John Wick 3 costume designer interview

The John Wick franchise isn’t just loaded with action – it’s dressed to the nines as well. Every character, from John Wick on down, is impeccably tailored, each with their own unique aesthetic. Those character looks come from franchise costume designer Luca Mosca, who continues his work in the latest entry, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.

In our John Wick 3 costume designer interview below, Mosca breaks down the styles of several of the sequel’s key players, as well as revealing what it takes to keep everyone looking so fashionable while engaged in big fight scenes.

john wick 3 keanu

John Wick

Let’s start with the man himself: John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves. Since the three John Wick films unfold very close together, John’s singular look remains similar throughout, with a few distinct changes. But how did they settle on this look to begin with?

“We had to identify a look, what we call a formula in my department, that then carried over for [John Wick 2] and [John Wick 3],” says Luca Musca. “The inspiration was a gun – a Glock. There was something mysterious and beautiful…very sleek, very clean lines and minimal color. Actually no color at all. So we have a costume that is always colorless; either black or in dark shades of gray. There are very minor embellishments and everything is streamlined in a very simple way.”

When it comes to Wick’s costume, Musca wanted to translate “the elegance of…designed objects into a costume.”

“It certainly helps that Keanu is such an elegant, tall person,” the costume designer adds. “So that gave me that little extra help [to] achieve it. The costume is extremely clean cut, slim lines, and just reduced to the essential. In John Wick 2, we introduced the high collar…so that has become his trademark now – a very imposing high collar, and I continue that in [John Wick 3].”

john wick 3 ian mcshane

Winston

As the debonair manager and owner of assassin hotel The Continental, Winston’s ensemble is always on point. “Winston is the most elegant Brit in the world of the Continental and of John Wick at large,” Mosca says. “He wasn’t the tie kind of guy, or the bowtie kind of guy. So we ended up with a cravat with an ascot, and his suits are impeccably tailored. There is a subtle gain there with the colors, and the matching and mismatching of the cravat with the pocket square, and the cufflinks and all the details.”

Of all the characters in the Wickverse, Winston (Ian McShane) appeals to Mosca the most. He says: “I had the most fun designing Winston’s costume just because of that richness coming from the extreme simplicity and cleanliness, of the lines and the colors.”

the bowery king

The Bowery King

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), who runs an underground network of homeless individuals. The Bowery King dresses just like his network, which means he’s not one for suits and ties. But that doesn’t mean his costume didn’t require a lot of work.

“We needed to build him a costume that was unique, although within the homeless realm we wanted something a little special,” says Mosca. “So we took outer garments and we layered them. The inspiration came from a recent trip I took to Japan where I learned about the Lady of the 12 Layers.”

Mosca is referring to the junihitoe, a set of complex kimono garments worn by court-ladies in Japan. The term is translated as “twelve-layer robe.”

“It’s a tradition to wear 12 kimonos, one on top of each other,” Mosca continues. “And I found that so interesting. So I brought that into [The Bowery King’s] costume. [He] has a multitude of layers and when you look at it carefully, you’ll see that it’s almost like an onion ready to be peeled.”

And a team of artists had to be employed to create the costumes for the countless members of homeless army the Bowery King oversees. “Artists who can take a new fabric and age it and distress it with such craftiness and expertise and it really becomes a painting,” Mosa says. “It’s amazing what can be done to a woolen coat between dyes and paper and Dremels and burning. It just such a fascinating process.”

john wick 3 halle berry

Sofia

A new character to the franchise is Sofia (Halle Berry), an old acquaintance of John Wick’s. John travels to Casablanca to find her, with hopes that she can help him on his journey.

“Sofia is mostly seen in Morocco,” Mosca tells me. “My research was started from textiles, and colors, and between authentic swatches of fabric. We came up with our own incredible fabric library and costume library. And from there we decided to give [Sofia] a sort of theme – like a guiding thread throughout the movie that would keep the costumes that we see her in cohesive.”

“The guiding thread was a black and gold,” the costume designer continues. “We decided to utilize a lot of rich gold embroideries on her clothes. So we see her lounging in her own world, with an incredibly rich and lavish see-through kind of organza robe or gown, with these elaborate gold embroideries.”

When it came time for Sofia’s character to get into the action, however, the wardrobe had to change. And match with her two dogs, who help her kick (and bite) some ass.

