Catching Up with Costume Designer Raya Ktiesh

The stylist behind the clothes of Netflix’s “The Platform,” which launched its third season this month, talks about how costume designing is viewed as a profession in the region

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Fashion plays an integral role in cinema. Clothes as costumes flesh out a character and add depth to the visual language of a film. Raya Ktiesh is a costume designer and fashion designer, who realized the importance of fashion in film, TV and theater while studying at ESMOD Fashion University in Syria. She has worked on the costumes for the second and third seasons of the UAE-produced Netflix show “The Platform.”

Season three launched on the OTT platform on June 1, featuring a large ensemble cast of Arab actors, including Syrian actor Maxim Khalil who plays the protagonist Karam. UAE-based Filmgate Productions is behind the show.

Ktiesh is one of the few seasoned costume stylists in the region. As a design student, she was asked to work on costumes for a musical. Since then, she has worked on many films and TV series. She tells us why it’s important to have an Arab costume stylist work on films and series based in the Middle East.

Alhalaj 2019 Fashion Trust Arabia
Raya Fashion Trust Arabia
War travelers 2017 Fashion Trust Arabia

Q How are costumes viewed in the Arab region?
A I have been in the industry for 10 years or more now. It has become better. Before they did not feel clothes mattered and actors would often wear their own clothes. They do now see the importance of dressing for a character.

Q How did “The Platform” happen, and why did they bring you on for the second season?
A They realized they needed someone who gave it authenticity. It was hard coming in after the foundations had been set in the series, but step by step I lifted the clothes. For example, I am Syrian and since part of the series is based in Syria, I quickly saw how details were wrong, like the army uniforms. A character must wear clothes that are true to who he or she is.

Q When the plot of a film or TV series is linked to a country, is it necessary for the stylist to have a first-hand understanding of the heritage and culture?
A An Italian film is styled by an Italian costume stylist, and the same should apply to an Arab production. You need to put reality into it. You need to reference and research every detail and being a native gives you an advantage. 

Q This season was filmed during the pandemic. What was it like and how did you source clothes?
A It was very complicated, but the production company made sure all safety measures were in place. We had a PCR test every five days. The clothes were sourced by thrifting. There are a couple of good second-hand shops in Abu Dhabi, where the show was filmed. Also, luckily, the company has a huge archive of clothes, about 10,000 pieces. I spent 10 days just going through these and sorting them out. It is amazing what you find by thrifting.