There have been plenty of stylish versions of “Romeo & Juliet,” from Franco Zeffirelli’s lush hippie take to Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive MTV translation. But the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s new production of Gounod’s adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy puts style front and center, reimagining the Capulets and Montagues as feuding fashion houses.
The task of interpreting Italian director Manfred Schweigkofler’s vision of Elizabethan fashionistas has largely fallen on veteran OCP costume director Richard St. Clair, but when the two houses unveil their new lines onstage at the Academy of Music, many of the designs will come from students from the city’s design programs.
One of those chosen was Katie Yamaguchi, a fashion design major in her junior year at Moore College of Art & Design. “The Opera Company described what they were looking for as ‘Versace on steroids,’” Yamaguchi explains. “So I thought, ‘What if Versace did a couture Renaissance line?’”
The result is a low-cut, extravagantly collared gown inspired by Donatella Versace’s famous green dress worn by Jennifer Lopez at the 2000 Grammys.
Besides poring over Versace designs, Yamaguchi — an aspiring costume designer who dreams of tackling an epic fantasy film one day — also studied “Shakespeare in Love.” “The costumes are so amazingly detailed with gorgeous fabrics,” she says. “I just love watching that movie just to get inspired.”