Rosa Dias, The Creative Mind Behind Sex Education!

“Rosa Dias: With Eric, I just wanted to create a person who had such confidence in himself.”

#SexEducation always has stunning outfits, so we spoke with Rosa Diaz, the brilliant costume designer who brought them to life.

Check out our interview below!

Rosa Dias
ToraShae

So I am such a huge fan of your work. (And, yes, I HAVE done my Googles!) I am a fan of so much that you have worked on!  I just want to thank you, Rosa Dias, for speaking with Off Colour about the costume design for this season of Sex Education. I love all of the stylistic choices; they feel so nostalgic, but also with a foot firmly planted in the future. It’s tough to grasp what time period it’s in so much that it feels like it’s no time period.

Rosa Dias

Yeah, that’s about right.

ToraShae

So I wanted to talk to you about some of the characters in general. First, Eric!  Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) wears such sumptuous colours and patterns. We regularly see him dressed in floral, leopard, Tiger stripes, colour blocking, pattern mixing… So tell me about the inspiration for this character’s signature style.

Rosa Dias

Well, with Eric, I just wanted to create a person who had such confidence in himself. Once you’ve gone through everything that he went through, I wanted him to be so confident that he would have the ability to put clashing patterns together that would still work. I also wanted to make sure that he showed that he had an interest in clothing and interest in fashion. So the kind of creative aspect of Eric would come out in the way he would put his clothes together.

Rosa Dias

His wonderful skin tone works really well with colour as well. So it was a real opportunity to just go for it with him. And his personality because he’s so vivacious. He’s so Up! You know? He’s so up about life that I thought, “We’ve got to do the same with these clothes and these patterns and colour and EVERYTHING, you know?  We just need to make it really radiate the kind of positivity and the kind of Joie de vivre which he has.” So that’s kind of how I came out with that.

ToraShae

So the costuming for the, oh, my God. The wedding scenes!! Eric looks absolutely joyful in that traditional yellow attire. And then it felt incredibly intentional to have him wear again with the eye shadow after the “Dramatic Climax”. So I want to ask you about that.

Rosa Dias

Yeah, I mean, the yellow. We came up with the yellow because we wanted … Well, the whole point was that usually, the men from each side of a family would all wear the same stuff. So we started with Eric in a way. And we thought, “What colour would really suit Eric?” And then sort of worked towards all the other men as well. So we had loads of different fabrics that we tried in front of their faces just to see what would work and stuff.

And the yellow was just brilliant the minute you put it in front of Ncuti. He just looked SO good! And then we decided that was the colour for the rest of the men in that part of the family. So yeah, he was the linchpin. He was the deciding factor. And to be quite honest. And then every other thing after came together from that. You know from the colours for the groom, for the bride, everything. So Eric was like the leading candidate.

ToraShae

So I want to ask about Hope (Jemima Kirke). What was the intent in Hopes costume design? When the student body is first introduced to her, we see her in (and I kept rewinding because I wanted to get a really good feel for this). It looks like a dark wash denim blouse; I’m Not sure what the trouser is, and white Oxford saddle shoes.

Rosa Dias

Yeah. So the thing with Hope, see what I wanted was that when you first see Hope, you don’t quite know what she’s going to turn out to be. Right, you think she’s just a really cool Head Teacher to the school. She’s going to sort of be the cool kid as well, in a way. So everybody’s like, ” wow, that’s a Head Teacher off the graph!! ” I wanted it to look really cool and contemporary, but I also want the transformation of when she starts showing an ugly side and the strictness and the oppression and all that. I wanted the clothes not to be in congress, so that suddenly you are like, “Oh okay, that makes sense as well”. You know, I didn’t want to put something on her that you would put to transition.

Rosa Dias
Rosa Dias

Then you would have to transition her clothing as well Because that just wouldn’t make sense. After all, then you would think, “What? Oh, she’s wearing that?” And then she changes when she starts getting stern. So that wouldn’t be quite right. Because the thing is with Hope, she’s trying to control everything. She’s trying to control her life as well. As well as everything around her. So she’s trying to keep everything, everything in order because she’s going through a lot of personal stuff as well emotionally. And she doesn’t want to show that. So she’s sort of controlling that. And then she has to sort of control everything around. And she wants to control the school. She wants to control everything.

Rosa Dias
Rosa Dias

And so I kind of wanted to use fabrics that were quite stiff,  quite stern, quite heavy weighted fabrics because that also indicated a bit of stiffness, the oppression that she has, the kind of stuff missing in her personality. And so I went for Denim and cotton, heavy drill cotton, and many things that were quite strong and constructive fabric. As opposed to Julia, who’s very floaty. I wanted her to be the opposite. I wanted her to be very serious fabrics. So when you first see her, it’s like, “oh, wow. She looks good.” But it’s the buttoned-up blouses and things like that is the kind of control thing and needing to control everything. So that’s kind of what I did with her.

