Diana Eden takes measurements on Brandon Thompson during The Art of Costume Design workshop presented by Diana Eden. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

A Feel for Design

Antonina Lerch and Diana Eden pose for a photo during The Art of Costume Design workshop presented by Diana Eden. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Antonina Lerch and Diana Eden during The Art of Costume Design workshop presented by Diana Eden. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

A decade ago, Antonina Grib Lerch, WC ’03, thanked her mentor in Hollywood’s costume design industry for her tutelage, her guidance and for providing a roof over her head. Lerch asked the renowned costume designer and Emmy Award nominee, Diana Eden, how she could ever repay her.

“Her answer was very simple,” says Lerch. “Just help other people like I helped you if you ever get a chance.”

In November, Lerch did exactly that. A member of the Brenau University Board of Trustees, Lerch brought her mentor to her alma mater for a three-day workshop in all things costume design. The event, titled Diana Eden: The Art of Costume Design, included master classes that began Sunday, Nov. 20, and continued through Tuesday, Nov. 22, in the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts Disque Lecture Hall. With approximately 40 participants, Eden’s seminar touched on every detail of costume design, from research and sketching to shopping and renting, plus aging, dyeing and fitting garments.

Eden is an award-winning Hollywood and Las Vegas costume designer for stage, television and film. Born in Tunbridge Wells, England, and raised in Toronto, Canada, Eden began her career in the U.S. as a dancer and actress. After years on stage, her career moved behind the curtain and evolved into costume design when she was in her mid-30s. Eden says her objective at Brenau was to give the students an overview of what it is like to work in film. These students already have “excellent theater training,” she says, but designing for film and working on a film set differ greatly.

“I wanted to give the students a feel for it, if that’s the direction they want to go in,” says Eden. “Especially since Georgia has quite a healthy production center now.”

Antonina Lerch takes notes during The Art of Costume Design workshop presented by Diana Eden. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Antonina Lerch takes notes during The Art of Costume Design workshop presented by Diana Eden. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Junior theater design and technology major Maggie Hervey from Atlanta, Georgia, says she enjoyed learning about the differences between costume design for theater and for film. “We’ve gone through the process of what costumes you need for film,” says Hervey. “We went through the script for The 40-Year-Old Virgin, making costume charts and determining how many costumes there are.”

Senior theater design and technology major Hannah Rose Jackson of Gainesville, Georgia, says she learned the day-to-day process of costume design for film can vary greatly from design for theater. In theater, the design process ends on opening night, Jackson says, but it continues throughout a film production. Corrinna Redford, senior theater major from Jonesboro, Georgia, says she’s worked four years in Brenau’s costume shop but learned “so much more” in three days with Eden.

Hannah Rose Jackson, left, laughs while measuring Brandon Thompson during The Art of Costume Design workshop presented by Diana Eden. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
Hannah Rose Jackson, left, laughs while measuring Brandon Thompson during The Art of Costume Design workshop presented by Diana Eden. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

“I’ve learned how to take what I’ve learned for costume on the stage and apply it to film,” she says. “But I’ve also really seen how it can inform me as an actor. Diana has given me so many tools that will better prepare me for my future career.”

Lerch says she first contacted her mentor with the workshop idea in early 2015. She wanted to do something that would help Brenau theater, design and fashion merchandising students graduate with a greater understanding and ability to land jobs. Eden has teaching experience from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she’s taught a course in costume design. Her workshop at Brenau, she says, was essentially a condensed version of that course.

Originally from Belarus, Lerch played tennis at Brenau and is the only collegian in history to be a three-time national champion in women’s singles play. After graduation, however, she hung up her racket and used her fashion merchandising degree and a master’s of fine arts from University of Georgia to begin a successful career as a costumer to the stars, working with and learning from experts like Eden.

After completing her master’s, Lerch began an internship with NBC while Eden was designing a show called Passions. “The first two weeks, I lived at her house,” she says. “The first day I came, I went straight to work, and we had all night shoots. Everything moved so fast, that those first two weeks before I settled, she helped me a lot. Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to settle or find something that would work for me.”

Lerch says she and Eden spent their first day together at Brenau visiting various Theater Department facilities, including the costume shop. They were also able to see Brenau’s production of Beauty and the Beast, which she called “fantastic.”

“I would have never thought we would be here together,” says Lerch. “It’s amazing. It’s been exactly 10 years since we first met, and this trip is actually very important to me in that it sort of marks our 10 year anniversary of knowing each other. She’s been such a marvelous role model, mentor and friend. She extremely encouraging, supportive and very humble, which is rare combined with her brilliance at work.”

Eden says she was floored by how welcoming, friendly and eager the faculty, staff and students were at Brenau. She particularly remarks on the attentiveness of the students. They didn’t spend her course with their eyes glued to their phones, she says. Lerch says she’ll forever appreciate the chance to bring Eden to the campus, particularly just before Thanksgiving.

“I think that timing was kind of symbolic,” says Lerch. “Everything lined up in a really interesting and positive way. I was so happy to see the students so interactive and eager to take in all the information she shared. I loved the whole thing and think it was such a success.”

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