Kerry Brown
October 25, 2013 at 10:44 PM EDT

For his new drug trafficking thriller The Counselor, director Ridley Scott created a world as visually appealing as it is complex, with characters who use their clothes to both enhance and disguise their appearance. Scott turned to longtime collaborator Janty Yates (Gladiator, Prometheus) to design the wardrobe for the film’s larger-than-life characters — including a cunning con woman, an international playboy, an urban cowboy, and a sharply dressed lawyer.

“It’s a huge collaboration between myself, the actors, and [Ridley Scott],” said Yates, who called EW from the set of Scott’s next project, Exodus, which is currently filming in Europe. “Ridley was incredibly involved. He always starts me off with a brief [rundown of his vision], then I run with it, but it all starts with Ridley. He’s so visual. Ridley was a painter for years, went to the best art college in London, and was a production designer. I’m in awe of [him].” To keep the costumes “exciting, cutting edge, and character accurate,” took three and a half months of prep time and a minimum of three fittings per actor. And although working with the A-list cast was a “fantastic” experience, Yates admitted she was more starstruck by the film’s writer, Cormac McCarthy. “Meeting him was amazing and emotional. He has been my hero for 20 years. I have every book of his,” she said of the No Country for Old Men novelist. “Every production is a huge challenge, but it was a wonderful and exciting project to conceive a Cormac McCarthy script.”

Labels like Versace and Armani worked for some, but the Counselor wardrobe department turned to designer Paula Thomas of lifestyle brand Thomas Wylde to find extravagant pieces for Malkina (Cameron Diaz), a sociopathic ex-stripper. “Working with Ridley was a once in a lifetime experience I’m thankful to have had. It’ll definitely be one of the highlights in Thomas Wylde’s history,” said the designer, who has been friends with Scott for more than 20 years. “[It wasn’t until] I read the script that I realized why he called upon me. [Cameron’s] character has a lot of elements of a Thomas Wylde woman…. [She’s] bold, edgy, modern. She’s about wanting to be seen, as opposed to blending into the background.”

Though The Counselor hits theaters today, Yates is already fully consumed with Exodus — starring  Joel Edgerton, Christian Bale, and Aaron Paul — slated for release next December. “I’m standing here looking at the Spanish Sahara as the sun sets as we speak . I’m covered in wind and dust and sand,” joked the designer, who says the costumes in the upcoming historical drama are even more over-the-top than the ones audiences will see in The Counselor. “There’s a lot of gold costumes and gold jewelry. It is immensely out there. Glamour a go-go [and] elegantly biblical!”

Click through the photo gallery for more details on the costumes of The Counselor.

Brad Pitt as Westray

“We made everything for Brad–every suit was tailored,” said Yates of Pitt’s Hank Williams inspired look. “[Ridley] wanted him to be a tailored cowboy. When we got together with Brad, the jury was still out as to whether it would work, [but when he] put on that [first] suit, we just knew that was his character.” While Pitt’s clothing was custom-made, Yates sourced his accessories from various Los Angeles based boutiques–including those vintage 80’s glasses seen on the film’s posters. And all that bling? “Every single jeweler participated with an open heart and an open archive,” though most of his rings and bracelets came from Konstantinos.

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