The Witcher’s costume designer on Nilfgaardian armor, Yennefer’s most iconic dress and more

25 comments

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

The Nilfgaardian armor, via Far Far Away’s gallery

“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

Yennefer’s rope dress from episode eight, via Far Far Away‘s gallery

“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.

RELATED ARTICLE: Unused Witcher costumes reveal lore-friendly Jaskier hat and Renfri flashbacks

25 comments on “The Witcher’s costume designer on Nilfgaardian armor, Yennefer’s most iconic dress and more”

  1. Fr they aimed for “something different” for the armor and ended up with a straight Power Rangers shit, really awful… And why give Yennefer a blue dress, she’s never seen using that kind of color. I hope with the new direction this get better

  2. I get what you were going for and even understand why they can’t be glorious armors but big flaccid black penises?

    1. I think you’ve just got dick on the brain. If they scraped the ridges off of the armor and just made it standard black leather-lined plate armor, no-one would complain that the helmets look like penises.

  3. Yeah, I’ve read it. But I agree that the nilfgaardian armour is just plain awful and the dumb explanations make the whole thing even more pathetic. I hope they change it now, and blame it all on the designer.

    Eat shit Tom, I guess.

  4. I don’t think it was very smart going for such a bold design with the Nilfgaardian armor when they were in such a tight schedule. I respect the effort, but damn, it clearly didn’t pay off.

    I just hope they don’t rush things as much on Season 2, and can’t wait to see the new designs from Lucinda Wright.

  5. C’mon. I haven’t played the games and I still think that armor looks ridiculous. They could have leaned into a bark or carapace aesthetic for something alien/organic rather than what they ended up with.

    It just looks like none of them ironed their clothes.

  6. “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”

    Yikes. Nilfgaard shouldn’t fucking need Fringilla to become strong empire.

  7. “before Pavetta’s engagement, the Nilfgaardians are still a kind of backwater,”

    I still don’t understand this idea (Lauren mentioned before that Nilfgaard’s army was an army of slaves before Cintra). In the books, the Empire is portrayed as a highly efficient and centralized structure with the professional army and there is no indication that it was different before (they conquered all neighboring states). Yes, they are cruel and cruel, but it is because they are thinking that they are a superior civilization

  8. I swear these interviews are pure gold. Aslam tosses Lauren under the bus while repeatedly saying “you don’t like it because it’s not like the gamez!” mantra.

    What the fuck, lmao.

  9. “I know that there is this big elephant right in the room. I know there was a lot of controversy about the Nilfgaardian armor ”

    That’s a way to call an armored cock, mate. I think you meant “elephant stick” in the room. Fixed this for you.

  10. maaan, she dumb as hell.

    Jaskier can’t get a pussy but Yennefer controlling people and having orgy with them is alright? Ah, jesus.

  11. “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.” this is a quote from the Costume Designer. Nothing he said relates to Nilfgaard in the books, they are not “fanatic”, Fringilla doesn’t somehow make them the stronger force in the world and you got to understand that for them to get to Cintra they had to conquer multiple kingdoms. This doesn’t make any sense, I’m now doubting that the showrunners even read the books.

  12. This is really a testimony to poverty. I have no idea about the world in which the stories take place, so invent something. Nilfgard has the most advanced production methods, it produces in bulk. The wars are about sales markets. It destroys the north because it is forced to buy goods from Nilfgard.

  13. laughable .. the program is full of Yennefer now, that Nilffgard happened, lol, because she didn’t want to go there and Fringilla went. And now … is the North going to hate you for that? Ciri is going to have a dramatic fight with her cause “it was your fault my grandmother jumped and Cintra fell!”

  14. “organic … formed, grown … very vehement”

    You just gave me a vision of a giant giant taking and wearing one of the Nilgaardians wearing this armor as the showrunner intended.

    Thank you curls.

  15. I always thought of the Witcher series as a different universe, but very close to our universe. This … “We have to look different, something people have never seen” only goes to places I don’t like.

    In my opinion, it is medieval. It’s close to our world, our history, there are only a few magic shits. But going deep in fantasy is too much. It just doesn’t fit here. I would expect them to make someone wear armor similar to Skyrim’s Deadric armor.

    Being subtle about it would also save money, you know …

  16. “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.”

    forkin’ knew it! Been saying that all the time. Such a BS, noone can even know each other, and everything need origin, bullshitery! Even distancing themselves from the games, for whatever the cost, whatever the change.

    The game drew the armor from books! Books you were adapting in the show and decided to change what was written in the book!

    “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.”

    “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?”

    “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.

    so wait.. now we are supposed to understand this that Fringilla helped made it with magic, or something? What?

    “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.”

    really, trees? Then why not make vein vertical?

    “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.”

    so the bs, once again told to us, was, once again, not true about “not really meeting the costume designers”. I guess the only true part was they could’ve never met, but she did signed it.

