Sewing at RSC

A stitch in time

Coats, the RSC and the evolution of costume design

  • May 2018

‘To be or not to be?’, ‘Wherefore art thou Romeo?’, ‘Once more unto the breach’; many can recognise the threads of famous lines of theatrical dialogue but does anybody consider the threads that hold their costumes together?

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) Costume Workshop, based in Stratford-upon Avon, produces some of the most iconic outfits in British theatre. Its Company Archive includes items worn by well-known actors like Richard Burton, Vivien Leigh, Ben Kingsley, David Oyelowo and David Tennant to name but a few. Annually, the RSC produces more than 2,000 costume elements in its workshop housed in a building dating back to 1875.

Coats, the Official Thread Supplier to the RSC, compliments this rich heritage and has been weaving thread and fibre into the fabric of daily life for more than 250 years. Its innovative technology and expertise partner perfectly with the skills needed for costume making and tailoring. Rajiv Sharma, Group Chief Executive, Coats, said; ‘This is an incredibly exciting and unique partnership. The RSC is known worldwide and has tours, residencies and live screenings in many of our key markets. Being Official Thread Supplier to the world’s leading theatre company creates an unparalleled opportunity to bring the Coats brand direct to our end consumers and there are also excellent synergies and opportunities on many different levels, including commercial, innovation and education.’

The exciting collaboration between Coats and the RSC will see not only the use of Coats threads but also include skill-sharing workshops about dyeing, colour theory and technical application. The vision is to enrich traditional costume making and design by continuing to use quality thread and other innovative techniques.

A campaign, aptly referred to as, Stitch In Time, is raising funds to help restore and redevelop the RSC’s Costume Workshop to continue to create stunning costumes. The RSC has an illustrious theatre-making history, with a reputation for quality, expertise and reliability. It continues to push boundaries and embrace innovation to deliver exceptional theatre experiences around the world. Catherine Mallyon, RSC Executive Director, said: ‘With a shared passion for high performance, Coats and the RSC will collaborate on new projects at the cutting edge of design. It is fantastic to partner with a world class company, whose heritage, skills and innovation expertise combine so well with our commitment to excellence and attention to detail.’ Alistair McArthur, RSC Head of Costume, said: ‘Each year we use over 170,000 meters of thread on costumes made from the finest chiffon to the toughest leather. We rely on Coats thread in all five of our workrooms, and every member of the RSC’s Costume Workshop team uses Coats thread every working day.

Our costumes must be robust, and look as good on their 100th performance as they did on day one. The strength, durability, high quality and range of Coats thread means that they can cope with everything we throw at them, from washing, to dry cleaning, dying to distressing. The thread influences every aspect of our costume making and production.’ The Royal Shakespeare Company is no stranger to taking centre stage when it comes to innovation. Inspired by Shakespeare’s universal appeal, daring innovation, and passion for experimentation with content and form, the RSC together with Coats aims to take theatregoers on a spectacular journey of magnificent costumes and outstanding performance. We invite you to #TBD as we weave a tapestry of wonder in a land of make believe. So dim the lights and get ready for the show of a lifetime.

Find out more about our partnership with the RSC