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Running a costume business

 1 February 2011

Dawn Thomas-Mondo runs Marigold Costumes in Cardiff, the largest company of its kind in Wales. She told us about how she got started, and running her creative business.

Dawn Thomas-Mondo has built up a collection of thousands of costumes
Dawn Thomas-Mondo has built up a collection of thousands of costumes

"Marigold Costumes originated back in the 1960s. It's doubled in size since I took it over in 2005. It's a costume hire company but I'm also a costume designer, so I work for television and films. We also provide costumes for theatres, schools and amateur dramatics, and we sell and hire costumes to the general public."

Starting out in costume design

"I went to Cardiff Art College and I did textiles. Then I started in theatre, so I worked in mainly fringe theatre in Cardiff.

"I've got the practical skills of running a budget and knowing how to work a crew, and the creative side, which is the designing element."

"Then I got work in the early '80s at HTV Wales, and I stayed with them for about ten years and that's where I really started.

"When I left college, I thought of myself as a costume designer. But ten years down the line, I started at HTV and went back down to being a costume assistant and built my way up again to be a costume designer within the television industry."

Being a costume designer

"As the costume designer, I have meetings with the director. I have drawings, I draw them myself, then I have them made up. So I have creative control, but obviously it's working with the director and the artist.

"When I'm on location, I'm there every day on the wardrobe truck, and I select every day what they're going to wear which is relevant to the storyline. I have a supervisor who looks after making sure the right costumes are in the right place.

"Sometimes you have to duplicate costumes if they get into accidents and that type of thing, so it's full-on costume design on location."

Managing a costume business

"It got to the point where I built up so many costumes from productions that I'd done, I thought, I have to put them somewhere and I may as well make use of them.

"So I combined my stock (from a company I'd already set up in 2000) with Marigold, and opened up the market to the film and TV element, as opposed to just the theatrical element.

"I spend quite a bit of time in my office looking at the daily emails and the budgeting and the like, but I'm very hands-on, I'm working out on productions. I work quite long hours, I work weekends.

"Last night I was working until 10:30 on a studio production, and that included working most of the weekend going shopping. It was a modern-day chat show type programme, so I had to go out shopping even though I've got all this stock – as a designer, that's what I still have to do."

Running a creative business

"I obviously didn't come into this as a manager, but as a costume designer. I've always had a team that I work with, so I've always been a supervisor.

"I'd say I'm a pretty good mix between supervisor and designer. I've got the practical skills of running a budget and knowing how to work a crew, and the creative side, which is the designing element."

"That's what I'm made up of, and that's why I probably ended up having my own business. Because it's not everyone's cup of tea. A lot of people think 'I just want to go out and get my costumes."

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