    “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 obvously… they’re not, and they weren’t supposed to be, but you know… You can’t please all the people all the time.”

    again, f*ckin games as an excuse. And where did the games took their inspiration for the armor from? Why is every art, illustration, picture in minds, looking black and gold with feathered helmets?! Because of the games?? Even 15 or more years ago?!?!?!

    sorry, cant read further, this article kinda pissed me off.

    Another proof, I’ve been saying.. they didnt try to adapt books. They just went against the games. Shit!

    sorry for the language. Unexpectedly tipped me off. Never happens.

    edit: PS – for the record, I don’t blame Tim for anything. He had to work with what was given. There might be even some actually good designs in the first iterations that got turned down and asked to change.

  17. it’s really annoying when they try so hard to distance themselves from games, although they don’t really need it, since games are more of an expansion of tradition, that they distance themselves equally from books.

  18. they must respect their source material. And the games were built with this material. And at that point, the games also gave the books some artistic identity, IMO, along the same lines that Ralph McQuarrie took a look at Star Wars, or better yet, how Alan Lee gave Middle Earth the look and feel for its illustrations that reflected the appearance of the books, which Jackson also respected and followed. Now imagine if Jackson shit and decided to take a different path. Okay, it could have worked, why go against it at all costs?

    And, as mentioned, games built on books. And it’s good to go your own way, that’s good, but don’t even disrespect even the source material you’re adapting, just because someone before you was more faithful to it than you are. And in general, why even go totally against it and not use it to your advantage, moreover, while doing your own thing? You have source material, you have games, you can fit in there and please everyone.

    But yes … I understand going your own way, that’s a good thing. But it doesn’t make sense to change your armor, when the source material you are adapting is describing that armor as the one we see in games, ffs. Why change that? Yes, there is no need to be 1: 1 (and nobody expects it), that would be weird for sure (and maybe even CDPR would go into it), but you can use it as a jumping point and improve it or make small ones changes. But go with the scrotum, even if the books describe it in a certain way? Come now…

  19. “I think the thing with the Nilfgaardians was that Lauren, from the beginning, said that because it kind of started them, like before Pavetta’s engagement, the Nilfgaardians are still kind of a backwater from nothing, it’s not a strong state or anything, and suddenly, with Fringilla’s help, it becomes this huge kind of threat and the thing about Nilfgaardians is that they shouldn’t be this elite army, trained and perfectly dressed, like the Cintrans. ”

    LAUREN SAID

    “So this is what we were looking for. They had to have a strange and strange feeling that was not like anything else around. Also, it horrified people because it’s like, ‘What are these beings? Where are they from?’ So that was the main point of call, and I did a few different projects and Lauren signed the ones she liked. ”

    LAUREN SIGNED

    “About how Yennefer’s iconic rope dress came about”

    ICONIC THEY CALLED ICONIC

  20. “we had a week from pen and paper to the setting of the clothes to be made”

    This supports my long-held theory that they were given the armor, realized it sucked, but it was too late and there was nothing they could do about it. Tomaz himself said on Facebook that he did not like it when the controversy started.

    It is not a smart move to take such a big risk on the armor design, looking for something never seen before when they were on such a tight schedule. In addition, Tim Aslam always seems very disdainful and disdainful of other projects when he speaks in interviews. I’m glad he doesn’t come back for the second season.

  21. “grown”

    It looks like it grew in someone’s pants. The scrotum’s armor was not enough, they had no choice but to add a glans helmet. They made literal idiots out of Nilfgaardians. Of course, there is no underlying narrative like anything on this show.

    “iconic dress”

    They are sure to be full of themselves.

  22. I believe Lauren Hissrich said that she wanted her program to stand out exclusively from the visuals of the book descriptions, as well as the visuals of the games, and that the program would be her ‘own look’. Of course, this is terrible if you are making an adaptation, because if you make one of your goals not to replicate, borrow or be inspired by the games, you are also stating that you are not replicating, borrowing or inspired by the game. books. If the game was heavily influenced by the book, and the program wants to avoid being influenced by the game, it follows that they will also stop following the books because of that direction.

    Politely speaking, it’s a fire in the dumps.

  23. Is she literally smoking crack? What fantasy is a good strategy to have shard archers shoot at glass jars filled with magical crystals thrown from primitive slings? Can’t this $ 10 million show per episode allow for a basic Trebuchet?

    What the hell is this about random worms that come out of nowhere? This is silly as hell.

    Why wear Vilgefortz, the villain of the whole series, with 0 development and 0 servants, only for Yennefer to steal all his role in the battle of Sodden?

    And the worst part, instead of the battle of Sodden being about all the wizards who lost their lives, Hissrich forces it to be about Yennefer, with Geralt and Tissaia shouting his name.

    So Ciri and Geralt finally meet, as Sword of Destiny has already been completely slaughtered, and Hissrich still needs to do everything about Yennefer. Literally, the only words that Ciri and Geralt share throughout the program are “who is Yennefer?” WHAT A FUCK!

    The arrogance and ignorance of thinking that dog shit is a good fit is sick.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.