The indie fantasy series, Ren: The Girl with the Mark, is currently running a Kickstarter to fund new episodes. To celebrate, we’re looking back at the aspects of the first season which made it such a popular and memorable show. This week we delve into the costumes, and all the secrets hidden within each detailed and intricate piece.
Designer Miriam Spring Davies won Best Costume awards at both Rio WebFest and Die Seriale for her work on Ren, so who better to take us through the creative decisions and challenges behind each of the main costumes?
Ren (Sophie Skelton in Season One) is a young woman from the small, rural village of Lyngarth. Losing her mother when she was only around nine years old, she has become fiercely independent, taking care of her brother and father. Unlike other girls in the village, she often spends her time in the surrounding forests, hunting with Karn, which is why her colour palette is geared towards blending into the foliage. She is camouflaged.
I wanted Ren’s dress to be practical and yet feminine. The flares in the skirt kick out as she runs, flashing the contrasting colour beneath her leather overdress, which, unlike other female aprons worn in the village, is split into four sections. For her, Ren’s overdress isn’t to protect her garments beneath from the tribulations of washing clothes in the river, it’s to stop it snagging on brambles and branches when tracking deer.
The knife she carries, seemingly to perform domestic tasks, is something I think she also uses to sharpen her pencil. The cross-body bag holds not only mushrooms to trade, but her sketch book also.
Unbeknownst to all but Karn, Ren is a skilled bow-woman. Her gloves give her grip, to maintain steady hands for precision. In real life, these gloves originally started life as a jumper found in the depths of a charity shop.
Hunter (Duran Fulton Brown) is an outlaw, a chancer, a rogue, constantly thinking on his feet. His costume grew from the simple premise that Hunter would take the shirt off your back – after all, you’ve got to look after number one, right?
The vambraces Hunter wears, once upon a time, belonged to other people. They’re odd, and Hunter is left-handed, so he wears the larger of the two on his right, and that really is all the armour he needs. He doesn’t carry heavy weaponry – a sword would be too cumbersome, so he carries a knife on his chest and is always ready to draw.
The baldric itself along with the belt, were a culmination of ideas from Duran, Dave Clarke at ARMRD leather, director Kate Madison and myself. During the first costume fitting, Duran played around with how he felt Hunter would react when threatened, which led to the rather unusual upside-down sheath.
Karn (Christopher Dane) is a complex and mysterious man. Vastly travelled, he has sought master craftsmen across the land, and accumulated a plethora of unique items.
I wanted to suggest his worldly experience through the styles of his garments. His boots, with upturned toes and leather bindings, have an Eastern edge. His pouch is from a grey-skinned animal, not native to the forests around Lyngarth – perhaps the tusk fastening gives us a clue to what it might be.
Bearing symbols and mysterious marks, Karn’s clothing holds clues as to who he is or who he once was. One of the most subtle, yet poignant, is that which sits upon his ring. The crossed staff and sword is a symbol we see in Ren’s pendant also, made by the extraordinarily talented Rebecca Illett. These pieces hold a key to the intertwined lives and history of Karn and Ren’s family.
I wanted the blue and grey hues to run throughout Karn’s costume, to reflect his calm and considered nature. I was enormously focused on the colour for Karn’s trousers. I had an exceedingly small scrap of grey moleskin, which fit perfectly for his palette, but finding any more proved virtually impossible. A fabric-seeking mission ensued, and finally the amazing Michelle Golder (co-producer) found something that almost worked. After a day of careful dyeing, we had a jigsaw puzzle of trousers and fabric to piece together, which was realised seamlessly by Rebecca Fisher.
The Commander (Richard Zeman) is the leader of a regiment of Kah’Nath soldiers, and a brutal fighter. I felt he required utmost severity in his costume. This is apparent in the sharp, symmetrical lines of the layered sleeves and tunic hems, which were weighted to maintain the structure and definition of the points.
The Commander’s vambraces and belt are absolute masterpieces of craftsmanship by Dave Clarke. The design shows the Eye Of Justice and the Mouth Of Truth, the motto of the Kah’Nath.
The Kah’Nath are the only characters in the world of Ren who wear red, an indication of their dominance. I wanted them to contrast starkly with the rest of the villagers.
Lyanna (Dita Tantang) is a child of the wild, an outcast, a nomad. She carries nothing more than what she deems absolutely essential, including her shoulder bag, which is one of the first things I bought, when Kate and I visited TORM (The Original Re-enactors Market) at the start of pre-production. It is actually made from goatskin tanned with honey, giving it a deliciously sweet smell and Lyanna a natural perfume.
The base of Lyanna’s dress is purely layers of uncut leather, hard-wearing and durable. I wanted it to seem as though she has bound herself in this natural armour. In order to allow her maximum movement, the sides of her “dress” are left unsewn.
The boots she wears are one of the key elements to Lyanna’s costume, continuing the premise that when she needs to, she can run. We created these thigh-high bound boots, almost trousers, in collaboration with Evenlode Leather. As we see in the forest, they are endlessly practical when rolling down hills, under Kah’Nath and skidding through the undergrowth.
I hope this has given you an insight into the characters and their clothes. You can help fund new episodes right now by visiting our Kickstarter page. The rewards include a Deluxe Extra package, where you get your own costume custom-made for you!