Job: As costume rental manager at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Nicole Faurant helps outfit performers in local community theaters in Champaign and Urbana and in theater productions around the country. Faurant earned her baccalaureate degree in biochemistry from the Lycee Chevrolier and a bachelor’s degree in social work from a private school, both of which are in her hometown of Angers, France. She also holds a master of fine arts degree in costume design from the University of Georgia. Faurant is an avid reader of all kinds of literature, in French and in English, and relaxes by doing yoga.
How did a scientific person end up being a costume designer?
Does your scientific background help you as a costume designer?
My hobby since I was young has been costumes. I have worked on the side as a costume designer for the French television school, which is in Paris, for several children’s movies. And I also worked a lot at the International Festival of Theater in Avignon doing costumes and other things.
The rigor that you have to apply to do costumes for a show is the same rigor you have to apply in science. You need to have a keen eye and be very strong in capturing the essence of a character through meticulous analysis.
You also have to be very strong in research. A major part of my job is to know my costume history because when people tell me they need early Georgian- or late Georgian-era costumes – I must know the difference.
Who are your customers?
I am not involved in any of Krannert’s productions, although the costumes I rent out were originally designed for the theater and opera departments’ productions. Occasionally, we may land a rental with big-name people like Walt Disney. I rented them three costumes for the 1999 Easter parade at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. I also rented boots to Comedy Central in New York for the "Upright Citizens Brigade" show. But this is not the norm. We are always impressed when these kinds of people call.
Last year we did an entire show, "A Tale of Two Cities," for a college in Birmingham, Ala.
We do a lot of business with free-lance designers from Chicago; they prefer to drive all the way down here rather than rent from Chicago places because of the quality of our costumes.
How do these other theater people know about the Krannert costume shop?
We have a strong reputation in the field developed solely by word of mouth from our students and other costumers.
We have a costume designer who is very talented and has been here for more than 20 years. We also have two professional cutters and drapers and three professional stitchers, which gives us an extremely good quality of costume – very well designed, very well constructed.
How much do you charge to rent different costumes?
In the field, we are not expensive at all. Some people from Comedy Central in New York were looking for knee-high boots, and they could not find what they wanted there. So they called us, and I sent them all the boots they needed. It was $25 to rent each pair for six weeks while in New York it was $150.
The period dresses are the most valuable because they require a lot of fabric and are very elaborate constructions. Maybe it will be only be $30 to rent, but the value of the dress may be $1,500, and that’s what people will have to pay if they damage it.
How many costumes do you have in stock and how do you keep track of them?
Altogether, including all the accessories, we may have 100,000 pieces of costume. Every other year, to make space we have a big sale and remove pieces that are no longer rentable or that are not in demand. We are in the process of putting all the costumes into a database. We put labels on everything.
Do you rent to individuals who aren’t doing productions?
We rent to people for theme weddings and parties, especially around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I had people who wanted to do a Civil War-era wedding and others who had a "Titanic"-themed wedding. We do not rent costumes for Halloween because that is not our business, and we are not equipped to do that. Also we do not want to take that away from local businesses.
In your spare time, are you a big fan of the theater?
Oh, yeah. I go to everything from concerts to plays to opera to dance. I am a big fan of performance. I don’t like Halloween. I like to dress up other people, but me, I don’t like being in disguise.