Kylo Ren is cool. Yes, he did some terrible things in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but let’s not split hairs (or computer consoles, as Ren did during one of his more…unstable moments). He is the latest in a long line of visually striking, powerful Star Wars bad guys that we love to love. The Kylo Ren costume, in a style all but invented by Star Wars, blends samurai, WWII, and futuristic motifs, and the resulting design is already a fan favorite, if not culturally iconic.
That’s why ANOVOS’ replica ensemble, available now for pre-order, is all the more impressive. It gets every detail perfect — the scoring on the mask, the layers of fabric — along with those we might not even notice but are still essential to making it authentic. StarWars.com recently caught up with the costuming wizards at ANOVOS to find out how they recreated this memorable outfit, and came away with five insights that would surprise Ren himself. (In a good way. Not in a droid-stole-a-freighter kind of way.)
1. ANOVOS went right to the source. At the start of the project, ANOVOS’ costumers were given access to Adam Driver’s screen-worn costume. This provides for a much higher level of authenticity than just looking at images on a computer. They see how layers interact with each other. How they feel. What the stitching really looks like up close. “We get to touch everything…with gloves, of course!” says Maegen Hensley, director of soft goods at ANOVOS. “I note every pattern piece with exact measurements, and spec out the entire garment. I make notes on the fabrics, notions, Pantone colors, and stitch patterns. Finally, we take hundreds of photos for reference. We are very thorough when it comes to the research and it takes hours just to document one complete costume made up of maybe four to nine pieces. Lucasfilm has been an exemplary partner in this endeavor. Having seen the movie, I get a bit excited to know that I measured out the actual garment that was used.”
2. If he had the choice, Ren might opt for the ANOVOS version over his own. Why? It’ll last longer. “What makes our ANOVOS costume special is that we’ve made a wearable costume that is more sustainable than the screen-used versions,” says Hensley. “The entire original costume, from the basketweave hood to the denim trousers, was coated lightly to bring a shimmer-like quality to the costume for film production. We have replicated this using a clear coating and a heat-pressed technique. This technique gives the costume its shine, but unlike the originals, the coating will not come off with water or flake off at all.” If you’re going from the deserts of Jakku to the snowy forests of Starkiller Base, that’s a feature you want.
3. Reproducing the costume required some experimentation and discovery. Ren’s outfit was made using a mix of different fabrics and patterns, and some would prove easier to figure out than others. “The Force Awakens had a very interesting aesthetic to it,” Hensley says. “There was definitely a nod to the classics with the use of the higher rise in the trousers, the leather gloves and neck seal, the cloak (hood/scarf), and helmet. However, many elements were still quite unique. The basketweave material in particular didn’t exist anymore, so we had to make it ourselves. The coating technique had to be figured out, and the pleating had to be hand sewn for our prototypes.
“Another discovery,” continues Hensley, “was that the pleated undertunic was separate from the pleated-arm shirt. Most fans did not know that it was a separate shirt made of cotton duck and mesh. The denim trousers were a surprise, too, because according to what I read, everyone assumed it was a five-pocket jean. These are details I had to keep very quiet about until we launched our product.” It’s doubtful the First Order’s tailors are as thorough.
4. ANOVOS made an ensemble fit for Kylo Ren. No, really. “I am a perfectionist costumer like most of our fans,” says Hensley, “and I like to get as accurate as possible. I made the prototype to the specifications of the original actor, Adam Driver. He is 6’3” and has very long arms. Eventually, I had to find a 6’3” model to try it on and see if the look was perfect. It was absolutely amazing on him, and it didn’t hurt that he looked like Adam Driver’s long lost brother!” Great attention to detail, though the idea of two identical Kylo Rens is a tad scary.
5. The finished product is a masterful blend of design and engineering. Bringing the complexity of the mask and layers of fabric together to make something film-accurate is impressive. Most impressive, to quote Kylo’s grandad. “Kylo Ren’s mask, much like the costume, had its layers of uniqueness,” says Heath Hammond, prototype development manager at ANOVOS. “The helmet itself was made of fiberglass with this amazing “battle-damaged” detail on the surface. But what really stood out the most was the clever use of paint and physical sanding to achieve a very realistic metal looking helmet. Having to replicate the paint effect of the metal texture and the “sweating” effect proved to be the most challenging part of the helmet. The chrome grille was lightly weathered to give it a burned look on the sides. In matching all the details we had the use of digital scans and countless images from the Research Team. This made it possible for us to match all the scratches, dents, and metal highlights.”
“Each individual piece, as far as the pattern goes, is not that complicated at all,” adds Hensley. “But there are special elements that add to its complexity such as the pleat length combination in the undertunic and shirt sleeves. Fans may not know, for example, that there is a pattern to the pleat length that we’ve duplicated. No one else, without having measured the original, would know these type of details.”
So for those who are looking to embrace the dark side — and look the part — ANOVOS has created something special. Just be sure not to underestimate any desert scavengers you might encounter.
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer, and spends his days writing stuff for and around StarWars.com. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.