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Barbara Gregusova - How Dreams are coming to Life

Costume Designer for Theatre & Film, Jewelery Artist

Nominated for LEO Award 2009 for Best Costume Design

in Short Drama „Bollywood Beckons“

When Barbara Gregusova was approached with the chance to create the fashions for a new cyberpunk web series, the 26-year-old costume designer loved the script, but not the costume budget. She decided to take the job anyway, but in order to make it worth investing her time, energy and money, she also took an executive producer credit. So when Residenz – which is produced and directed by Matteo Saradini – debuts online in November, it won’t just be her costumes, it will also be her show.

It’s not often a designer sees a value in producing, but Barbara already has her eye on making her own movies. Unlike every other actor who wants to direct, Barbara is looking for stories she’d love to create costumes for. She already has her eye on optioning a series of novels that would give her the chance to play with the fashions of ancient Egypt.

While Barbara is an artist first, she’s an artist with an entrepreneurial spirit who loves a challenge. Right now I like making coats and dresses, but I like to make dresses that don’t just have a couple of pieces of patterns, I like making dresses that have 36 pieces of patterns, designs that are intricate and geometrical. And I love building from scratch.”

If you shake Barbara Gregusova’s family tree, everything that falls out will be sculpted, painted, crafted or designed. As she talks about recent assignments -- which include designing costumes for movies, documentaries, short films and stage plays -- Barbara flips through a glossy brochure that features art from the whole family. The pages feature the work of three generations – Barbara’s original jewellery crafted from recycled technology; her mother’s Elena exotic fashions and wearable sculptures, her grandmother’s tile art and her one of a kind jewellery pieces designed by her grandfather (Milan Gregus). All of the work is photographed by either her brother or her father, Martin Gregus (who took the photos illustrating this article), much of it is modeled by Barbara and her aunt.

At five years old Barbara was already a cover girl, posing for her father in one of her mother’s outfits on the cover of a Slovak children’s fashion magazine, created and co-published by her parents. She stopped modeling at age 14, “because I wanted to wear jeans.” But a few years later she was back to posing for her dad wearing her mother’s unique creations, “because I was at home,” says Barbara with a laugh. Then she explains that she’s also the model because her mom’s designs are as much wearable art as they are fashion and can take as long as twenty minutes to put on and can be challenging to move in, which means they require someone who understands how they’re constructed. Both her mom’s designs and her own were featured at the first Victory Ceremony at Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics.

Barbara started sewing on her own pink children’s sewing machine, before she could read, but she preferred her mother’s professional model and was designing her first outfits for her Barbie dolls when she was six. She kept the Barbie dresses sleeveless though. “I still don’t like sewing sleeves.”

As a teenager Barbara thought of rebelling against the family business of making art. “I considered studying architecture at first, but I didn’t have the patience to draw cubes,” says Barbara. “So I started considering jewelry design. I guess it’s in the genes.”

In Slovakia the only way to study design at the post secondary level is by invitation, which means a student not only has to do well on a series of entrance exams, but they need a portfolio that impresses potential professors. So as soon as she decided to study jewelry design, Barbara started designing. “I had my first exhibition of jewelry when I was 16.” Her first collection was eco-friendly, using recycled materials – another theme that runs through her family’s work. A year later Barbara had her second exhibition, giving her the portfolio she needed. But once she was ready for university, her family left Bratislava for Vancouver.

After arriving in Canada in 2004, Barbara enrolled in the theatre program at Capilano University to study costuming for stage and screen. She then enrolled in Capilano’s “theatre institute.” One of her mentors was designer Jane Still, who created costumes for Jumanji (“a movie I watched and loved when I was little”). Barbara designed two shows as part of her training and made such a strong impression that since graduating she’s been invited back to Capilano to design at least one show a year. In 2010 she was hired to design two shows for Capilano – including Cinderella. For Capilano’s 2011-2012 season she was asked to do another two shows – Seven Stories, a modern Canadian comedy by Morris Panych, and the Arthur Miller classic, The Crucible – which she also designed in 2011 for Vancouver’s Studio 58. Barbara was nominated for a Leo Award (BC’s film awards) in 2009 for her costume designs for the short drama, Bollywood Beckons.

That led to her second feature film job, creating costumes for the upcoming movie, Three Days in Havana, starring Matt Frewer (Max Headroom) and Kathleen Robertson (On the Road Again). Shot in January 2011 in Vancouver and Cuba and written and directed by Gil Bellows (Ally McBeal) and Tony Pantages, the movie is set to be released in 2012.

Gregusova’s also marketing her own line of eco-friendly jewelry, “Hauteware” – a collection made from recycled hard drives, printer cartridges and other computer cast-offs. Jewelry that fits perfectly in a cyberpunk web series…

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