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Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran’s take on dressing Odissi

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Costume design is very important in the world of dance as it often plays a role in bringing a performance together. Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran was entrusted with the task of creating costumes for Sutra Foundation’s Amorous Delight.


Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran constantly works with different cuts and fabric. He doesn’t favor designing costumes compared to ready-to-wear pieces, but treats each of his works with equal passion. He believes that costumes may vary from a simple t-shirt to a glamorous gown, depending on the performers.


In the process of creating costumes for this Odissi production, he attended many rehearsals to study the dance and had brainstorming discussions with Sutra’s Artistic Director, Datuk Ramli Ibrahim. “At the beginning, we had different ideas that didn’t work, thus started our long process of collaboration,” he says.


One challenge he faced was finding the right material for the costumes. “Originally I wanted to use a different material, but sometimes it’s hard to find the exact materials we want while considering our costs but I managed to find the fabric and got the exact color combination that we wanted. “


“Utilising the silk from (Datuk) Ramli’s collection , I added silk chiffon to give softness, and draped the materials into a Dhoti to still get that effect of a six-yard tie. Everyone has the same volumes and big plaits on the hips but it’s actually one piece draped. It only takes about 30 seconds for the dancers to put on, compared to the usual six-yard tie that they have to secure.”


Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran uses creative and new techniques in designing the costumes. “I translated their Mundhani (end portion of a saree) as a modern dress which they can also take out and tie, to give the illusion of the olden times when there were no machines, everything needed to be tied or draped naturally, made to look effortless.”

(From Left) Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran, S. Magendran & Datuk Ramli Ibrahim during the launch of Temple of Delight.


When asked how he decided to take up the challenge of designing the costumes for Amorous Delight, Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran says, “I’m not a designer but a creator, I constantly want to do something new. It’s a construction, very technical. I like to always find new ways and techniques of doing and creating things.”


“Even the time factor of creating each piece was a bit of a challenge but we managed by looking at what we already have to work with, and the outcome is just satisfyingly beautiful. The process is an art itself.”


You can now see Dato’ Sri Bernard Chandran’s costumes in Temple of Delight, a photography exhibition by S. Magendran. The exhibition consists of 19 photographs taken from Sutra’s recent Odissi production Amorous Delight directed by Datuk Ramli Ibrahim with lighting design by Sivarajah Natarajan. The exhibition will run until 31 August 2017 at Sutra Gallery, No. 12, Persiaran Titiwangsa 3, Kuala Lumpur.

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