The CDG Awards Statuette
By Lindsay Lopez
“Design is design. As a designer, you’re trained to see line and proportion, and you’re sensitive to those elements—no matter which discipline you’re working in.”
So flows the mantra of David Le Vey, retired Assistant Costume Designer and Illustrator, former Guild committee member, and recipient of the Distinguished Service Award at the upcoming 15th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards taking place on February 19, 2013. Aside from assisting designers on a diverse body of films (among them “Hook”, “Heat”, “Legends of the Fall”, “Minority Report” and a little known DiCaprio-Winslet starrer about doomed lovers, an iceberg, and a boat), Le Vey is the cross-discipline design mastermind behind the Costume Designers Guild Awards statuette. Since the awards’ inception in 1999, his stunning design has graced the hands of winners in a variety of film, television and commercial categories, as well as those being honored for their history of excellence and collaboration in the field.
Le Vey was a member of the 1998 guild committee that devised the entire concept of the annual awards program. “At the time, we were the only major guild or union body in Hollywood that didn’t recognize our peers officially with an award,” Le Vey says. “We were trying at the time to find ways to raise the profile of Costume Designers both in the industry and in the public sphere.”
In public regards, specifically, Le Vey explains, “People tend to take ‘the clothes’ on screen for granted, despite the fact that there’s an entire process behind [those costumes]. If we could recognize our peers with our own award, that would be a way to shed light on that process.”
As the committee strategized and ironed out elements of the awards voting process and ceremony, they moved toward the design of the 3-D figurine they would pass off to their winners. Visual concepts were hashed out in conversation, and the committee held a small open call for sketch submissions.
Le Vey had strong ideas for the award design from the start, one that would fuse his own aesthetic inspirations and tastes (Neo-Classical sculpture, elements of 30s and 40s era surrealism) with what the award needed to represent. He culled further inspiration from the classic “Broadway Melody” dance sequence between Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse in “Singin’ in the Rain”. The actors rendezvous in a series of shifting settings and costumes, among them an arresting forced perspective field of white stairs and pink sky, with Kelly in black shirt and trousers and Charisse in a small white dress topped with a billowing train, stretching to the sky, seemingly without end. It’s as if she was born from the fabric.
“I wanted to try and capture some essential moment in the process of what a Costume Designer does, which is a very broad discipline, but what you are doing in [simple terms] is taking something inanimate, and by the art and discipline of design, bringing it to life,” he explains. “My inspiration was to find some metaphoric way of showing this—how does fabric become a costume?”
Le Vey’s resulting sketch (at left), detailed a feminine figure built from swirling fabric, at the will of an anonymous bronze hand. The hand was eventually deemed too literal and removed. The resulting design showcasing the hypnotic, standalone figure. “The figure on its own is more suggestive, iconic, and in the end appropriate—a decision, in retrospect, that was a very good call,” he says. “All emblematic of the design process in action, a great part of which is persistent and tireless editing.”
Le Vey worked to execute the look of Neo Classical drapery in his sketch, so that the element would translate in the 3-D statuette produced by Italian jeweler Bvlgari (award manufacturer for the CDG from 1999 to 2008).
“You’re working with something that’s cast, that’s metal, but trying to get some sense of the lightness and fluidity of fabric,” Le Vey says. “I really wanted to get some sense of the swirling of fabric, from out of the air to the bottom of the figure, as it resolves itself into something that’s draping the body.”
The official CDG Awards logo for 15 years and recently adopted as the official logo of the CDG, Le Vey’s design has been reproduced in silver (by teams at Bvlgari and, since 2009, NY-based The Award Group) and graced the hands of countless designers and their collaborators as they are lauded for their achievements in the field of Costume Design. If memory serves, Le Vey says, he has attended the awards only sporadically since retiring in 2003, and counts witnessing dear friend, the late Theadora Van Runkle, receive the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 as his favorite ceremony to date. As the Distinguished Service Award honoree this year, Le Vey will be handed his own design on-stage.
In this fifteenth year, Le Vey says he’s thrilled by the expanding legacy of the awards within the industry and public eye, and that recipients are continually thrilled to collect their statuette. “I feel the image is something that’s become an iconic synonym for [the awards], but representative also of the guild,” he says. “And it is truly gratifying.”