October 25, 2013
“The Counselor,” a new crime thriller from film director Ridley Scott, assembles an all-star cast to tell the story of a lawyer embarking on a lucrative (and dangerous) deal to support an already outsized life.
Opening Friday, “The Counselor” was written by novelist Cormac McCarthy (author of “No Country for Old Men”) and stars Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz. The Twentieth Century Fox drama allowed Costume Designer Janty Yates to enhance the storytelling with her selection of clothes, particularly for Brad Pitt’s character, the middleman Westray.
Yates dressed Westray in perfectly color-coordinated Western wear—crocodile boots, suede-trimmed jackets, cowboy shirts sharpened with shiny collar points. The clothes help define a character who is hard to pin down. “You’re not quite sure where he is placed, though you are pretty sure he is out for Number One,” Yates says.
Western wear wasn’t the first and only choice, however. To create the character, Yates assembled a rack of 10 different looks to present to Pitt, including a Mediterranean playboy, a sleek suit befitting a Rodeo Drive gent, a flashy sleazeball and a Western dandy.
“We put the first pair of cowboy trousers on him, and it was a sale. He looked absolutely amazing,” Yates says. She had London tailor Chris Kerr, a longtime collaborator, create sets of suits primarily built from supple cashmere fabrics.
“It was great fun coordinating all of the colors, the fabrics and the suede trims,” she says. Pitt’s wardrobe also gave the British designer a chance to explore an indigenous American look.
“I went to all those remote, wonderful cowboy stores that are outside L.A. I was in New Orleans, as well. The stores were always in the smaller towns, where I found amazing boots, and those bolos and brilliant belt buckles and collar tips and Stetsons.”
Yates and Pitt particularly liked the Stetsons: “When Ridley discovered Brad, he was wearing a Stetson in ‘Thelma and Louise,’” Yates said, speaking between explosions on the Spanish set of a new Ridley film, “Exodus.”
Pitt loved the looks, Yates says, and the extra level of “cowboy goth” that came from his accessories—heavy silver and gold rings, necklaces and bracelets from Konstantino.
Wardrobe has a powerful storytelling function in “The Counselor,” particularly on the characters portrayed by Diaz and her on-screen boyfriend, Bardem. Designer Paula Thomas of Thomas Wylde (famous for her skull prints) opened her archives and showroom for Yates, who took advantage of the seductive animal print dresses and sharply asymmetrical silhouettes. Bardem, with his Brian Grazer-like hair, vivid Versace shirts and sunglasses with custom pastel-tinted lenses, is every inch the indulgent, flamboyant playboy.
Just as some characters meet disastrous ends, so too do bits of Pitt’s elegant suits: “Sadly, they had to be aged and broken down. It’s the bane of the costume designer’s life that you have to break them down,” Yates says. “It enhances the character, but tarnishes your baby.”