Skip to main content

Costumes donations

Since 2022, Cirque du Soleil has given 4 costumes from our shows to museums and collectors. We talked with Pavel Kotov, Senior Casting Director and Martin Bédard, project manager in the Costumes Department. 

The idea of Costumes donations is not new. There are some Circus in the world, like Cirque Bouglione with 200 years of history that have their own museums. Those museums are not often open to the public, but they represent a big part of circus history. When it comes to the circus, usually we have connoisseurs, academics, and private collectors, but not really the general public. There are of course some exceptions, like in 2022, when the Pointe-a-Callière museum held an exhibition about the history of circus, with a focus on circuses from Quebec and Montreal. 

Cirque du Soleil costumes are well-known and recognizable amongst circus lovers. We had been regularly receiving requests for several years, but the requirements we set were a little too strict for museums to comply with. When coming back from the pandemic, Pavel saw there were a lot of costumes at the IHQ, waiting to be destroyed. 

 Costume Donation Kooza Circusland

What happens to the costumes when artists can’t wear them anymore?

As Martin explained to us, when costumes are not worn anymore, they come back to Montreal, to the IHQ. The shows can’t destroy costumes on the spot, as legally everything we bring to a country has to exit the country. So back in Montreal, there are 2 possibilities: if the costume is too damaged, it will be destroyed. Well, it will be recycled, shredded, and used in various sectors, including in the making of concrete! Nothing is thrown out, costumes, shoes, accessories, everything is recycled. On the other hand, if the costume is in good condition, we will keep it at “Le Costumier” so it can be used for special or corporate events. It was then easy to put a few more aside and work together, Costumes and Casting, to identify which ones could be donated. 

And there we are, a year after the relaunch, we have made four donations of costumes. The first ones went to Circusland in Spain (Kooza), then to the Musée du Cirque Alain Frère in France (OVO), to the Centro educativo di Documentazione delle Arti Circensi (CEDAC) in Italy (Kooza) and finally to the Musée du Cirque Gilles Maignant, in France (Corteo).

What matters for museums, more than the value of the costumes, is the story behind them. The work of the designers and the craftspersons, but also the artists who wore them. For example, for our first donation in Spain, we donated two costumes of Kooza: the Trickster, but especially a costume from the wire act that is performed by the Quiros family, circus legends in Spain.

Costumes Donation OVO Alain Frere


But, why the Casting?

Pavel and other Casting members oversee bringing and donating costumes during their travels. Casting maintains relations with the circus community. While the PR department deals with political relations with embassies, governments and cultural organizations, Casting deals with relations with professional circus organizations, but also with individuals such as collectors or museum managers. And it feels pretty easy to combine a trip to a festival or competition with a costume donation in the same area.

Costumes Donation CEDAC Italy


What are the two requirements for receiving a donation?

First, the costume must be well presented and identified. We must be able to see from which show it’s from and what character it is, as well as the name of the designer who created the costume. It is very important for Cirque's heritage to recognize the designers who participate in the magic of our shows. The second condition is that the costumes must not be worn by humans. We don't want the costumes to be sold or even used for a performance or a photo shoot.


Protecting Cirque du Soleil's heritage and savoir-faire is very important, which is why we have Le Costumier and our archives. But this heritage must also be seen and shared outside our offices to keep our history alive internationally!


Costume Donation Corteo Gilles Maignant