Tribestyle: Creating Tribestyle

The Tribe has a really different “look” with its cool costumes, amazing make-up and radical hairstyles.

This TribeStyle article looks at what shapes the costumes, make-up and hairstyles in The Tribe and includes feedback from cast members and the makers of the series to find out about creating style in The Tribe

An idea

Everything starts with an idea. Ideas are the sparks that light the imagination.

A writer starts a story with a blank page and an idea – and the same is true for style. Each costume, each make-up look and every hairstyle must start with an idea.

Before the cameras start rolling, there is a lot of planning and thought about the style of the Tribe. How would the characters look? How would they express themselves? How would their environment shape their appearance?

The style of Tribeworld

To begin with, style must exist within the framework of the world of the Tribe. There are no adults and “normal” society as we know it has been replaced – there is no money, no shops to buy things, and goods are in short supply. Moreover, characters have greater freedom to express themselves how they like because there are no “normal” fashions because they are not determined by newspapers, television, movies, magazines (as none of these exist!). The Tribe has a different culture to today’s society, and style in the series has to reflect the backdrop world of the Tribe.

The creators of The Tribe wanted a “Gucci-grunge” look in the series. Characters would wear make-up and have hair differently to today – they could look whatever way they wanted to. Some things might be in short supply because normal society would no longer exist – but this would also mean that characters might equally be able to find really expensive jewelry or make-up and luxury clothes in abandoned shops or warehouses that would be out of their reach in “normal” society.

Making ideas into reality

From the initial vision for the series and the scripts that are then written, there is a point of reference to refer to in actually creating the style for the characters.

There are different people and departments who look after the wardrobe, hair and make-up in the production but all speak to each other regularly about the style of the characters. This is partly because everyone must be on the same wavelength – it would be silly, for example, if a costume was envisaged that was incompatible with a character’s hair or make-up.

“From start to finish in making a new costume it is all about conceptualizing ideas” says Gavin McLean, the costume designer of the Tribe. “Discussing it with Raymond Thompson, who is in charge of the production, discussing it with the Directors, the other producers, the actors. Then from there we draw sketches and go through the process of making it”.

“We definitely get a character profile breakdown from the scripts” says Susan Glass, the hair and make-up supervisor. “We then we generally have a meeting with the producers who have very definite ideas on where they see the characters, and then together we come up with the final product with various designs and contributions”.

Style shaped by the character

A character’s style will be influenced by their personality and part in the storylines. A “bad” character in television or films will normally dress in darker fashions to reflect their darker personality. Similarly, an extrovert or lover of fashion might dress in colourful even over the top clothes, like Zandra.

For Amber, Gavin McLean says “whilst reading the script you realise that Amber is a strong leader with tremendous attitude, who would wear street styled fashion to match”.

Susan Glass agrees about the importance of reflecting a character’s character, for example, with a character in Series 2 called Wolf. “There’s obvious design features there that we will bring some elements of a wolf. Other characters are called Bully Boy, the Jackals – so you can have fun with some character description”.

The cast and creating style

The style of each character in The Tribe is also influenced by the cast members who portray them.

“As far as creating the costumes” says Gavin McLean (costume designer), “I need to know how the cast feel about their look and their character. It’s important we see eye to eye and they are comfortable with what they wear”.

Caleb Ross (LEX) agrees about the wardrobe and make-up/hair teams “They are all really great” he says, “they will listen to what you say. They won’t just give you something and say ‘this is it – no matter what ‘. They are really receptive and will take on board your ideas. Recently I had a costume change because I was just too hot and it was getting uncomfortable, so we do have a say in what we wear”.

Something old, something new

Viewers of the Tribe will notice that there are regular changes to a character’s appearance and style and throughout a series, when a character will go through several “looks”.

“I think with the Tribe and its brave new world that the characters are evolving so quickly and so much and growing up” says Susan Glass, “and it’s nice to express that through the hair and make-up and costume”.

Adds Gavin McLean “depending on the requirements of the script there are on average three or four major costume changes per character”.

Just like people in real life wear different clothes and change their hair or make-up, characters in the Tribe would do the same – but change their style even more often because they do not have to wear the same things all the time, like school uniforms.


For more on style, check out what the cast have to say under the Find out about Different Styles link at the top of this page.

There will be a spotlight focus soon with tips and photos on how to actually go about turning ideas into reality looking at Amber’s style that is in the TribeStyle section.

Gavin McLean and Susan Glass have also been interviewed about their roles as wardrobe and hair/make-up designers, and their interviews can be found on the main site in the Guide/Interviews section.

There will be more in depth looks at the fashion of each character in the near future on Tribeworld.