Off The Rack: The Archies Costume Designer Poornamrita Singh On The Movie, Her Journey And More


Newsflash: It’s The Archies week. The Netflix helmed Zoya Akhtar directorial has dominated tabloid headlines and culture op-eds for almost a year now – it heralds the dawn of Bollywood’s new era, courtesy the cast of star-kids and non-industry newbies. After making their debut in Pep Comics in December 1941, these characters have shown themselves to be sufficiently well-liked to be published for more than 80 years, from Riverdale to now, the Indian adaptation.

An indispensable accessory to The Archies universe also happens to be the sartorial genome. Set in the 60s, there’s ample spotting of vintage printed dresses, pinafores, upholstery inspired surface ornamentation and more. Costume designer Poornamrita Singh’s penchant for meticulous research and keen eye for thrifting the finest archival pieces from the streets of London is indicative of the visual feast we’re about to encounter on our screens. Here’s what the acclaimed creative had to say about working on The Archies set.

ELLE India: Tell us about your styling journey, background and your decision of going ahead with costume styling as a profession.

Poornamrita Singh: Belonging from Delhi, I literally chanced upon styling. I was in college in Bombay in XIC. I got myself a job in a production house, which used to do ad films with Prahlad Kakkar where one of my duties was to style a couple of TV commercials and stuff. That is where I realised I have a flair for it and I really enjoyed it. This is why and when I decided to take it up as my career, in the year 2003.

ELLE India: Could you please tell us about the mood board for The Archies?

Poornamrita Singh: Being set in the 60s, there were various mood boards for The Archies. In India, fashion didn’t evolve that quick in those decades unlike today’s fast fashion. Zoya intended to make the world of The Archies look more like a story book than just a comic book. Being based in the Anglo-Indian community of India, our main source of inspiration originated from the movies, magazines, archives, newspaper clippings, photographs and interviews with people from that community.

I made a lot of colour palettes, which depended on the different dance performances and songs. I also studied a lot of our veteran actors like Sadhana and Sharmila Tagore and took notes from Jacqueline Kennedy’s iconic India visit. It actually took around two months of thorough research before starting work on the mood boards.

ELLE: Let’s get into the specifics regarding the styling of The Archies’ characters. What was the process like and which one’s are your favourites?

Poornamrita Singh: This is a tough one as I have literally enjoyed styling every single character. Veronica was high on fashion because she traveled internationally with her parents. They had the money and the means to access fashion from all over the world and as a result, she can be seen wearing the latest trends of 1960s fashion that came into being. Ethel also has a very eclectic kind of taste and a quirky vibe to her. She is thus seen in a lot of prints.

Dilton’s like a very chic geek of the 60s, you know? He’s super stylish and majorly wore a lot of 60s blazers mixed with pants from the 50s and 60s, as and when required. He also wore a lot of checks and stripes, sleeveless sweaters and his signature glasses. Betty is a girl next door and is somebody who loves borrowing things from her friends or her mother’s wardrobe and not somebody who relies on trends. Her wardrobe is super cool especially with those pants that I’ve given her, which are also very essential to her character as she’s cycling a lot.

ELLE India: What were the major challenges you faced when trying to recreate this whole Anglo-Indian vibe from the early 60s for The Archies characters?

Poornamrita Singh: I would say that the challenges were mostly in terms of the pandemic. The prep started during the third wave of Covid. Hence, a lot of places were blocked and we couldn’t fly out to London because the variant was rapidly spreading there. Paris and Mumbai were also tricky. But slowly, gradually, I think like after a month or two, the ban was lifted. It was undoubtedly challenging to get everything done on time.

Other than that, I don’t think I had a tough time with the clothes per se because I was very clear on what I wanted to make. It’s just that the logistics part was a bit challenging. On the contrary, The Archies was a really enjoyable project and everybody was having a lot of fun.

ELLE India: Tell us about your most memorable moment from The Archies set.

Poornamrita Singh: I’ve had so many, so I’m just trying to remember. I have to say a lot of dance sequences were very memorable because they were so high on energy. Especially Dishoom Dishoom you know, was super fun because everyone’s skating. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole choreography and the shooting of that song because it is so different from what we’ve ever done. Most memorable for sure, yeah.

ELLE India: So what are the top skills required to make it as a costume stylist in India in your opinion?

Poornamrita Singh: Being observant of people, art, music et cetera. I’m also very critical when it comes to constructions; raw and frayed hems, ill-fitting garments are a huge pet peeve.

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- Digital Fashion Writer


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