Inspiration

Inside the World of Filipino Costume Designer Clint Ramos, Recent Winner of the Tony Award

The Tony-winner talks about designing costumes for the 1980s musical 'Chess.'
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You might not think you know Clint Ramos, but if you’ve spent any time at the theater in recent years, you’ve seen him. The costume and set designer’s work has been an integral part of hit shows including Here Lies Love, The Elephant Man, Six Degrees of Separation, Sunday in the Park with George, and Eclipsed, for which he won his first Tony Award.

Most recently, he designed costumes for the lauded revival of Once on This Island on Broadway, and next up he’s working on the anticipated production of the 1980s musical Chess—starring Raúl Esparza, Ramin Karimloo, and Ruthie Ann Miles, and with a book updated by Danny Strong—making its debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on February 14.


A costume sketch for the upcoming production of Chess.

The costuming for the musical—about a love triangle that takes place during a high-stakes chess tournament and is set to music composed by members of ABBA—provided a unique challenge for Ramos.

“There is a little bit of a 1970s and ’80s flavor to the clothing,” he says, “but it’s also curated. We’re building a number of pieces—like a lace trapeze dress to be worn in Soviet Russia—but also using existing pieces from those eras.” Here, he opens up about his process for our peek inside the habits of a creative mastermind.

How do you prepare yourself to be creative—what’s your ritual?

I don’t think I have a prescribed ritual, because I’m working on multiple projects. The one constant thing is that I try to find an emotional anchor aspect for each project—something that tethers me to it, something that will help me be consumed by it. I have to be obsessed about the project, and I have to work towards that obsession.

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What place is most conducive in which for you to work?

My house in the Berkshires. That would probably be the magic place for me.

What one element is absolutely necessary for your process?

Good internet connectivity—that’s a must. I have to be on high-speed internet.

At what time of day do you prefer to work?

Really late at night or very early in the morning. I would say when everyone’s asleep—in my household that would probably be around midnight—or I get up at like 3:30 or 4 and work. I used to pull all-nighters, but now I just can’t handle it.


Emerson Davis, Lea Salonga, Alex Newell, Quentin Earl Darrington, and Merle Dandridge in Clint Ramos-designed costumes in Once on This Island.

What’s your go-to snack?

Blueberries and mochi balls.

How do you take your coffee?

Very hot with almond milk.

Who’s your favorite collaborator?

That’s a trick question; I can’t name names. It would be a person who sees how I view the world and brings me challenges.

What do you most often do to procrastinate?

Clean my desktop—both digitally and in reality.

What’s your best trick for overcoming a block?

Doing more and more research. I feel like the answer is always out there, I just need to keep on digging

It’s said that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. What is that ratio like for you?

I would say it’s probably 99.9% perspiration for me. You know, I’m an immigrant, so I just have the mindset of ‘keep your head down and work.’

What’s your dream project?

It would be a literal garden that I could tend to all the time, where my daughter could roam around in. I have a tiny one in the Berkshires, but I can’t really tend to it.

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What’s your favorite creation thus far?

The latest one is usually my favorite. I think what’s been consuming me lately, though, is how I can make what I do more socially responsible and finding an opportunity to respond to the most immediate questions in our society right now.

What do you hope your creative legacy will be?

I hope it will be closely tied to my immigrant experience, and how my outsider point of view and creations were able to hold this unique light up to American theater.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Adam Rathe
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