elegance, passing on the motto “fashion you can buy, style you’re born with” – to which West added “elegance is just about a state of mind, more than what you put on”.

West’s third Oscar nomination came in 2015, for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant. The high number of takes on the film required her to make “up to 10 copies of each outfit”, with skins purchased from Vancouver’s First Nation Fur Trading. “They have a very humane way of dealing with it, mainly using the animals as food for the tribes,” said West.

The two bear skins required for DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass were purchased from local park rangers, who select two animals per year to euthanise due to old age and vulnerability. “The bear skins were extremely expensive,” West said, “and I had to get a license as a fur trader to get them.”

UK director Michael Winterbottom will give the final Qumra masterclass tomorrow morning, on the final in-person day of the event; before a series of online screenings and meetings from March 19-21.