Friday, 14 February 2014

A CUT ABOVE: Superdesigner Carolyn Chin-Yee embraces the chances and challenges of her creative work

LOOKING GOOD: A vibrant palette brings Chin-Yee's Aladdin costumes to life.

"I get inspiration from movies, from period pieces, from Broadway and nowadays you can just look up on the internet and get fantastic ideas," says Carolyn Chin-Yee, referring to her line of work in costume design for the likes of the Jamaica Junior Theatre Company. Ever since she was asked to "fill in for someone" designing their costumes (circa 2000), Chin-Yee has stepped up to the plate big time, crafting eye-popping designs so impressive they never fail to lend the shows sartorial pizzazz and show-stopping flair.

As one can imagine, Chin-Yee's award-winning work is not without its share of challenges, particularly when it comes to accessing choice fabric to give the clothes that requisite sense of authenticity. The material is everything, she says, when it comes to her brand of creativity. "Getting stuff made properly is one of the difficulties. Part of what gives the costumes style and make them look good has to do with the type of material you use, the colours you use," Chin-Yee explains. "So if you don't have a variety to choose from it can be hard."

On occasion, she continues, such garment-industry limitations do subtract from the show's overall appeal. Still, it comes with the territory. "Sometimes you have to substitute or use a type of material that may be a bit inferior to what you really want," she tells me, "but you have to adjust; it's part of the process."

A soft-spoken lady who highly prizes quality time with her family, Chin-Yee (now in her early 60s) says working in musical theatre has been nothing short of rewarding. "It's a wonderful organization," she says in praise of the JJT, "because a lot of what they raise is for charity, and it's also great for the children. It's a fun thing for them to be a part of and it gives them something constructive to do outside of school."

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