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In the 3rd edition of our summer YKRA Faces series, we’re back with a new guest, costume designer Juli Szlávik. Her job is her hobby, and whether she’s working on a film set or getting home just in time for breakfast with her kids, she makes it all work!

Hi there Juli, can you tell us a little about your job? 

I work as a costume designer, which is a very specific profession. On the one hand, I design costumes for film, but I also work for theatre, and basically all kinds of film formats, short films, video clips etc., so my life is pretty busy!

How did you decide to start working in the creative industry?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been interested in so many things, actually, probably too many things. I was searching for my career path, and I studied liberal arts at university, when I started working in the creative field on the side. I sort of just slipped into it and realised once I was there, that it actually combines everything I’m interested in. I should add that I’m lucky, as my parents were already in the profession. My dad was a set designer, and my mum is a costume designer, so I knew what it involved, but originally, it was the reason I wanted to choose something completely different!

My work encompasses so many different art forms, from film and fashion to theatre and literature, but what I'm most interested in is people, and the areas between psychology and literature. 

Costume design is about how a written character turns into a flesh and blood person. I get to shape the character through its costume, and a lot of times clothes have to tell a story without words, about the character’s personality, their physical and mental state, or what social class they belong to. It’s complex.

So, where are we now, what’s this location?

(Juli laughs) It’s our costume storage space, which we share with my mom. We’re both passionate collectors. When there are big movies, we hold the fittings here, it’s for our film work.  Having a place like this is a huge advantage as our collection keeps growing, but it can also be a burden, taking care of old clothes, conditioning them - with so many questions...what temperature should we keep them in? What about cleaning and repairs? And of course, we’re in a constant battle with moths!

What does a typical day of yours look like?

Well, to be honest, I've never had two identical days in my life! But the reality is that I also have three children. It's one type of day when I'm working in film, and another when I'm working in theatre, but sometimes it's a mix of both. Shoots usually start at the crack of dawn or keep going from evening to morning, so that totally sets the rhythm of my day. There are times when I'll go out super early and then come back home in time to give the kids breakfast. Most of my days are filled with driving, as I have to go to so many places to source different materials, buttons, and take pieces to the seamstress, it can be a complicated process when I’m working on several costumes at once.

After work and spending time with your kids, do you still have time for your hobbies or to unwind? 

That’s a difficult one, as my problem is always the same: I have so many interests and too many things I want to do at the same time. But I’m lucky in the sense that I can say my profession is my hobby, for example collecting clothes and going to flea markets is also a part of it. I also read quite a lot, and inevitably I watch films and go to the theatre to keep up with what's going on in the world. But I also just like being at home in our garden relaxing. We live in Szentendre, by the Danube Bend, so it’s nice to just go for a walk by the water.


Your backpack is an oldie, where’s it from? 

I don't remember exactly when it became mine officially, but I had a colleague I worked with on photo shoots as a stylist back in the day, and she brought it to the shoot. In the end she gave it to me to keep. I’ve had it for about 10 years, ever since the start of YKRA.

What’s in your bag?

I carry a lot of stuff, but most importantly, my laptop and books fit.

Mirror - It's my daughter’s, but she gave it to me and although it was designed as a toy, it’s as tough as rocks and it seems to withstand anything!

Water - I always have a bottle with me, staying hydrated is so important.

Side Pouch - I like to carry smaller bags in my backpack, as anyone who has kids knows, you need to have space for diapers, small toys etc. and who knows what else!

Nappy - Once you have children, this item becomes an essential. I always have one with me for the kids, just in case!

Notebook - I use it for notes and quick sketches, it’s personal, as my husband's sister designed it. 

Sewing kit - It’s from an elderly man’s estate, and I always have it with me, it’s essential for costumes.

Wedding ringActually, this ring has a funny story: It’s a film prop we use for on-screen weddings! It got left in my bag from my last shoot, it’s my “other” wedding ring - a piece of jewellery I never want to lose.

Photos by Sára Petrák

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