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July 17, 2014

Half of a Yellow Sun's Urbane Outfitter

Costume Designer Jo Katsaras Brings the Vibrant Style of 1960s Nigeria to the Big Screen

“I stumbled across 6,000 1960s pieces that had never been worn and still had their price tags about 18 months before I landed the script,” notes Jo Katsaras, the Emmy-nominated costume designer responsible for the richly-hued wardrobe seen in today’s clip, taken from the film adaptation of Half of a Yellow Sun. “I bought the entire lot, trusting that this was not an accidental find.” Presented with a starry leading cast, including a pixie-haired Thandie Newton, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, fresh from the success of 12 Years a Slave, Katsaras’s ensembles play an integral role in director Biyi Bandele's story of socio-political turmoil in 1960s Nigeria (first told in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award-winning 2007 novel of the same name). “Thandie’s style developed with her journey, circumstances and life choices,” says the South Africa-based costumier, who brought a discerning eye to a wardrobe as epic in scale as the tale, which ranges from the glamorous echelons of Lagos high society to the bedraggled ravages of civil war. “Creating a character for me is about taking everything into account: social status, personality, location, education, moral fiber and, of course, political and cultural influences,” adds Katsaras, whose other credits include HBO’s The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and Mary and Martha. “A costume shouldn’t look like a costume, it should look like something that is part of someone’s wardrobe.”

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Pop Hearts

A New Book by Francesca Gavin Uncovers the Enduring Role of a Romantic Icon

What lies inside the human heart? Any simplistic notions of love and hate are obliterated in art critic and curator Francesca Gavin’s collected artwork for The Book of Hearts, featuring varying interpretations by Noma Bar, James Joyce and Julie Verhoeven. For the London-based writer, it's the capacity of the symbol that is striking. “It’s incredible how broadly the heart can be visually played with. It can be whole, paired, cracked, broken, pierced, burning, locked, torn, cute; the perfect metaphor of the gamut of human emotion.” Gavin’s whistle-stop history of heart-shaped symbolism plots pre-historic cave drawings to ancient Egyptian burial rites and Medieval Christian cults. “It's so ubiquitous and accepted in everyday life that it is almost invisible. Inserting <3 into a text or email is almost second nature,” says Gavin, an editor at Dazed & Confused, Artsy and French Harper's Bazaar. “It has its own amazing heritage and sense of self. No other symbol quite packs the same punch.”

The Book of Hearts by Francesca Gavin is published by Laurence King on January 16.

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Spotlight

The Wait

Chloë Sevigny and Jena Malone Are Sisters Caught Up in Director M. Blash's Psychological Drama

Chloë Sevigny and Jena Malone sway to The Cure’s “Sugar Girl” in an excerpt from The Wait by M. Blash. Shot two hours from the director's home of Oregon, the film is the follow-up to his 2006 debut feature Lying, which also starred today's leading pair. Against an expansive, forest fire-ravaged landscape, the multitalented auteur—whose music promos for operatic indie bands Austra and Owen Pallett sit on his resume alongside exhibitions of his artwork with Jeffrey Deitch—creates a tense tale of two siblings facing the aftermath of their mother’s death: deciding to keep her body in the family home following a cryptic phone call informing them of her imminent return, a conflict ensues between the pair. “In times of stress and grief, peoples’ minds can go into fail-safe mode and believe whatever they want,” Blash says of his film’s subject. “It's really about that suspended state when one experiences something traumatic, it kind of looms and time begins to operate differently.”

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