Interview: Defenders Costume Designer Stephanie Maslansky

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Defenders Costume Designer Stephanie Maslansky

We last spoke to Stephanie Maslansky before the launch of Iron Fist. In that interview, Stephanie explained to us her inspirations for dressing Colleen Wing, Danny Rand, Madame Gao, the Meachums, and the Hand. This week Stephanie is talking to us about dressing The Defenders, characters she has been working with since the beginning of Marvel and Netflix’s partnership. Much like makeup artist Sarit Klein, whom we interviewed previously, Stephanie helped design each Defenders’ original looks, as well as their updated ones. For anyone who has already finished watching all eight episodes of The Defenders, you’ll recognize many of the style choices Stephanie mentions below. If you haven’t finished, don’t worry, this interview is spoiler-free.

The Defenders

Having worked on all the individual series, what was it like bringing these iconic characters together for The Defenders?

All four of these characters have become so iconic in people’s’ minds, you can only imagine that they really are the same people. They really are associated with how they look and how they dress. It would have been a folly to try to change them up and do something different. Not only did these superheroes remain the same people, but they also like to work alone. So we wanted to keep their look very distinctive before, and even into the moment, where they started to combine forces.


I know we spoke before about how each character’s city also influences their color palette, like Luke Cage’s gold being reflective of Harlem. Does that carry through to The Defenders as well?

We were very engaged in utilizing their color palettes to separate their world and in a way, blend them together towards the end. But really keeping them individual and separate. If you recall, there were certain colors associated with each character. Daredevil was red, Luke Cage was gold, Jessica Jones was blue, purple and black, and Iron Fist was olive green. Their color palettes are very distinctive and separate them, contrast them. It was a fun challenge because as you enter their worlds you can see their palettes.


Most of these characters fight crime in their regular clothes, with the exception of Daredevil. Do any of the characters get costume upgrades in the show?

Without giving much away, these are street level heroes. They remain street level superheroes. They remain very devoted and attached to the looks we had developed for them so well in their initial seasons. I’m happy to say that each of their looks became a part of who they are. There could be some evolution there, but that is not what the show is about. They evolve in the way that they aren’t as selfish anymore. They start thinking about other people. They are all in the business of saving lives and part of the lives they start to save are each others’.

The Defenders

We know Misty Knight is in the series, what can you say about her look in The Defenders?

The last time we saw Misty she was in that iconic comic book look, that was really for the fans. Because The Defenders is rooted in real life, we can’t keep her in that look forever, but we did want to evolve her into that style. It’s definitely edgier than it had been in Luke Cage Season 1. She has some evolution to her look and we had a lot of fun with that.

How does the rest of the supporting cast fit into the show, in terms of styling?

Look at the supporting characters. Remember the color palette that I talked about. Trish, for example, in the world of Jessica. Misty Knight in Harlem, Colleen in Iron Fist’s world. Karen and Foggy in the world of Matt Murdock — we got very specific. It was really fun because they do start crossing over into the world of the other Defenders. When that happened we had to decide if they were going stay in their superheroes color palette or switch to the new. I hope people notice what we decided.

What can you tell us about Sigourney Weaver’s character Alexandra?

Her character is intelligent and rooted in a very old world. We wanted her wardrobe to reflect that worldliness. She’s an enigma, a mystery and we wanted her clothing to reflect and present her history — a deep, dark history. We definitely wanted her wardrobe to feel elegant and modern as well. She clearly has the money to clothe herself in beautiful things. We kind of laughed about why villains always dress well, like Kilgrave, like Cottonmouth and Diamondback, they love money so they always dress well. I love dressing villains. I love building clothes from scratch, designing them exactly like they should be. I loved using beautiful couture pieces, beautiful designer pieces. She felt like the kind of person who would wear something no one else in the world has.

We know The Hand is going to play a huge part in the show — what can you say about the Asian influences of the season?

We wanted to stay away from anything that was expected or stereotypical. We wanted to create our own world in The Defenders. Iron Fist did have a lot of Asian influence and I loved working on Madame Gao’s character. She is one of my favorite characters to design for.

When you were working on Daredevil Season 1, did you know Madame Gao was going to play such a huge role in The Defenders?

No. Characters become beloved for a variety of reasons. Who knew that Jon Bernthal was going to be The Punisher and then get his own spinoff? It’s a combination of who the character is and how that actor plays him or her. What’s great is that Marvel is opening to anything happening.

We are very grateful for Stephanie’s work on the series. You can check out a full gallery of images — which include her costumes and styling — from The Defenders below.

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All episodes of The Defenders are currently streaming on Netflix.

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