Creativity has run in my family for generations. My parents Edward and Lucille Burnham were actors, my grandfather was in silent movies, and my great grandfather had a Punch and Judy theatre. My sister, Lal d’Abo, is a Principal Costume Maker for The Royal Ballet and The English National Ballet, while my brother, Tim, is president of Tempest Lighting in Los Angeles.
I started my career in the props department at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as a trainee, where I ‘learned the ropes’, before working at The Young Vic in London, then moving to the costume department at the Nottingham Playhouse where I made my first creature – a pantomime horse called Alfred! I’ve had the good fortune to work at the Jim Henson Creature Shop on many occasions throughout my career, which introduced me to the world of animatronics and creature effects.
I dyed, painted, stitched and glued my way up through the ranks, working for some of the best costume designers in the business in both theatre and film, in costume and creature effects; becoming a freelance costume and creature designer working on a broad range of global projects with some of the biggest stars in the world.
I’ve worked on a diverse range of costumes for some huge productions across film, TV, music, advertising, opera, ballet and theatre.
Some of my proudest work includes designing Aslan the Lion with my team for The BBC’s The Chronicles of Narnia, making the ‘Bat Suit’ for Costume Designer Bob Ringwood for Batman and Batman Returns, Designing the costumes for the BBC’s Wind in The Willows starring Matt Lucas as Toad, Bob Hoskins as Badger and Mark Gatiss as Ratty. I designed Lady Gaga’s ‘Living Dress’ for The Monster Ball World Tour for the Jim Henson Creature Shop.
I’ve been designing and styling TV commercials throughout my career, working with big brands IBM, BMW, DHL, ADT, Heineken, Vodafone, Heinz, Lexus, Volvo, British Airways, McVities, Deutsch Bank, Lloyds Bank and many more, creating award-winning costumes for national and international advertising campaigns.
I’m also the proud owner of The Little Costume Shop (following in Christian Dior’s ‘Theatre de la Mode’ footsteps) – a collection of quarter scale opera and ballet costumes that were first exhibited at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden and The Kennedy Center Washington DC. Please see The Little Costume Shop tab for more information.
My first love is designing and styling costumes, and I’ve always been interested in ‘passing on the baton’ to the next generation too, which I’m currently doing with my new book – and one day I would love to design the costumes for a ballet!