COSTUME designer Sacha Valbjørn joins us on Close-up Culture to discuss her work on Isabella Eklöf’s must-see film Holiday.
Q: ‘Holiday’ is set in a beautiful coastal location. I imagine this was a fun shoot for you, especially for your first feature. Was that the case?
A: I’d never been to Turkey before, but the Turkish Riviera sounded good to me. Sunny skies, turquoise water and luxurious summer houses were a complimentary background for my costumes. It gave a good backdrop for a wide range of colour, which I took full advantage of!
Not to mention, it is always nicer to shoot in summer conditions, maybe even get a little tan while you’re at it (smiles).
Q: What was your approach to putting together outfits for the character of Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne)? Did Isabella want anything specific in her looks?
A: Isabella, of course, knows the personality of Sascha extremely well. From her description of Sascha and my own feeling of her from the script, I could assemble some different looks. We then tried them on Victoria to see what worked and didn’t work.
Sascha is at a crossroads in her life, she hasn’t decided who she wants to be yet. You can see her develop throughout the movie and I also tried to make that come across with her costumes.
Q: How about the male characters in the film?
A: I talked with Isabella about every character and their personalities to get an idea of how they should be dressed. There is a colorful and playful look to each character. In that way they kinda “go together” but in the details you can clearly see they have different styles.
Michael, the lead male character (played by Lai Yde), stands out from the rest in his costumes. We went with a more mature colour scheme – beige, dark blue, white, light blue. He is a level above the rest and he tries to dress as if he has a more expensive taste.
Thomas, the other love interest of Sascha (played by Thijs Römer), is a sailor and we dressed him in a much more chill, natural and sailor-y vibe. A real contrast to the character of Michael.
Q: Can you tell us about your experience working with Victoria? Any fun stories to share?
A: Victoria is such a beautiful person inside and out. She is so talented and passionate about film and acting. A real team player if you will. We had such a good time together.
Robert Hillenbrink (makeup artist), Victoria and I went out on the town one night in Bodrum. It was off season so the bars were almost empty and long story short I ended up with a new ear piercing and Robert with a temporary tattoo on his neck! Victoria was smart enough to stay away from any ink or piercings.
Q: There are some intense scenes of violence and sex in the film. What challenges did ‘Holiday’ throw at you?
A: Honestly everyone was so professional when it came to the more brutal scenes that it wasn’t a challenge at all.
We did, however, have a problem with the customs in Turkey which resulted in my costumes never making it to Bodrum. They had to be sent back again to Denmark in the end. I had luckily packed some of the more important items in my own luggage and had to think fast on my feet and find new costumes while shooting. Towards the middle-end of shooting the original costumes were finally back in Denmark and I got some of the costumes sent down again for the remaining looks we hadn’t shot yet.
It was a hectic shoot for me on that part, but I must give a special thanks to my assistant (Konstantinos Passas)! I could spend the days searching for new costumes while he stayed on set making sure continuity was in check.
Q: The image, which is used in most of the film’s posters, of Sascha in the white one piece swimsuit stands out to me. What is your favourite outfit from the film?
A: I love that swimsuit. It really captures the change that happens in Sascha during the movie, but also keeps a little of her playful personality.
My all-time favorite outfit is definitely the red pants and the green top that Sascha has on the day they all go to the gaming place and she throws up in the dustbin. I just love the colour combination, the kitschy chickness and the fact that it is a little out of place for how she feels that day (hungover). But the fact that she isn’t wearing more comfortable clothes just tells you more about her character – who Sascha is.
Q: On top of ‘Holiday’ you have also worked on Netflix series The Rain this year. Can you tell us about that experience?
A: The Rain was a very different experience than Holiday. For one, it was a much bigger production and I dealt mostly with aging and breakdown. Almost all costumes had to be broken down and aged to look old and dirty. Post-apocalyptic world and all.
We shot the series during one of the most wet summers in Denmark which is ironic as we had to shot outside mostly and needed clear skies because the rain is dangerous in the series. A very challenging but fun production.
Q: What led you into costume design and into the entertainment industry?
A: I’ve always loved film and fashion but never thought about those two things together until I, in my early twenties, went to The European Film College. I thought I wanted to be a cinematographer, but I ended up doing costumes mostly during my stay.
It is a live-in school so I brought along a lot of clothes and tried on different outfits all the time. If I didn’t like something I’d go change. I think because of that a lot of people at the school wanted me to do costumes because they could see I had an eye for putting pieces together and a curiosity and love for it. That’s when I finally put my two loves together and since then I just pushed forward making costumes for short films, music videos, theater, commercials, series and features.
Q: Can you name one or two actors you would love to work with in the future?
A: I’d love to work with Victoria again. We just have such a good time together and for me that is what’s most important. You need to have fun because it’s a lot of hard work making a film.
Q: Is there anyone in the industry at the moment who you look up to and aspire to as a costume designer?
A: I must admit I don’t have a favourite. I get inspiration from many different designers. I love colour and bold even odd combinations. Right now. I’m very into the aesthetic of the 1990s. I’m looking back at all the series and movies from that period, and the costume designers that were the best in that period.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
A: I have some upcoming projects I can’t reveal just yet.
I can say I am a part of Morph, a Copenhagen-based community of visual creatives looking to explore our artistic practice in a commercial context. It’s all about hacking commercial platforms with an activist mindset, by using our reach to bring across important messages related to the most pressing issues of our age – like the environmental crisis, global inequality and mental health.
Right now, we’re working on a campaign examining the role of ‘connectedness’ in this regard. It keeps the creative juices flowing doing a lot of different projects and I am very grateful that I am in a position to do just that.