This month we are continuing our look at fashion and design more widely with Expert of the month – Hugo Aguirre. Hugo is a French/British set designer based in London who recently had the excitement of being a contestant on The Big Design Challenge on Sky Arts. Following his bachelor’s degree in Drama from Queen Mary University of London, Hugo went on to specialise in Stage Design at Wimbledon College of Arts.

He now works in theatre, fashion and film, designing for venues such as The Arcola Theatre and the Lyric Hammersmith Studio. Hugo’s work in the fashion world has been featured in publications such as Vogue Italia and Wonderland Magazine, and he has also assisted designers Sarah Beaton and Jan Versweyveld. Despite being early in his career as a designer, Hugo has already worked on some very exciting projects and we will be following his career closely to see what comes next!

Your undergraduate degree was in Drama, what drew you to specialise in Theatre Design for your master’s degree and design more generally?

I have always loved theatre, but realised quite quickly that I kept being drawn more to the visual side of story-telling as I kept making more installational performances! I love visual art, text and live performance so it felt like the perfect combination of everything.

With the pandemic happening, I shifted towards fashion work and how to bring my set design skills into that industry. I really enjoy working in fashion as it’s in constant motion and there’s a much quicker turnaround – and you know you’ll get great photos out of it!

The best part of set design for me is getting to work across different industries because you are constantly meeting new people and learning new things!

You have worked with some big names – drag superstar Bimini Bon Boulash and actress Emma Mackey – what is your most exciting project to date?

I’ve done quite a few varied bits here and there so quite tricky to determine what was the most exciting one! I got to help out on a play in Paris at the Comédie Française and that was quite an amazing experience to go back to Paris where I grew up and get to work in such an iconic theatre.

Getting to work on the Vogue shoot with Bimini was also quite an exciting one! It was such a great team of creatives and I always love working with Otto Masters the photographer.

Of course, we have to mention your time on The Big Design Challenge, which design on the show were you most proud of and which was the biggest challenge?

Coming into the show I knew I would be out of my comfort zone for the majority of the challenges and that terrified me but was also why I did it. We were asked to design children’s play sculptures, chairs, lamps, timepieces and finally some stage design for the group Orbital.

I had a great time working with the contestant Massimo in our pair and am very proud of what we made together! We created a moving wall-mounted timepiece that echoed the movements of a lunar eclipse. It was a really lovely collaboration and the thing that most represented my style of design.

As for the biggest challenge it was definitely our time limitations! Having only two days to come up with something together and then making it was a little stressful – but I’m quite used to whipping things out last minute! I definitely did better than I thought and am proud of all the things we created.

You have had a tremendous start to your career in design, what can we expect from you next?

I am currently designing the graduate show for the BA Acting and Performance course at Wimbledon College of Arts. It is so nice to come back to where I studied and be able to support the next set of students as well as get to design for theatre again after so long!

I have also got a show coming up with the theatre company Haste Theatre about Anna Anderson who claimed to be the lost Russian princess Anastasia. The show was meant to happen around when the pandemic hit so it’s very exciting to be able to come back to a project two years later!

Finally, what three books have influenced your work the most and why?

A book that definitely influenced me is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Although it is a tremendously sad book it is beautifully written and I used it as material for my final project during my Masters.

Another book I love is a French novel by Boris Vian called L’Écume des Jours. I remember reading it while I was still in school and its surrealism makes your mind imagine all kinds of crazy settings. It included rooms that getting smaller and smaller, illnesses that can only be cured by being surrounded by flowers, talking mice…It would be incredible to put this storey on stage as it leaves so much up to interpretation.

Lastly, a book I finished recently is Real Life by Brandon Taylor. It’s another very sad one but definitely confirmed what kind of stories I want to tell and the kind of work I want to make and be a part of.

We want to thank Hugo once again for agreeing to be our Expert this month, you can check out his work on his website and on his Instagram.