Designer gives a classic a fashion-forward new look for the Vancouver Opera Festival

Caitlin Wood stars in Vancouver Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro, featuring costumes by Toronto-based designer Sid Neigum. Emily Cooper Photography.

As part of the Vancouver Opera Festival (April 28-May 13), organizers have recruited a hot young Canadian fashion designer to do the costumes for The Marriage of Figaro.

Originally from central Alberta, Sid Neigum studied fashion in Edmonton and New York before settling in Toronto after winning the Toronto Fashion Incubator’s New Labels Award. He has also won the 2014 Mercedes-Benz Start Up Award and the 2015 Swarovski Emerging Talent Award at the Canadian Arts and Fashion Awards. His work has appeared in Vogue, Vogue Italia, Women’s Wear Daily, Fashion Magazine, and Elle Magazine. Coco Rocha, Jennifer Aniston, Jada Pinkett Smith, Stacey McKenzie, MTV’s Jessi Cruickshank, and Kim Cattrall are among the celebrities who have worn his clothes.

We chatted with Neigum about growing up in Alberta, working with Vancouver Opera on The Marriage of Figaro, and how the collaboration might affect his future work.

Inside Vancouver: What was it like growing up in central Alberta and being interested in fashion?

Sid Neigum: Well, there are very few people who are interested in fashion, I would say. I’m originally from a very very small town. I think there was one clothing store there. My grandmother was a seamstress, so that was my introduction to garment construction and clothing. It wasn’t until I was about 19 that I started really getting into fashion, and that’s when I was living in Edmonton.

Toronto fashion designer Sid Neigum.

IV: Were you already artistic?

SN: Music was my outlet at that point. I was playing in a few bands, playing guitar and piano. So the interest in fashion was through music, in a way. Then when I moved to Edmonton, I was studying science and working at a clothing store. That was my first real exposure to designer clothing. I eventually switched majors from science to fashion, studied that in Edmonton for a bit and ended up moving to New York to study there.

IV: Is it fair to say that you are known for his clothes that are inventive and avant-garde, but also practical?

SN: Yeah, I would say so. That’s definitely the line that I try to walk. Ultimately I want to be dressing people in their everyday lives rather than creating pieces that will just be on display.

IV: How did this collaboration with Vancouver Opera come about?

SN: They contacted me saying they were looking for a designer that could modernize one of the shows. It immediately caught my attention. I’ve been trying to diversify from just fashion design to other areas. So costume design was on my list of things I wanted to do. I’ve also been  working on car design, some Porsches and Audis and BMWs, interior design, material, colour choices, and that sort of thing. When this project came up, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to start trying some costume design. Their idea was to take this opera, which is set in 1786, and modernize the costume design for the story. I thought it was a great challenge.

IV: This sounds a little different from what you normally do, since these clothes are not meant for everyday living.

SN: The one thing that grounds it is the story itself. Some of the characters are in their work uniform, so I can’t put them in something that would be on display. There has to be some level of practicality for some of the characters. Some of the characters are wealthy, older women who can dress very extravagantly. The only limitations were not necessarily wearability but making it believable for that particular character.

Alex Lawrence getting outfitted for The Marriage of Figaro. Emily Cooper Photography.

IV: How much research did you need to do?

SN: Quite a bit. We started last August of last year. I was familiar with the music, but not the story, I hadn’t seen this particular opera before. I watched it, of course, and did quite a lot of research into how people dressed at the time, and what the characters are typically wearing for this opera, and how can we update those costumes to be modern-day, but then keep some of those historical references as well.

IV: Can you see any of these ideas working their way into future designs or collections?

SN: Yes. While I was spending time in the costume shop doing all these fittings, I was thinking, there’s so much of this stuff—maybe not full-on—but details that could be brought from this period into a modern piece. Like the pleating techniques, some of the sleeves. So I do think that the next collection will have some of that influence coming through.

Caitlin Wood and Alex Lawrence. Emily Cooper Photography.

The Marriage of Figaro runs April 30, May 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18 at the Vancouver Playhouse (600 Hamilton St.). For more info on the opera and the Vancouver Opera Festival, visit

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