She gave Indiana Jones aka Harrison Ford the much-celebrated look in Raiders of the Lost Ark — the first in the movie’s series in 1981. She made Michael Jackson look red-hot scary in the Thriller music video. Costume designer Deborah Landis has worked with the biggest Hollywood projects for over three decades now. The lady, who is also the president of the Costume Designer’s Guild (the union representing Hollywood’s costume designers) was invited by the Pearl Academy of Fashion as a guest lecturer.
Ask her about her experience in India and she reminisces about her first trip to the country, back in 2003. “It was a cultural shock. I was suddenly bombarded with spices, colours, different cultures, languages and well, lots of people.” Ask her whether the country inspired her and she demands we ask her, “Why did Deborah wait for so long to come to this country for inspirations?” The lady goes on to tell us that on her first visit itself, she fell in love with Indian costumes, explaining her appearance in a black achkan and jadau jewellery.
Deborah has designed costumes for classics like The Blues Brothers, Mad City, Trading Places, An American Werewolf in London, The Three Amigos and the Oscar-nominated Coming to America.
For someone who has been in this business for long, does it upset her that there is not enough recognition? “It is a compliment if our work isn’t noticed, in fact it shouldn’t,” says the designer. “A good costume designer should make sure the clothes never overpower the character.”
Citing an example from Bollywood, she says, “I recently saw Jab We Met and I think that was intelligent costume designing.” So, she seems to have a good knowledge of Bollywood. “Yes, I have seen quite a number of films — Kal Ho Na Ho, Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar,” she says with a slight slang. She tells us that she has worn Wendell Rodricks and likes his designs.