Mr Flibble Talks To... Dressing Up
Howard Burden is the man who put Lister in leather and gave the Cat his most glorious suits. With his scissors out and his fabric chalk poised, Howard settles down for a chat with the penguin who only ever needed a bow-tie.
9 March, 2001
Howard Burden
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

How did you become a costume designer?

I actually did a foundation course at Maidstone College Of Art, then did a degree in Theatre Design at Wimbledon School of Arts; designed a lot in the theatre, doing set, costume, the whole works. Then I got a job at the BBC. They used to do holiday freelance attachments, and you had to specialise in set or costume or whatever. And I particularly like working with actors, to develop their characters. I was an assistant there for about three years and worked on a whole variety of things. I did some work up at BBC Manchester, I worked on a series called Filthy Rich and Catflap which is where I first met Ed [Bye].

How did you get involved with Red Dwarf?

Red Dwarf was actually my first design job as a designer. I was called by the head of costume at BBC Manchester, and she said, 'We're looking for a young designer to redesign a programme that's already established, but they want to revamp and restyle the whole thing from scratch'.

I went up and it was absolutely the most fantastic first job ever. To be honest I hadn't seen Red Dwarf before, I didn't know much about it - and that was good, because I didn't go with any preconceived ideas of what it was about. I took the scripts and had a sort of character synopsis, I talked to Paul Jackson, Rob, Ed and Doug, and went through the whole process of what we were to do with these characters. I took the character and interpreted it in my own way.

In series VIII we've come full circle to something I hadn't designed, and I did a lot of research into the uniforms... and then revamped them again so we weren't being nostalgic. If you look back at series II [the costumes] are very dated. Well, of course they are, they're 14 years old!

Rob and Doug, at the time, were overwhelmed by the whole look. They had reservations about certain things, which we worked through. But essentially it was the springboard for what I think Dwarf's about today.

Do you have a usual group of people that you like to work with?

I do. I have to assistants that I work with very closely. Gill Shaw, who I used to work on Red Dwarf, has gone on to do other things. But I work quite closely with my assistants, and then we work with a whole fleet of people - costume makers, wig makes, milliners, boot makers. Dwarf crosses so many areas; there's quite a lot of prop-costume stuff to be made. So everyone's a specialist.

You can view Howard's design artwork here.