Quasi is a captivating story (now available on Hulu) that follows the tumultuous journey of a hapless hunchback in his pursuit of love. However, Quasi’s life takes an unexpected turn when he becomes entangled in a perilous feud between the Pope and the King of France. Amidst the chaos and humor of this tale, costume designer Kelly Kwon takes center stage, bringing her creative prowess to the forefront as she meticulously creates the stunning Quasi costumes that breathe life into the characters.
Elizabeth Joy Glass: Kelly, thank you for sitting down with me. I really appreciate it. Quasi is so much fun! The costume design for Quasi, which takes place in medieval France, is both fantastical and grounded. What was your research process like, and what was the overall look you were hoping to achieve?
Kelly Kwon: Quasi is a fun, fantasy story and it’s very funny! I love that we made a more silly, adult version of the Quasimodo story. The research process was very short and quick. I really didn’t have much time. I was lucky to have actually read this script about eight years ago. So even though it was short on research, I had a clear vision!
It was very stressful, but at the same time, it was really fun! Of course, we did an online search. You could find things, but not enough to actually get into the detail. So I decided to go the old-fashioned way of going to libraries and art galleries in that short period of time. I found this French painter who was a 13th, almost early 14th-century artist that did some art of an execution scene with all the king’s court which was an example of our inspiration. But the film is still fantasy, so we added a lot more.
Elizabeth: I really see that fantasy come through is the torturers working with Quasi. They’re very rock and roll, and I thought that was just so adorable!
Kelly: We started more traditional based on that painting. Even though Quasi is a fantasy, I still wanted to give a sense of realism that was staying true to the period. I was going for a darker, executioner style. There was a creepy, scary look but then as you could tell, they’re always very happy. Also, those who are getting tortured are volunteering to do this and make money. I just had to make it more fun while being visually detailed, with more accessories, and trims. I was playing with it, and then I got a better idea. What if the torturers had a medieval Mad Max style?
Elizabeth: It worked out perfectly and looks so cool! Let’s talk about our main character, Quasi. I’m guessing you had to work quite a bit with prosthetics. What were the challenges of creating his wardrobe?
Kelly: Yes, I’m really familiar with prosthetics! But that hump… I thought it was going to be easy! Nope. They didn’t work under my costume because when he doesn’t have anything on with the prosthetic, it looks really deformed and looks bigger. But when you actually wear a costume with it, it disappears. It just didn’t look good, and we were struggling with it. We tried doubling the prosthetics, but he couldn’t walk or raise his arm for two days because the two prosthetics together were close to fifteen pounds.
I had to come up with a better solution. I always carry two beanbags in my office to sleep or rest sometimes and they worked out perfectly. I disassembled my bean bags and we created a little pouch that looked like a hump, oversized, and stuffed it with the beanbag filling. It was light, and it was perfect. It shaped any way we wanted it. He didn’t even feel like he was wearing it and it actually laid on the costumes really well.
Elizabeth: I was actually wondering about that because I thought it must have been heavy for him to have those prosthetics. But beanbag filler!
Kelly: It was funny that it was as simple as my beanbags!
Elizabeth: I love that! Also, I loved the king in his court, he was so fashionable. What was your inspiration?
Kelly: He’s not the nicest king who tortures people. After reading the script, I knew the twist at the end but I also wanted to throw little hints throughout the story. I originally overdid it at the beginning. I made him a little too flashy! Kevin (Kevin Heffernan) said, “I love it where you’re going. But you don’t want to reveal our twist at the end!” He was right. That’s why I toned it down, but still had a lot of over-accessorizing for him. The King has a great necklace, a throne belt, every finger has a ring, and even his crown was more. I added a lot more jewel trim to his surcoat and his mantel. I just wanted him to stick out, a little “douchey.” It’s that character, and it was fun going over the top.
Elizabeth: It definitely fit the character, he had such great looks. Queen Catherine was always so elegant… very much the opposite of the King.
Kelly: She was so easy to dress, and I actually connected with the actresses and we become good friends. Adrianne Palicki, I literally fell in love! Love at first sight and we are still really good friends. Even on our first fitting day, we just clicked. I got to know her a lot more intimately, so it was easier for me to visualize, fit her, and create the perfect character for her.
Elizabeth: I loved it because she’s such the opposite of everybody else in that court, and it was just elegant, simple silhouettes. She always seemed perfectly dressed.
Kelly: She is very elegant. But I had to make her a lot more simple because behind closed doors, her character is super kinky. So that’s why it worked out perfectly. I wanted her to be more subtle in a way but still gorgeous and elegant.
Elizabeth: I think my favorite set of people were the Pope and his entourage because the Pope and Cardinals are portrayed in a million things. But the way you translated them, it was very unique and fresh. I loved it so much. What was the process like for that?
Kelly: The real Popes don’t change often; they’re very simple. They wear the simple white chasuble. For events like Easter they do wear decorative things. Our Pope is showy. I didn’t want to ruin the twist. But I still wanted to show this guy is a showy person. He wants the crowd to cheer for him.
We had issues sourcing the fabric because I found religious fabric out in downtown Los Angles. But, it just wasn’t flashy enough! So I did a lot more research, and I found this person through Etsy. They deal with a lot of religious and historic fabrics in Europe, but he’s from Ukraine. This was six to seven months before the war. They had to relocate to Turkey. When he actually relocated, I got my fabric. There was a little bit of luck but everything was working in the right places at the right time.
I got a couple of options that really helped make it easier for me to duplicate more sets, because the Pope’s style is always white with another color. I think I did three to four sets of each look and that was after we got the fabric. It was so much better, but I needed more to make it flashier!
Elizabeth: Throughout this process, what did you find the most difficult when creating the wardrobe?
Kelly: For me, it was easier to have a clear vision of what I wanted. But how do I make it real life? I could sketch it, but can I actually create this? Sourcing all of the trim and fabric that I really wanted in a short period of time was challenging. I had a very small crew. That was my challenge. But I had so much fun, and I got closer to my crew. I don’t get to work with my crew often but this one I was a lot more involved!
Elizabeth: My last question…what was the most fun part about working on Quasi?
Kelly: The most fun part is everything, just creating costumes. At the same time, like I told you, this movie became a dream come true. Every little thing we did was fun. But the most fun part was working with close friends and family. Sometimes I can see the costumes in my head, but trying to explain or describe them in words or even pictures… it doesn’t come out perfectly. But working with this team, they know exactly what I’m trying to say to them.