Kemal Harris Q&A: ‘House of Cards’ costume designer
“I was totally thrown for a loop,” admits “House of Cards” costume designer Kemal Harris during our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above) when asked about her surprise Emmy nomination for the Netflix political drama. “It’s something I’ve always obviously dreamt about,” she adds, “and never ever thought it would happen.” Harris reaped her career first bid in the Best Contemporary Costumes category after the nomination for “This Is Us” was revoked due to too many period designs.
A longtime red carpet fashion designer, Harris had worked for years with Robin Wright before being brought on in the third season to be her personal costumer. In the series, Wright plays Claire Underwood, the fiercely determined first lady to a cunning and conniving President (Kevin Spacey). “A lot of Claire’s strength is in her outer appearance,” Harris divulges, “not only in her wardrobe, but also in the persona and the energy that she projects.” She achieves that look “through extreme tailoring. There’s nothing superfluous, there’s nothing extra. We hardly ever use any pattern, because she is just ready for battle at any time.”
Harris has received two consecutive Costume Designers Guild nominations for the show in 2016 and 2017. She competes alongside costume designer Johanna Argan, assistant costume designer Jessica Wenger, and costume supervisor Steffany Bernstein-Pratt. They contend against “Big Little Lies,” “Empire,” “Grace and Frankie,” and “Transparent.”