ToraShae

I caught that. I was like, “Oh, she’s fooling them, but she didn’t get me!. It’s still very buttoned up. That’s still a saddle shoe, lady!”

Rosa Dias

Yeah, Yeah! I kind of did things with like her shoes. Her shoes are quite cool. And the cut of her trousers. But, yes, there’s still that kind of seriousness and strictness that she is. Yeah. Absolutely.

ToraShae

So with Cal (Dua Saleh). Cal is this amazing character, and unfortunately, their identity as a nonbinary person becomes interwoven with the harassment they receive from the school admin. But before the strictness of the uniforms, their style is so cool and effortless. So can you speak to what designing that was like for you?

Rosa Dias

Well, I mean, the thing with Cal is that they are a skateboarder. Very chill, very relaxed. That’s where I started with Cal. So I kind of started with that side of it. So I also knew that I needed to do whatever they wore to be loose-fitting, slightly scruffy, still very much of the world of skateboarding, and yet be kind of unique to them. So I wanted it to be timeless and specific. So I was kind of using sort of old school skating kind of looks mixed with a kind of more contemporary kind of skateboarding look as well. And then I wanted to use colour. I wanted a bit of colour still in there, but yet not too much because Cal is definitely confident, but not like Eric or anything like that. 

Rosa Dias

So I did want to bring in a bit of colour, but a texture to Cal as well. It was interesting because there’s a whole scene with Cal wearing the school uniform, and Hope comments that it’s too big or “doesn’t fit”. And so I want to make sure that  they always wore loose fitting clothing, kind of relaxed clothes. So that had a sort of texture and looseness to it. You know, they smoke, they’re very chill, relaxed.  So you kind of want to have that feeling in the clothing as well. So that was kind of my guiding point.

ToraShae

Speaking of being othered,  Maeve (Emma Mackey) and Lily’s (Tanya Reynolds) alternative styles represent this huge challenge to the status quo and Hope herself. So can you speak to how you went about creating their styles as alternatives to what the uniform was trying to press upon them? 

Rosa Dias

Yeah. Well with Maeve, she’s kind of a rebel. She’s got lots of things to her. She’s intelligent, she hasn’t got much money. So those are all the elements we have to take on board as well. She doesn’t have much money. She lives in a caravan,  so she wouldn’t have a lot. She doesn’t have a lot of clothes. I guess it’s that thing a lot of people often go through ‘the black phase”.  You know, you kind of experiment with wearing black because it’s kind of being against the grain.

You feel like you’re not doing any fashion, but actually in that you’re actually creating a style in itself. But you feel that’s the way not to be anything. So with Maeve there was a lot of invoking famous people in a lot of the 90s movies and the John Hughes movies in the 80s because that was very much in the first series as well. So we wanted to have a bit of an homage to John Hughes. So she was sort of a character that you would have probably seen in one of his films. But it was really based on the fact that she’s rebellious. She’s anti-establishment and so intelligent with it. And that’s Maeve.

Rosa Dias

And there’s Lily, my favourite! She is quirky and lives in her little world. She likes drawing her comics, and so she’s got this fantastic sort of own style. She’s got her thing and doesn’t look around and see what other people are doing. You know she does her comic, and they’re very sexual, but I didn’t want to dress her sexual at all. Because, when she first starts start, she’s kind of intrigued by it but not sure about it. She’s not able to do penetration. 

Rosa Dias

As I said, she’s very intrigued, and she writes about it, but she’s not outwardly sexual. So I didn’t want any of that. Some of the other characters are very outwardly sexual. She’s not. But I wanted to convey this unusual character, and I just created an interesting, quirky individual. That was it, really. I don’t know where I got the inspiration. I just kind of put it together.

ToraShae

Okay. So Rapid Fire! BONUS QUESTIONS!!

ToraShae

Favourite Color Palette?

Rosa Dias

Wooooww! God, there are so many. That’s the problem. lime green/ dark green/ yellow together. The next colour palette I love a red/pink, amazing. Grey and yellow. Oh God, I don’t know!!

ToraShae

Next question. Boldest print.?

Rosa Dias

Probably, the print on the dress Ruby wears at the bowling alley. It’s really pretty. 

ToraShae

You have access to any designer’s collection throughout all of history. What piece are you taking for yourself? 

Rosa Dias

All of history? Oh God, that’s huge again. I think it has to be Galliano. NO, actually, I’ve changed my mind. Alexander McQueen. And it has to be the red dress that he did with feathers. Alexander McQueen. Definitely. 

ToraShae

Definitely! Well, thank you so much for going on this journey with me. This has been lovely.

Rosa Dias

Thank you, darling. 

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