“We see her in the fight scenes with a very streamlined costume, very similar in concept to John Wick, with two rails of geometric golden embroidery on the front,” says Mosca. “And it doesn’t hurt that her dogs happened to be the same exact color of this gold embroidery. So visually this is like a punch in the eye. It’s so beautiful. It’s so powerful to see all this darkness brightened up by gold everywhere.”

anjelica huston john wick 3

The Director

Another new character is The Director – someone else who also has a past connection to John. As played by Anjelica Huston, we meet her overseeing a dance school, but it’s not your typical school of fine arts. “It’s the dance school where the future players of the John Wick franchise are trained to become professional hitmen or hitwomen,” says Mosca.”It’s a world of Russian gypsies. So you can only imagine, for a designer putting together costumes for Russian gypsies was really fantastic. And so Angelica is powerful in her all black that satin base costume. But then she wears this blood red lace fringed shawl with which she’s literally flying. Those are wings for Anjelica, who is such an amazing, powerful actor.”

Asia Kate Dillon john wick 3

The Adjudicator

And then there’s The Adjudicator, a new antagonist – albeit one that John Wick has very little interaction with. “We had the incredible Asia Kate Dillon,” says Mosca, “who in real life doesn’t want to be identified with specific gender, and who allowed me to put together my dream costume, which is made of vintage multilayer suits. Very severe, austere…mostly dark, mostly black, but some splashes of green. Asia was really fantastic. They are an incredible actor and, and they can completely convey that level of mystery and power and be frightening and at the same time.”

tailor scene wick

Playing the Tailor

Luca Mosca doesn’t just work behind the scenes on John Wick – he’s an active participant in the mythology. In John Wick: Chapter 2, the costume designer was seen on screen playing the tailor who fits John for a fancy new bulletproof suit. Mosca will reprise the role in the upcoming John Wick spin-off series The Continental.

“It was unexpected when the director came to me with that script,” Mosc says of his John Wick 2 role. “We worked on this script [together] because there was a lot of technical jargon, and it was an incredible experience. To act next to Keanu, that was such a pleasant surprise. It officially started a new career for me. I have been actively studying acting now for a few years, and I have been in plays, web series and smaller films. And now I am a scripted to be in The Continental.”

john wick suit

Keeping It Real

The John Wick franchise obviously exists in a heightened reality – a world similar to, but not quite ours. Still, I wondered if there were any basis in reality for some of the seemingly fantastical elements in the films. Specifically: fancy tailored suits that just happen to be bullet proof. To my surprise, it turns out the answer is yes.

“Absolutely,” Mosca says. “[That type of bulletproof suit is] what is worn by many people in government, and other high profile people. I’m not using the same material because [though], we are making a movie. So I can just put either nothing into costume, or I can create my costume with that fabric that has a techno aspect to it – something highly technological that can lead [you] to believe that that fabric had some special properties. In John Wick 3 for example, you will see, with Keanu’s black costume, whenever you’ll come to a close up….an interesting, subtle waffly kind of texture. It absolutely reminds you of Kevlar. So there’s a, there’s been a lot of researching in order to achieve that. Our advantage is, uh, that we don’t have to use the real thing, which tends to be not as pleasant to the touch and sometimes a little, stiffer – harsher. Dragon Skin, Kevlar, what have you. We can use movie versions of it.”

john wick 3 fights

Fighting in Style

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even get out of my car without my shirt coming partially untucked. So I’m alway fascinated when Keanu Reeves and company punch, kick, jump, and shoot their way through these movies without even a stitch of clothing coming out of place. How does Mosca incorporate the constant fighting into the costumes he designs?

“One of the things to do when a fight scene is involved,” says Mosca, “is to have costumes that are either larger in size to accommodate movement, or identical costumes made out of fabric that has more ease – like a higher stretch content in the fabric. Lycra becomes our biggest friend. We also insert what you call gusset into the garment – under the sleeves of a jacket or a shirt.”

He continues: “We insert to stretch panels on the side of the jacket, and we do the same with pants. Keanu is such a fit actor, and he does most of the stunts, [but] obviously some have to be performed by stunt doubles. And in that case we, we have to adjust sizes also to different stunt actors. And that becomes a little bit of a challenge. So it’s a lot of prep work. It’s a lot of tailoring, its a lot of teamwork to get to that.”

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