Kylo Ensemble—Worth the Wait!
Hello, my name is Maegen, and I am the Sr. Director of Manufacturing and Soft Goods Production for ANOVOS. I have been with the company since they first contracted with Lucasfilm to feature the Star Wars license. I wanted to provide some insight into the production trials and tribulations we have faced in making one of our most complicated ensembles: Kylo Ren.
From the opening scenes of The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren continues the tradition of Star Wars’ antagonists becoming fan-favorites, largely thanks to his menacing helmet and understated but complex ensemble. While Kylo’s helmet is fairly straight-forward, his costume is another matter entirely. What makes this so complex? It is the perfect storm of three incredibly difficult techniques, crammed into one outfit, then having to replicate it perfectly over hundreds of copies. First, the basketweave of the hood and top coat was custom made. Secondly, the patterns were highly complex. And lastly, the coating usually only found on simpler garments such as trousers were used for four other pieces in this ensemble: hood, top coat, under tunic, and the shirt. The prototype took an incredible amount of effort, especially when we realized we would need to manufacture our own fabric, adding the finishing treatment to it before shipping to China. Once the prototype was complete, we thought the heavy lifting was done, but finding a manufacturer to create this costume with the accuracy it deserves has been an even greater challenge.
Kylo Ren has a 9-piece ensemble that we are replicating. It features purposefully uneven pleating throughout the shirt sleeves and undertunic. It also features a very specific coating on the overcoat, hood, undertunic, shirt, and trousers. The Belt and Gloves are made from real leather. It is no small task and we took no shortcuts on this ensemble. We are confident that while the wait was long, you will be pleased with the final product.
Our Customer Service Team at Anovos asks every single day: When is the Kylo Ensemble going to be shipping to our customers? There was a time when I could provide a date with confidence. Then our first manufacturer backed out of the production after 9 months of creating counter samples, fitting sizers, and finalizing patterns. Sadly, this wasn’t even due to the complexity of the ensemble, but because of internal issues at that manufacturer.
We sought a second Manufacturer that was very promising. But starting over meant another 6-12 month production delay. They completed the Rey Ensemble from The Force Awakens, and we were able to ship those out to our consumers. They were nearly done with production of the Kylo ensemble and we thought we were in the home stretch as the final garments were being assembled and the zippers were installed. We even sent out a newsletter that stated how close we were... then our worst nightmare was realized. The final step of coating the fabric, was inconsistent and affected most of the garments. The quality issue wasn’t caught in time and the manufacturer took another three weeks to tell us; there was no solution to fixing or correctly applying the coating to the rest of the fabrics. Worse yet, they over estimated their own technological capabilities and severely underestimated the even coating of large surface areas over the span of hundreds of garments. We were left with scraps and needing to desperately find a THIRD manufacturer for the costume. So that you can visualize what the issues did to the pieces, here are some pictures of the product with the coating problems:
Once again, we sought another manufacturer, this time with not only the quality and complexity of the ensemble in mind but because you have had to wait so long, timing was also at the top of our mind. We knew that we could not afford another extended delay and we are dedicated to shortening that time dramatically. Luckily, we were able to find a company with a reputation for timely production and consistent quality results. Currently from our new manufacturer, we are in the midst of treating the fabric to start, and have received some photos as shown below. The fabrics they have sourced for the core of the ensemble is perfect, however, as you can see we are running into some heavy coating issues. They are continuing to test their layering and heat treatment in order to achieve the perfect amount of coating.
And it is taking time, but I will not sacrifice quality, especially for how long you’ve waited. Luckily as you can see, there is absolute consistency in their application and with their skilled experience are able to evenly apply and heat press large amounts of fabric at one time. Aside from that small issue which we are working through, you can see the production quality this manufacturer has to offer as well in the fine pleating and pressing of the sleeve sample. I firmly believe that we have finally found the right partner.
Pics 1-2: Coating on the trousers denim fabric.
As we get further updates, I will try to share with you as much as I know, both the issues and successes, so that you can be assured we are moving forward. We appreciate every one of you that has stood by (with or without frustration) and waited this long. We appreciate your patience as we cross the finish line and put these pieces into your waiting hands.
It is worth the wait.
Sr. Director of Manufacturing and Soft Goods Production