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Michael Kaplan on Blade Runner's Iconic Costumes

Inspirational figures get personal and share a passion with us in AnOther Thing I Wanted to Tell You

Blade Runner sketch by Michael Kaplan
Blade Runner sketch by Michael Kaplan Courtesy of the V&A

To mark the opening of the V&A’s Hollywood Costume exhibition, AnOther spoke to Blade Runner costume designer Michael Kaplan about his inspiration behind the sharp-angled suits and outsized shoulders...

“After reading the script, we definitely felt that Blade Runner was of that film noir genre, and we looked back to the films of the 1940s for inspiration. Deckard (Harrison Ford’s character) was as much a Gumshoe as Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart). For Rachel’s character, our chief inspirations were the tailored suits that Adrian designed in the late 1930s and early 40s. I liked the idea of combining different shades of suiting fabrics to create patterns – something Adrian did. In this case I used amazing vintage suiting woollens in shades of grey and beige, with metallic threads that I was lucky enough to find, which created a subtle luminous quality. I wanted to create a futuristic heroine who was believable in the future, but with her feet firmly planted in film noir past.”

"I wanted to create a futuristic heroine who was believable in the future, but with her feet firmly planted in film noir past.”

To mark the opening of the V&A’s Hollywood Costume exhibition, AnOther spoke to Blade Runner costume designer Michael Kaplan about his inspiration behind the sharp-angled suits and outsized shoulders of the Tyrell Corporation’s assistant Rachel, played by Sean Young in Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi. Designed with Charles Knode, the pair exaggerated angles “so that it was a bit of a whacked-out take that pushed the clothes into the future.” Channeling legendary Hollywood Golden Age designer Adrian – the creative brain behind Dorothy’s sparkling ruby slippers, and Joan Crawford’s signature shoulder pads – the futuristic film noir designs of Blade Runner won the pair a BAFTA and marked Kaplan’s breakout movie. After cutting his teeth as a sketch artist on the Sonny & Cher show. Kaplan went on to create a defining 80s look with Jennifer Beals’ off-the-shoulder sweatshirt in Flashdance as well as working with David Fincher on Fight Club amongst other films. Costumes from both Blade Runner and Fight Club are on display now at the V&A’s Hollywood Costume show.

Hollywood Costume runs at the V&A until January 27.

Text by Hannah Lack

Hannah Lack is Literary Editor for AnOther Magazine, Managing Editor for Another Man and Arts & Culture Editor for Dazed.

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