Everything you need to know about the time Jennifer Aniston wore Indian Couture

Bazaar India speaks to legendary costume designer Debra Mcguire about gender-fluidity in fashion, the trends that have stood the test of time, and dressing Jennifer Aniston in Manish Malhotra finery.

Harper's Bazaar India

If you've watched and been engrossed by the recently-released Murder Mystery 2, there's a good chance that the sangeet scene was one that you just couldn't forget. After all, it had Jennifer Aniston dressed in the best Indian wear. If you're wondering who's the brains behind this look, it's none other than legendary costume designer Debra Mcguire who zeroed in on couturier Manish Malhotra.

Bazaar India caught up in an exclusive chat with Mcguire, who speaks about working with Aniston after years, what she likes about Malhotra and his creations, the most prominent fashion trends according to her, the future of fashion and much more.  

Harper’s Bazaar: You are a multi-hyphenate, dabbling in art, fashion, jewellery design, and more. Which role brings you the most creative satisfaction?

Debra Mcguire: I have the ability to dive deep in order to stay inspired and engaged. If I am not getting enough in one area, then I must move into another. Sometimes, costume work is extremely creative; sometimes, not so much. When it’s not, I make time to be in my studio and paint. I do think my future will have much more studio time in it. 

image: Debra McGuire

HB: Through F.R.I.E.N.D.S, one of the most-watched shows ever, you gave us some truly unforgettable style moments. What would you say are the key pillars of a stylish wardrobe?

DM: I designed the clothes to fit each character in the show. And I designed by colour palette and texture since the group of six was often together making a visual assemblage. Ross was seen in earthy corduroys, Chandler in vintage tweeds, Joey in flannels and textures, Monica in grey, white, black, and reds; Jennifer in blues and greens; and Phoebe in flowy patterns. This defined them and made each character unique. Personally, my  advice is to ‘know thyself’. Dress for your body, because a certain trend may not be right for you. And learn how to express yourself through shoes and accessories if the clothes don’t agree with your body.

HB: You worked with Jennifer Aniston on F.R.I.E.N.D.S for over a decade, along with several other projects. What was it like working with her again for Murder Mystery 2?

DM: Working with Jennifer is a gift that doesn’t stop giving. We have so much history and trust, which, in this industry, is extremely rare. Jennifer knows herself and her body and works hard to stay in the best shape.

HB: The Murder Mystery 2 plot revolves around a royal Indian wedding. How did you zero in on Indian couturier Manish Malhotra for Jennifer Aniston’s character’s wedding look?

DM: We found Manish after extensive research and travel in India. I had also reached out to friends in India and Indian journalists, to learn more about his (Manish’s) work. Initially, I wasn’t sure what direction I would go with Jennifer’s character. While collaborating with Sakshi (Dosaj) at Dream Collection in Los Angeles, I met her son and his fiancé who were about to be married. They invited me to their sangeet and wedding. This event inspired me to dress Jennifer and Adam (Sandler) in traditional Indian clothes, instead of something hybrid.

HB: What did you like about Manish Malhotra’s designs?

DM: I loved the quality and spectacular beadwork. By this time, I had seen thousands of designs and my eye was well trained to recognise good craftsmanship. After all, this was scripted as a maharajah’s needed to look expensive and royal!

HB: Did you come across any other Indian designers that left an impact on you?

DM: Yes, many. Papa Don’t Preach by Shubhika is another Indian designer that I was attracted to for the level of originality in their design and beadwork. These pieces stood out! Melanie Laurant wears a red one-shoulder design that really spoke to me.

image: a scene from 'Murder Mystery 2'

HB: You have been working in fashion for over 50 years. Tell us about the most prominent trends that you have seen coming back over and over again.

DM: I have always said that trends are about common sense. If the trend has been mini skirts, the next trend will be a longer hemline...if we haven’t seen women in men’s suits for a while, that will be just around the corner. If big accessories have been trending for a few years, then minimalism can be expected next. Same with colours and prints. I remember, in the ’90s, when I had the buyers from Bergdorf Goodman come in to see my latest collection. They had been in a no-colour, classic designs were colourful and edgy. They weren’t the least bit interested. I was a season too soon...and the next season was all about it. So, the timing has to be right as well.

HB: For many seasons now, the biggest moments in fashion are often a redux of ’80s and ’90s trends. What makes these two decades so important in fashion history that designers keep going back to them for inspiration?”

DM: These eras were so different! The ’80s had a very broad range—from earthy to bold colours and patterns, very large accessories, shoulder pads, acid washes, high waists, among others. Then came the ’90s...while oversized styles continued to trend, we also became more body conscious. Jewellery became minimal or disappeared completely. To be honest, the 1980s and 1990s were not my favourite fashion eras. I mostly wore Japanese designs during that period. But I think we keep going back to them because our children keep discovering them for the first time.

HB: Lastly, what, according to you, is the future of fashion?

DM: I am not sure. Everything has changed in the last few years because of Internet, social media, fashion bloggers, and influencers. It is another world to me! I find it harder and harder to find things that I love. However, I do like what’s happening, like the gender fluid designs—men dressed in skirts and dresses, crossing gender boundaries. I also think it’s time to see more body types on the runway. Fashion needs to promote expression and diversity. I also love that consciousness has been raised regarding sustainability. There is just too much waste on this planet and we all need to get involved and be responsible for the choices we make.