'Luther' all about 'shades of gray with flashes of color'

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In the early days of "Luther," BBC America's miniseries returning for four nights beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3, those responsible for creating the show's look gathered.

James Keast, the costume designer, recalls the director telling them, "Go off and find something relevant to the series."

The director wanted "shades of gray with flashes of color, lots of bits of pink, purple or red, and everything else is colorless," Keast tells Zap2it.

Tasked with this assignment, Keast turned to a fantastic Ukrainian photographer "who wanders the streets of Moscow photographing people who have no hope - a lot of kids, prostitutes and alcoholics," he says. He calls the shades and textures "no hope colors."

With those cheery thoughts, Keast built the wardrobe for "Luther." Though most detectives in Great Britain wear a suit on the job, John Luther ( Idris Elba) does not.

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"He is a maverick and pushes the limit of what he can get away with," Keast says. Though Luther looks slightly rumpled -- still sharper than most real detectives -- he wears fine clothing. In his most famous look, Luther wears a Paul Smith coat, a Nicole Farhi jacket, Ralph Lauren trousers and Grenson shoes. His shirts are from Marks & Spencer.

Keast started with gray shirts, which he washed with brown dye to give them a richer hue. Luther's ties are from charity shops. The red tie came out because "it was kind of relevant, a sign of danger -- red," Keast says. "He was pushing things to the limit so much."

It may seem as if Luther wears one red tie all the time, but Keast actually has a bunch of red ties for him because they tend to get coated in blood and other nasty substances.

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"She is an academic when we first meet her," Keast says of Alice ( Ruth Wilson). "To make her look stylish, we use the red hair and very simple shapes because we were not sure where the character would go."

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As the series evolved, so did Alice. Here she has a 1940s Lauren Bacall siren vibe.
"We make her look a bit more film star," Keast says. "The makeup is stronger, and I used the colors to show off her hair."

The tight Zara skirt and Jigsaw blouse reminds the designer of Rita Hayworth.

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Luther's look, however, doesn't much change. Unaware that the series would continue, Keast had gotten rid of most of the clothes.

He replaced the coat with Harris Tweed from Aubin & Wills, and Keast is holding onto the coat in case there are future films or additional installments.

"I try to keep the look as much the same as possible," Keast says. "I made it more tired looking. The character has gone through a lot. The shirts he wears are slightly different, much grayer instead of browner. A lot of the stuff was washed but never ironed. It's not just manic-depressive - this man has been through the mills."
Photo/Video credit: BBC America