Published in Plaid Magazine Online, April 2011
Photos provides by Berman & Co.
Berman and Company is Canada’s largest costume rental company. Based in Toronto, they provide costumes for film, television, theatre, photography, and special occasions. Berman & Co. has supplied the wardrobe for shows such as Life with Derek and So You Think You Can Dance, and movies such as Hairspray and Hulk. Their collection is on display at their 23,000 square foot showroom, boasting over 1,000,000 costumes from all eras. Plaid caught up with partners, Debra Berman and Linda Petty, to learn more!
How did Berman & Co. begin?
The inception of our business started in January 2007 on the set of a period commercial for the LCBO, where Linda and I were working together for the first time since 1993. We discussed the idea of purchasing RDS (Partners Film’s former costume collection) that was for sale at the time. Shortly after taking that plunge we decided to make a bid for the CBC costume department that was available and looking for a new home. Our impetus there was to keep the historical collection in Canada since there were no other interested parties here. We spent the better part of 2007 and 2008 amalgamating, identifying, dating, editing, cleaning and processing the two collections. Until 2008 we worked out of 52 Sumach and a temporary home on Logan Avenue as we renovated the Brinks building next door. In 2008 we moved the two collections under one roof.
Berman & Co. has the largest wardrobe collection in Canada. How far do people travel to view your collections and what are they most interested in?
We get requests within Canada from coast to coast, Vancouver to Saskatchewan to the East coast, and as far as the Yukon. People physically come themselves and pull, or we have a number of staff members with styling abilities so we pull and send pictures. The next step of our business that we are embarking on is partnering with a company who is going to photograph and catalogue our collection so it is available online. We have shipped as far as Romania and had inquiries from France and England. In terms of what people are most interested in, it’s really dictated by the script or creative. We are a one-stop shop in many regards but our areas of specialty would have to be the Historical Collection (Ancient to 1920s), Vintage Collection (1930s to ’80s) and our character wear (from broken-down workwear to contemporary clothing that has a lived-in feel so it is camera ready).
What are some of your newly acquired collections?
We recently acquired a collection belonging to Christopher Hargadon (the designer on the mini-series, The Kennedys). It is immaculate and spans the 1930s through 1980s. We also purchased the zombie/broken-down clothing from the movie Resident Evil. In addition to that, we build our stock on a regular basis, either by purchasing the stock for sale at the end of a movie or television commercial, or through donations by individuals or companies who either want to find a good home for the pieces or are looking for credit.
Your collection is displayed throughout a huge showroom. How is everything organized?
We have two vaults (the building belonged to Brinks for 55 years). One stores our Historical collection (men, women and children) and the other is the Vintage collection. Children’s clothing is separated by boys and girls, and spans from vintage through contemporary. We converted the [building’s] original firing range into our sports room, and it has a pretty formidable collection of vintage and period hockey and other sports. The main warehouse houses the contemporary collection (men’s and women’s) uniforms, variety, mascots, global, military, broken-down, workwear, formal wear, hospital, clerical, religious, domestic, service, and pretty much everything else you can think of.
Apart from clothing, what accessories are available to complete a costume?
We have an extensive array of accessories that complete a look whether it’s historical, vintage, contemporary or variety. That includes footwear, hats, scarves, gloves, glasses, jewellery, sock, tights, headpieces and masks.
You help stylists choose the perfect wardrobe to suit their purpose, whether for tv, film, off-screen productions, events, or editorial work. What is the process like when working alongside these clients to create their desired look?
I think what distinguishes us is the customer service we offer. Although the place is set up and merchandised to be self-serve, our staff are always asking how they can assist and going into the aisles with the designer, or suggesting things that they would like. If not, the designer/stylist will take a rack and start pulling generally in characters. We label the rack and it either goes on hold until the designated date of pick up or we write it up on the spot. Since 2/3 of our collection is barcoded it only takes minutes to scan out an entire rack. We are in the process of barcoding every item.
What are some examples of editorial work where your costumes were featured?
Toronto Life and Flare have pulled here quite often, as have Ion, Enroute, Lush, Zink, WedLuxe, Food & Drink, and Plaid.
What is your favourite era of costumes?
Although I have pieces I love in every era, my favourite era of costume is pretty specific. It is probably 1890s Gold Rush or Klondike Era. I love anything that’s eclectic and layered and broken down, with character.
Visit Berman And Company at 55 Logan Avenue, Unit A, Toronto.