Erin Hirsh finds her edge as a costume designer comes from her background in performance, as she originally began designing with costumes for her dance troupe. “I started my career in fashion as a stylist, but when I had the opportunity to create an outfit for stage, I found that process so very comfortable. Having had experience as a performer, it just felt like a right match,” shared Hirsh. “I think my experience as a performer has absolutely enhanced my ability to design for other performers. I have found that this world of pop stars very at home, I knew what they needed as an artist to move comfortably.”
Understanding the specific needs of your client is one of the most crucial parts of design, Hirsh divulged. “I can create something beautiful, but if it doesn’t fit what they are doing it is pointless.” While functionality has been a key area of focus for the designer, she has also had opportunities to let her creative spirit free. “I love the playing process, because you don’t always know how things are going to work, but there are features I am drawn to and you can experiment until you find an outcome you like. It is that plying that ignites the creative part in me.” This creative process has led Hirsh to some of her most influential designs which featured on the main stage of Madison Square Garden and in venues around the world. One of Hirsh’s favourite designs was an armoured blouse made entirely out of bullets for Rhianna’s iconic music video ‘Hard’. “I love taking something out of context and redesigning its purpose,” confessed Hirsh. This out of the box thinking also saw her design some of Kanye West’s most well-regarded looks. “The first one I did for [Kanye] which was very enlightening was actually one very few people saw. It was for a European tour, and the exploration in that project lead to further exploration of technology where we ended up creating his light up jacket and glasses for the Grammys.”
For Hirsh, the trick to effective costume design is understanding and utilising your medium. For stage performance, this means using finishes such as rhinestones and sequins which can catch the light and enhance the audience’s visuals. While for other mediums, such as television, it is about understanding your client’s personal needs. “When The Voice came along I had no idea what to expect. They really took a chance on me because I had only experience with music and pop stars, I had never done television,” admitted the designer. Hirsh made a pivot into the world of television after having her son, as she found that the lifestyle she had in stage would no longer fit in with her new circumstances. “I remember speaking with the executive producer before she hired me and she asked, ‘Can you do normal?’ I was like ‘Yes I think I can’. I was just asking them to please take a chance on me,” insisted the designer. This career pivot ended up becoming a bright new chapter for the Hirsh as the show swiftly rose to international fame. “It ended up becoming so big so quickly and I have just been riding this beautiful wave ever since.” For Hirsh, the primary difference between the two mediums of costuming, from a designer’s point of view, is the turnaround. “For a competition-based show, you have to design and execute between 24 and 48 hours. You don’t get the luxury of getting really into your process of sourcing fabrics from all sorts of places, you kind of just have to go on instinct and immediate instinct. That process is completely different.” But Hirsh has found that the intense labour focus has allowed her to trust her instincts more, and she has found herself thriving in the new environment.
Looking ahead, Hirsh still has a host of career aspirations she hopes to fulfil in the realm of costuming. “I love the idea of getting into a character because I could get in there and play, being half psychologist, half designer.” The world of costume design, according to Hirsh, is full of potential.