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Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style

This Screen reporter was as excited as a child in a sweet shop at a preview of the new and very impressive James Bond design exhibition at London’s Barbican, where we also sat down with infamous Bond and Batman designer Lindy Hemming who guest-curated the show.

Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style, the Barbican’s new Bond homage, is a veritable treasure trove of costumes, gadgets and props including the original Aston Martin DB5 and Ursula Andress’s Dr No bikini. The exhibition includes rooms dedicated to Bond villains, weapons, exotic locations, casinos, and action scenes in the snow.

A bond style martini bar opens soon and the shop has a string of enticing items including some replica Jaws teeth, Bond-styled bow ties and cufflinks and Bond cocktail sets.

Screen talked to Oscar-winner and five-time Bond costume designer Lindy Hemming about the changing attitude to Bond style. Hemming believes class and old-world style still plays a key role in Bond design:

“Because Bond should be tailored I think he is not fashionable in the normal meaning of the word but sophisticated, elegant and beautifully tailored. Most of all he is classically dressed. In the beginning, not so much now, the class system was key to who and what Bond was. It’s harder to understand that today. That’s why Eon is so clever, they are constantly reinventing him without losing touch of the original character.”

The reinvention has meant that Bond’s classic suits have undergone significant changes over the years, not least in their nationalities. Savile Row tailor Anthony Sinclair suited Sean Connery but Hemming preferred Brioni and Skyfall designer Jany Temime has dressed Daniel Craig in Tom Ford.  

Current suits hug the body to a greater extent and are less clunky than older designs, says Hemming: “The weight and suppleness of Sean Connery’s suit was immeasurably different. The early tailoring was harder and stiffer.”

Guest curator Bronwyn Cosgrave’s assertion that “Bond is ahead of contemporary” is a tricky one in light of the number of savvy, high-tech super spies and action heroes on screen today, all of which, of course, benefit from similarly monster budgets.

That being said, this exhibition renewed my love affair with the Bond franchise (even if the today’s incarnation is too serious).

There is only one costume from Skyfall – Bond girl Berenice Marlohe’s beautiful Shanghai casino dress (and Jimmy Choo shoes) – but most of the joy to be had from this exhibition comes from rekindling fond memories and coming face to face with gadgets, props and costumes that have intrigued us all - Scaramanga’s golden gun, Sinclair’s original three-piece grey-check suit, the Lotus Esprit S1, et al….

(The exhibition will travel to Toronto in October)

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