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Costume designer returns to Richmond to establish his craft

“But when I landed this artist studio in Richmond, I felt so privileged, and I was so excited," says the Richmond costume designer.
Richmond-born Donnie Tejani is a local costume designer.

There’s nothing like home, especially for a Richmond-born costume designer looking to further establish his craft in the local theatre community.

Self-taught costume and wig designer Donnie Tejani moved back home to Richmond after “snagging” himself one of the city’s artist-only live-work studios in the Concord Gardens complex.

The Richmond Secondary alumnus’s interest in costume and wig designing took him on a journey to work in several theatre productions, primarily in Vancouver. But now, he is looking to work locally in his hometown.

“I was unsure about moving back to Richmond at first because Kitsilano was just so close to work for me,” said Tejani.

“But when I landed this artist studio (in Richmond), I felt so privileged, and I was so excited.”

The artist work studios are part of the City of Richmond’s “Arts Village” project that built 20 loft-style apartments specifically for artists in 2017.

Tejani is hoping to further his career as a designer locally with his dream workshop filled with industrial sewing machines and an industrial iron.

His interest in acting and performing was fuelled by his parents' involvement with the Richmond Gateway Theatre. However, it wasn’t until he volunteered in the costume department with the Theatre Under The Stars that he shifted his career choice.

With a hot glue gun in one hand and some foam in another, he was tasked to create four-and-a-half-foot tall props. It was then he decided to go into costume design.

Despite hoping to enter post-secondary to further study costume designing, Tejani couldn’t find a good balance between being able to work and going to school.

“I kind of weighed my options and took the chance of not going to school and just threw myself in the ring and worked as hard as I could,” he said.

“I pushed myself with lots of volunteering, making connections and trying my best to stay alive and find new work. Luckily I made it.”

Tejani then pursued wig making after having experienced it while at the Vancouver-based Arts Club Theatre Company.

During COVID-19, with jobs sparse across the country, he was invited to be the sole designer, costume builder and wig stylist for drag queen Weebee, who was a finalist on the second season of a drag reality competition series titled “Call Me Mother" that took place in Toronto.

Recently, Tejani was asked to design the costumes for Gateway Theatre's Anne of Green Gables production. He described it as his "childhood dream" to be able to take part in the theatre's winter musical.

With his return to Richmond, Tejani is looking to grow with the local theatrical arts community.

“I had such an interest in theatre and was kind of forced to always leave Richmond if I wanted to experience more,” he said.

“I hope to see in the next few years that especially as Richmond is continuously growing so fast, there are more arts and theatre opportunities.”