Destination: Austria

Lucrative niche comes out of the closet

VIENNA — With cheap prices, abundant soundstages and tax incentives enticing films to its Central European neighbors, Austria is concentrating on filling niches that others can’t.

A new $8 million fund for TV co-productions plus national and regional film funds, spectacular Alpine scenery and the largest costume collection in Europe are Austria’s best hopes for cashing in on some of the foreign coin.

“XXX” is among the productions that went to Austria for some Alpine skiing and snowboarding shots. But foreign filmmakers have been slower to catch on to one of the best-kept secrets in Europe: the combined costume collections and workshops of Art for Art, and the historic military uniform and costume collection at nearby Lambert Hofer.

Well known in the world of international opera, Art for Art grew out of the privatization of Vienna’s world-class state opera and theater costume house. When designer Annette Beaufrays took over the management, she found treasures languishing in old warehouses scattered around Vienna.

Eleven years later, she presides over one of the most organized and well-stocked selection of materials and costume pieces a designer could imagine. The collection includes antique shoe forms to shelves full of decades-old straw for hats (and the hat forms and century-old straw sewing machine to produce the hats) to drawers of buttons to meticulously kept books of available fabric samples and an estimated 800,000 costume pieces. Art for Art also provides a knowledgeable personal assistant to the visiting designer.

As Beaufrays says, “For a designer, it must be great to work in Vienna.”

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