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Colleen Morris on Her Jamaican Roots & First Major Costume Design Role

British fashion and costume designer Colleen Morris spoke recently with EBONY about the trajectory of her career and her first lead design role in Bolden, a musical drama about the nearly unknown cornetist and bandleader Buddy Bolden who is credited as the inventor of jazz music. 

“I studied fashion design in London, and I enjoyed it so much that I studied the history of fashion, which is costume designing,” Morris said. “When I moved to America, I started working in television and film, and then I got into costume design, which I preferred.” 

The London-born designer noted that fashion is from one person’s point of view, whereas costume design involves using the style from various periods and working with a team to create a director’s vision. It was her knowledge of New Orleans that led director Dan Pritzker to choose her for Bolden, which is set in the Big Easy during the early 1900s. 

Morris, whose parents are Jamaican, said she was inspired by the culture of the island’s Trenchtown in the 1970s to create the Bolden costumes. 

“That would have been the equivalent of the music because that was when Bob Marley was coming out, and just the new era of that music,” she said. “I used that as a catalyst for me to realize it was [Black people’s] only sense of freedom. That Saturday night or Sunday night when they were going out … was their freedom. During the week, it wasn’t that long after slavery ended, there was no money, they were still fighting for their freedom because it was before Jim Crow. I wanted to make sure that the club scenes were vibrant and bright. We are the same people we are today that we were then. We love to go out, and we love to dress up.” 

Watch the full interview above to hear Morris’ reaction to her first feature film job and wanting Black people to appreciate jazz and Black culture. 

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