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More On The Boots In Off-Broadway Show ‘Kinky Boots’

No doubt, the boots are the heart of Kinky Boots.

Tony Award-winning musical returns to Off-Broadway’s Studio 42, which began performances on July 26, and opened on August 25. The fun, soulful musical features 16 songs written by Cyndi Lauper, and is directed by Jerry Mitchell.

This version of the musical, which opened in 2013, stars Callum Francis as Lola, Christian Douglas as Charlie Price, Danielle Hope as Lauren, Brianna Stoute as Nicola and Sean Steele as Don.

The sequin-filled, fun costumes we see onstage are by acclaimed costume designer, Gregg Barnes, who really had fun with the red, thigh-high boots, which are covered in sequins. The red boots in Kinky Boots never go out of style, but what goes into the making of these boots? They are the real star of this show.

Especially when the second half of the show features models trotting down a runway at Milan Fashion Week—onstage—the tie-ins this musical has to the fashion world are so close, and so funny.

Barnes speaks to Forbes about the art of costume design, the magic of sequins, and a few of the fun secrets we can see in Kinky Boots.

Forbes: What costumes were different for this version of Kinky Boots?

Gregg Barnes: The new Off-Broadway production of Kinky Boots is a celebration of costumes that we developed over the years of the original Broadway run for productions around the world. Most of it will be familiar to a returning audience member, but there are surprises as well.

Where are the boots made and how durable are they?

The boots! Most of the boots are made right here in New York City. They are a miracle of construction made by the skilled craftsman at T.O. Dey’s custom made shoes. They were with us from the very beginning, and believe it or not, some of the boots that were made for the Broadway production lasted the entire run of the show!

Wow. What makes this show special in your eyes?

Kinky Boots contains a message of acceptance and celebrates the opening of one’s heart to others, who may not share your world view. Those themes are always relevant but maybe now, more than ever. It has been a privilege to be along on this ride. I feel blessed by every moment I’ve spent collaborating on this show.

What do people not know about the costumes?

I think people assume that the major challenge of designing Kinky Boots is coming up with the costumes worn by the drag characters, but it is the factory workers who are most difficult to get right. What happens in that factory is the heartbeat of the story, so you want to make sure that the folks that inhabit that building are very specific and have a colorful history of their own. It is wonderful to collaborate with the actors in the fitting to shape a wardrobe that celebrates their characters story.

Why are sequins so important?

Sequins! Well… they are magic! The way a sequin or beaded throws light back in space makes a connection with the audience. I think we all carry memories from our childhood of fairytale characters surrounded by pixie dust. By using reflective surfaces in a show, when appropriate, we tell the audience that something magical or luxurious or special is happening. Sparkly things catch the eye and I think many folks crave a little sparkle in their lives.

Who was your design mentor and what did you learn from them?

I have been lucky to have many mentors in my life. My first was a gentleman named Clark Mires who was my professor in college, and a brilliant designer in his own right. I was encouraged along the way by the legendary Bob Mackie and the designer Robert Morgan who often collaborated with Jack O’Brien at The Old Globe Theater in San Diego, my hometown) Once I got to New York? Santo Loquasto and Ann Roth and Carrie Robbins and Jane Greenwood were all very kind to me. I mean, the list goes on and on. Working in the theater can be difficult so when someone you respect believes in you and lifts you up it has great meaning.

What else can you tell us about the boots that we see in Kinky Boots?

The design of the boots in the finale of the show is a tribute to all “things British.” Our fearless leader Jerry Mitchell came up with the theme, and I ran with it. It is a fashion show, of course, but the clothes—while spectacular—are meant to play second fiddle to the boots. The “Angels” are decked out for the runway show, but everything really lifts off when Don and the Factory Workers take the stage. Everyone is in their Kinky Boots. It is a celebratory moment and when Don proclaims: “You change the world when you change your mind.” It is one of the best endings of a musical I can think of. Have I mentioned that I love Kinky Boots? Make no mistake, it has been one of the highlights of my career!

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