Alumna Spotlight: Antonina Lerch (MFA ’06)
You’ve most likely seen Antonina Lerch’s (MFA ’06) work on TV. No, she’s not an actress, but the Belarus native is one of Hollywood’s leading costumers. Her designs have been featured on “Dexter” and “Mad Men” and the film “Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian.”
UGA Alumni Association communications intern Bernadette Green ’15 had the opportunity to catch up with this outstanding alumna. Read below to find out more about Antonina’s impressive career.
How did you get into costuming?
I grew up in Belarus. Out of financial necessity, my mom taught me to sew and repair my own clothes. As an undergraduate at Brenau University, I realized I could leverage my skills and aim for a career in costuming. One of my professors at Brenau, Janet Smith Morley, encouraged me to work in the music, theater and dance departments. With her help, I got a job at the Gainesville Theater Alliance. I furthered my training in costume design and technology at UGA’s graduate school. After completing the program, I landed a job in Los Angeles.
How did your time at UGA prepare you for your career?
At UGA, I was exposed to everything that relates to theater: costume, lighting and scene design, as well as directing and makeup. UGA offered me enormous resources, which helped develop my costuming and research skills. The library and research facilities are world-class. UGA’s Hargrett Library contains more than 6,000 original costume design renderings from Broadway shows and more. My major professor, Sylvia J. Hillyard Pannell, encouraged and facilitated my efforts to get internships, and I interned with the Georgia Museum of Art, Alliance Theater, Seaside Music Theater and Perpetual Motion Films.
What advice do you have for others wanting to get into costuming and fasion design?
You need to meet as many people as possible who are in the business. Connections can be made through internships, professors, or even reaching out directly to people in the industry. Persistence is important. Keep trying and don’t be discouraged by rejection. Determination is viewed favorably and not seen as a sign of weakness. Do as many internships as you can. Be flexible about specializing, as there are many careers within the costume world: fabric artists, agers, dyers, costume illustrators, patternmakers, supervisors, etc.
What is your favorite part of your job? And what is your favorite memory so far from your career?
My favorite part of my job is building bespoke (custom-made) costumes. This requires expertise in a vast number of costume-building techniques, which can be complicated. You need to build multi-dimensional forms, make complex mathematical calculations and understand the chemical properties of all fabrics. It is incredibly challenging and rewarding to build bespoke costumes that are functional and beautiful. My favorite memory of my career was working on Joss Whedon’s show, Dollhouse. Joss and his team were incredibly nice, professional and respectful.
What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career so far?
Due to the project-to-project nature of the entertainment business, it is very difficult to maintain a stable career as a costumer. My greatest accomplishment thus far has been continuously securing work on great productions with great people.
You currently spend your time between Los Angeles and Tokyo. What is your favorite part of working internationally?
My favorite part is meeting interesting people in my field and learning new techniques from local artists, costumers, designers and manufacturers. I find Japanese artistry and craftsmanship superb, very intricate and incredibly unique. I met a world-renowned Japanese artist, Noriko Endo, who developed a unique quilting technique called Confetti Naturescapes. I met Seiji Naito, a fifth generation craftsman who makes traditional Japanese sandals called Zori. I visited Seiren Corporation’s state-of-the-art clothing production facility, which embraces all elements of manufacturing including research, fiber and fabric production, printing, pattern making, cutting and building.
Do you have a favorite memory or experience from your time at UGA?
My favorite memory at UGA was spending time in my small office on the third floor of the Drama Building. It was at the very end of the long corridor next to the fire exit. I spent many hours doing my research or other homework there, and would prop the fire exit door that led outside to breathe some fresh air and listen to the birds in the huge trees outside. It was my favorite place on campus – I loved being there.