In a sea of unpleasant news last month we were happy to see something inspirational pop-up. It was a notice from the circus company Dragone explaining how their costume department was keeping busy during quarantine by helping people stay safe from Coronavirus. They are making masks for people. Dragone, like every circus company around the world, has been hit hard by the pandemic, especially because several of their shows (The Han Show & The Dai Show) )were centered in Wuhan and Xishuangbanna and had to close down entirely and early in the quarantine cycle.
I spoke to Claudine Cornet, communication consultant at Dragone about the experience of making the masks. Cornet says she has “been working on costumes and at Dragone more generally since the very beginning of the Dragone adventure in Belgium in the early 2000’s.”
Kim Campbell: We saw that the costume department of Dragone was helping people stay safe from Coronavirus and making masks for people. Can you tell us about the team making the masks?
Claudine Cornet: From the start of the pandemic, it became apparent that due to the closure of shows, theatres, local measures for health and safety as well as suspension of upcoming projects that our staff would be without immediate work. We therefore offered to join the collective effort. To date, eight seamstresses, among the finest technicians in the workshop, and a cutter, have accepted the challenge.
KC: What has been your favorite costume design to make so far?
CC: The most recent ones are always the most beautiful: the ones we made for Splendor (Wuxi, 2019) are magnificent, but among those who remain in the hearts of the whole team, we must mention the characters of the Human Chandelier in Macau, the night sky blue costumes embroidered by Swarovski du Lido, (Paris Merveille, 2015) and the wonderful costumes of Le Rêve in Las Vegas at the Wynn, a show whose workshop now bears the name, Tailleur de Rêves (Tailor of Dreams) in homage to the designer of these costumes, Claude Renard, recently deceased.
KC: How did you get the idea to make masks? Has there been a shortage in Belgium of protective masks?
CC: Indeed, like everywhere in the world, Belgium lacks masks and protective equipment for caretakers and health professionals. We also manufacture gowns and hoods for hospitals in the La Louvière region, where our workshop is located. We wanted to show our solidarity and our roots in Belgium, by concretely helping residents and healthcare professionals alike.
KC: Who have been the recipients of the masks so far?
CC: The nursing staff of major hospitals in the region, but also nursing homes that care for the elderly, and administrative services open to the public and who need them to protect their staff.
KC: How many masks do you estimate you have made so far?
CC: Each week, we manufacture around 3000 masks, and several hundred protective gowns.
KC: Have you tried different designs?
CC: We work with polyester on a single model recommended by the health authorities and hospitals for which we work. But we plan to develop personalized series very soon, using the talents of our silk screen printing workshop. We can only hope that soon the necessity would reduce to the degree of permitting us to be more creative rather than equipping the heroes of the medical and caretaking professions.
Here is hoping that you and people in your community can harness some of that hero energy from the eight seamstresses and a cutter at Dragone workshop joining together to help their community during pandemic times! It is an inspirational story they will no doubt tell their grandchildren about someday–how the shows stopped for a while, and they joined in to become essential workers themselves and to help save lives.
All photos courtesy of Dragone