The Witcher season one has come and gone, and Henry Cavill’s fantasy drama has quickly become one of Netflix’s most popular shows. Though much of the focus has been on the show’s ensemble cast (including Yennefer actress Anya Chalotra) and on showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich, there were hundreds of people working on the show and shaping its creative vision. One of the most important people who created the Continent’s aesthetic is costume designer Tim Aslam, and the Geek of Steel podcast has recently sat down with him for an extensive interview. We’ll link the full podcast below, alongside the discussion topics and a transcription of the most notable parts (read below).
- 7:10 Designing costumes with different technology
- 11:23 Starting work on The Witcher
- 14:00 Challenges with costumes
- 15:45 Yennefer’s rope dress
- 17:42 Making the costumes be suitable for fight scenes
- 19:30 Favourite outfits and working with the stars
- 21:50 Henry Cavill’s wardrobe malfunctions
- 23:00 Henry becoming Geralt
- 24:50 Henry’s devotion to the character and the story
- 25:50 Geralt and Jaskier’s party clothes
- 29:45 Working with Lauren S. Hissrich
- 31:21 The differences between the games and the show
- 34:30 Strong female characters
- 35:33 Yennefer’s early look and her makeover
- 40:00 Armour and Nilfgaardians controversy
- 45:40 Witchers and Jaskiers at Comic Cons
- 46:50 Advice for aspiring costume designers
- 49:00 Costume expenses
- 50:20 Tim’s next projects
Aslam explains his take on the Nilfgaardian armor
“I know that there is this big, well, elephant in the room. I know that there was a lot of controversy about the Nilfgaardian armor for example and the thing with the Nilfgaardian armor is that a lot of gamers were so, kind of, used to the Nilfgaardians looked like and what they were, whereas we’ve said time and time again that this had nothing to do with the game and in a way this season was almost an origin story for, like, everybody. It was not so much, you know, this is from the very early books and it’s almost before the characters that particularly the gamers know are actually formed into those characters. This is like their early, early story.”
“I think the thing with the Nilfgaardians was that Lauren, quite early on, said to be that because this sort of started them, like before Pavetta’s betrothal the Nilfgaardians are still sort of a backwater kind of nothing, it’s not a strong state or anything, and suddenly with Fringilla’s help it becomes this huge sort of menace and the thing with the Nilfgaardians is that they were not supposed to be this elite, trained, perfectly clad army like the Cintrans are. Nobody knows where they’ve come from and how they’ve come there so quickly because a lot of them are sort of fanatically brainwashed into joining this army. […]
“The concepts we’ve had, we had like a week from pen and paper to setting the costumes to be made because, obviously, I had to make like 250 sets to be shooting in less than two months from sort of zero, which… one or two days’ delay and… those scenes and the locations were already set and we could not move those scenes. So it was like, damn, we have to have this on the ready, and I was like: ‘Guys, we need to have a sign-off on this armor, what do you want?’ It was like: ‘We don’t want anything Eastern, we don’t want anything traditional, we don’t want Renaissance armor, we don’t want medieval armor just black, you know what I mean?
“It needs to be something never seen before, which in terms of armor is not an easy call. Armor’s been around since three, four thousand years ago in various forms and just about everything has been seen before. But the thing is with the Nilfgaardian armor had to be something weird. It’s not about them fighting and being this protective-like, full on kind of brilliant armor. They’re almost supernatural. It’s like: ‘How many of these people have come? From where? How is it even possible?’ Obviously Fringilla has used her magic powers but the armor itself needed to have an organic rather than a man-made look. It needed to be almost formed, grown and that was behind the idea that it was very veiny and had reference to nature, to trees, to bark and moss and decaying stuff.
“So that was what we were going for. They had to have this weird, alien feel that wasn’t like anything else around. And also, struck horror into the people because it’s like ‘What are these beings? Where are they from?’ So that was the main calling point, and I did some different designs and Lauren signed off on the ones she liked. And, again, I think if you watch it as a whole, it works. If you watch it with the idea that these aren’t the Nilfgaardians we know from the games then obviously… they’re not, and they weren’t supposed to be, but you know… You can’t please all the people all the time.”
On how Yennefer’s iconic rope dress came to be
“It was just one of those moments that I was scanning through hundreds of looks and different things, just doing some research and I came across that dress. It was almost like a cross between a battle dress, like an ancient Britton Boudicca. […] One of the things I discussed with Lauren [Hissrich, showrunner] earlier on is that she didn’t want this old medieval world kind of look to it. She wanted something [different] because obviously it’s not our world, it’s a parallel world. So obviously it’s gothic, as a gothic story, but we decided we’re going to mix it with contemporary high fashion which Lauren particularly loved, mixed with [various gothic influences]. Yennefer’s dress is a bit of a high fashion battle dress and there just happened to be some samples on my board of black and silk ropes which I haven’t even thought what I would do with, and then I just sort of saw this and said: ‘We could do something using that.’
“It was, to Anya [Chalotra’s] huge credit, a very heavy dress. It weighed something like twenty five kilos, because even though it was silk rope, it was still rope. It was all sort of set in a corset bodice, so that helps support the weight but she did it and she never complained. She did have to do a lot of work in that dress, but yeah I think it payed off and looked good, so that was the main thing.”
Aslam on why he isn’t returning for season two
“I’ve been doing some work on Venom 2. Part of the reason I could not do The Witcher [season] two was because by the time I finished [season one] they didn’t even know where or when they were starting it so for me I had big family things at the end of the last year to take care of which just wouldn’t free me up so I decided that I kind of just wanted to move on and do something different.”
As Redanian Intelligence revealed last year, the costume designer for The Witcher season two is Lucinda Wright, who has worked on Doctor Who, Jamestown and Henry VIII in the past. We hope to see her match Aslam’s bold designs and professional finesse, though we must admit… With regards to the Nilfgaardian armor, we’re ready to see something different.
The Witcher season one is available for streaming worldwide on Netflix. Season two begins filming next month.