Halloween & Entertainment Costume and Mask Design with Zagone Studios

Everyone knows Spirit Halloween, Party City, and local spots Fantasy Costumes and Chicago Costume, but did you know a local, Chicago staple is the company that provides them along with theater and movies companies with their masks and costumes?  As a planner it’s all about who you know, and for Halloween it’s no different.  To get some insight on great costume design, I caught up with Franco Pacini of Zagone Studios, about their work in character design and mask making. 

The company began in the early 1970s, started by Bob & Phil Zagone as they were in need of finding products for their tricks and magic shop.  They couldn’t find quite what they needed and decided to start making things themselves.  Over the years as Zagone Studios grew, theater companies would come in and grab costumes.  Because of the products’ quality, word of mouth led more businesses, including movie and entertainment companies, to work with them directly.  Franco explained what made them the go-to for movie companies.

“The biggest thing that makes us different is we really work from the human wearing the product.  We’re not making them look like an exact gorilla, but it’s a comfortable setting where you can wear all products for a long period of time and it’s all products you can act in.  Our masks are so high quality that the theaters and TV and movie companies would go into the costume shop, grab something off the shelf and put it into whatever they were performing.  There’s such a long list of great movies we are in – for example ‘The Town’ with Ben Affleck, there’s a chunk of our masks in there.  The primary one being the nun mask, worn throughout.”

Knowing that some of the best films use their products, it’s exciting to know their products are accessible at outlets like Spirit Halloween, and other costume stores, allowing their designs to be flexible enough to work with the masses.

“We work primarily with B2B companies like Spirit, and big movie houses where we develop products.  For example, Jack Skellington is a stick figure with a giant head – that is not a character that has a natural human scale.  We work on making that wearable for a teenager and up.  We just had a company reach out the other day for a cult movie called Mandy.  In the movie, there is a commercial for mac and cheese with a cheddar goblin, and they asked us to make a cheddar goblin mask.”

Franco further elaborated on how they actually go about making these costumes a success.

“Many costume companies create something based on what the character looks like.  We take the other perspective.  If you replicate Pennywise, Chucky, or other characters, it won’t translate directly so you have to engineer it so it can be worn by someone.  We make costumes where we don’t populate the entire costume with fur, but try to use strategic locations so it’s not weighed down and you’re not sweating all night.  We try to make it comfortable.  The actor can get their act across – suits like werewolves and gorillas are so heavy.  We make sure it’s a good fit and can be worn for extended periods of time.”

While the internet enjoys making memes of the latest Spirit Halloween locations where you can find their products, you can also order directly from Zagone Studios.

“We sell direct over a few different platforms, and that’s growing.  We offer products that are exclusive to Zagone Studios that won’t compete with our B2B business.  We have different characters that are our own, with a different look and fur.  So if someone goes into our shop, they won’t find us at one of our competitors.”

When it comes to events or characters outside of movies and Halloween, Franco says they work with a variety of different people. 

“Carnivale is another holiday where we do a lot of business, and we provide a lot of characters for theater and production.  We have a variety of characters such as ‘Old Man’ or ‘Old Woman’ with moving mouths that are super soft that people have fun with at their parties all year long and they’re great for theater.  My wife forwarded me a video on snapchat of a young lady pulling a prank on a man in one of our costumes!”

Zagone Studios – Overlord MG1006

The world of social media and independent content creation has yielded another area of growth for the mask and costume makers. 

“It really does make a big difference because there’s a ton of people who create their own content, it’s not just the big houses that are using us.  There are tons of people who create shows with our products because you can turn into someone really easily. Tons of people develop characters with our masks.”

Because of their diverse and long-held experiences, most of the costumes for an event are ready-made products that could easily be integrated into almost any event theme.  However, if you truly insist on having a custom creation, be sure to give yourself plenty of time.

“The time frame to create something custom depends on what you’re looking for.  A custom mask is an extensive period of time.  We have to develop a vision from the client side.  If someone is doing fairies and woodland creatures, we can alter different products we already have to fit the theme by color and scope of details to make it fit.  If someone wants a whole costume from scratch, that incorporates about 3 months of time and work.”

Whether you’re looking for a good scare, or character costumes to enrich a themed event or something custom, Zagone Studios offers tours, and makes for a great company to know when you need to be able to wow your clients!

Article written by Jessica Dalka – Twitter: @JessicaDalka |Instagram @ChicagoPlanner | linkedin.com/in/dalka


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