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Pure theatre

Above, Aida, in a production of the opera in Paris in 1899. Right, Aida’s sandals, created by Rupert Sanderson for the 2010 Royal Opera House production

Rupert Sanderson’s creations are appearing in “Aida”. Bravo! says Lucie Greene


Jason Lloyd-Evans; Empics; LFI; Getty Images; Sudhir Pithwa

ot many women can carry off giant platform shoes made from bronzed sculptures of naked slaves (except, perhaps, Daphne Guinness), but that, says Rupert Sanderson, is the joy of designing for the stage. Sanderson has collaborated with the Royal Opera House to create footwear for every one of the 150-strong cast of a new production of Aida. The platforms in question were created for the Egyptian princess, Amneris. Sanderson commissioned an ecclesiastical sculptor to design a mould incorporating mini Rodin-style figures, and finished them with elaborate leather strapwork covered in studs. “They’re for the triumphant return scene,” he explains, sitting amid a pile of sketches and empty coffee cups in his Mayfair store. “It’s like she’s literally being carried on the backs of men.” Aida is a good, old-fashioned love triangle, with a romantic but bitter end. It’s set in ancient Egypt and Ethiopia, and both countries are at war. Aida, an Ethiopian princess, has been captured into slavery by the Egyptians, and is secretly in love with Radames, the Egyptian general hired to destroy her father. Radames loves Aida, but he is also being pursued by Amneris, the pharaoh’s daughter. This production, directed by David McVicar, is a darker take on the Verdi classic. Egypt has been replaced by an apocalyptic setting

Left, the soldiers’ boots. Right, linen “bandage” sandals worn by Amneris’s father, the king. Both by Rupert Sanderson

Rupert Sanderson’s mood board for Aida. Influences are as diverse as Africa, South America and Japan without time or geographical context, pooling references from Africa, South America and ancient Japan. “It’s what drew me to the project,” Sanderson says. “It’s not a traditional, predictable opera. It’s an amalgam of different worlds.” Sanderson has echoed this eclecticism in his designs. For the soldiers, over-the-knee riding boots are worn collapsed around the ankles. “They’re worn by men who live at war,” he says. “We’re starting with new leather boots, so they’re being aged and distressed, and the linings torn. I want the boots to be broken down, like broken soldiers.” For Amneris, in addition to the

platforms, Sanderson has made jewelled slippers (“totally impractical; she’d almost need carrying in them,” he says). Aida, meanwhile, wears simple, gold Moroccan sandals cut from a single piece of leather. “I wanted the shoes to look crafted and of their time,” Sanderson says. “As if the civilisation that is wearing them could have made them. “It’s an exciting creative opportunity,” he continues. “With costumes, you’re part of a bigger vision than the catwalk. There’s everything to consider – character, narrative and context. It’s all about telling the story.” n “Aida” is at the Royal Opera House, WC2 (, from April 27 to May 16

Girl Power

In a season of sugar-puff pretty, subvert the sweetness with a mosh to the indie girls of the late Nineties. These ladykillers of the music scene mixed rainbow-bright hair streaks, kitsch accessories (think Shampoo’s Shibuya-girl fun) with enough grunge to keep them credible. This generation seems to be influencing fashion’s tastemakers: step forward “home-dye” pastel hair at Giles and Proenza Schouler, faux-naïf baby dolls at Miu Miu, and frontwoman-worthy metallic leather drainpipes at Balmain. EE







Pure Theatre, Vogue | April 2010  

Rupert Sanderson’s creations are appearing in “Aida”. Bravo! says Lucie Greeneof the opera in Paris in 1899. Right, Aida’s sandals, created...

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