A Visit to Designing 007

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I spent Wednesday afternoon at the Barbican’s Designing 007, curated by Neil McConnon with guest curators Bronwyn Cosgrave and Lindy Hemming. Pieces from all Bonds are represented, with some of the tailors and brands included being Anthony Sinclair, Brioni, Douglas Hayward, Tom Ford, Turnbull & Asser, Sulka and Bogner. I’ll try not to give away too much in my review. Dinner jackets and ski suits have the most representation in the exhibition, each with their own rooms, but other clothing pieces find their way scattered throughout the exhibition.

It’s the magnificent casino room that features of a number of black tie outfits from throughout the series. The lighting is such that it proves midnight blue indeed looks blacker than black under artificial light. The current Anthony Sinclair firm, including David Mason and Richard Paine (who apprenticed with Anthony Sinclair and Cyril Castle), recreated the Dr. No dinner suit in a true midnight blue cloth as Connery’s was, and only in close comparison to a true black does it look anything but black. The recreation of this dinner suit also featured a link-button* front, which was not seen on the original. This had to be done, according to David Mason, because of the extreme difficulty to fit a mannequin they had not been able to see beforehand. It’s not an ideal situation to say the least, just the same as it would be to fit a customer for a suit he had never seen in person. The awkward pose of the Sean Connery mannequin leaning on the Aston Martin posed different challenges, but in the end Mason did an excellent job elegantly fitting the two suits his firm recreated for the exhibition.

After seeing some clothes in person, it shows just how little can be relied on on-screen colours. There weren’t many surprises, but the blue ski suit from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was much lighter than it looked on screen. The notes called it “sky blue.” That difference could also explain some inconsistent colours between the old DVDs and the newer Blu-ray releases. The notch-lapel dinner jacket in The Living Daylights (incorrectly labeled as from Licence to Kill) was revealed to have a slubby, silk texture. The Quantum of Solace dinner suit also revealed some oddities: the silk gauntlet cuffs only wrap around the outside half of the sleeve and the trousers have turn-ups, a serious black tie faux-pas.

Sean Connery’s swimming trunks, beautifully recreated by Sunspel, are based on a picture of Connery taken behind the scenes, not of any he actually wore in any of the Bond films. The trunks are actually from Woman of Straw, not Thunderball as stated in the exhibition’s notes.

There’s a good mix of original pieces and re-creations for the exhibition, both of Bond’s clothes and of other characters’ clothes. Some of the other pieces most worth seeing I’ll leave to surprise you on your own visit. Photos are not allowed, but a good representation of the exhibition can be found here. Only the Aston Martin with the Sean Connery mannequin outside the exhibition (pictured above) can be photographed. And don’t hesitate to bring along your wife, girlfriend or mother because there are numerous examples of the female characters’ costumes as well. In addition to the costume, there are many iconic props and set pieces as well, which would impress any Bond fan. Overall, the exhibition is presented in a modern and sophisticated way that fully suits the Bond aesthetic.


*A link button is an extra button on a long thread shank sewn on the reverse side opposite the ordinary fastening button. It is brought forward and used instead of the regular button to fasten the front together without overlapping, making the front of the jacket symmetrical.

10 COMMENTS

  1. What is your impression about the re-creations of Goldfinger suit?
    Seems like the original of 60s?
    Om very curious about this.
    Now that (with “Mad Men”) the sharp look is back would be fantastic if Sinclair’s firm offered to his customers a silhouette like that original of Anthony Sinclair of 1960s.

    • It’s a very good recreation and is as close as anyone can get. But I don’t think a mannequin leaning on a car truly shows off the beauty of the cut. It’s much better seen on the Dr. No dinner suit. Sinclair’s cut is nothing like the “Mad Men” look. That was American tailoring, whilst Sinclair was English and didn’t cut such a close-fitting suit. Narrow lapels and tapered trousers are all that they have in common, but they differ considerably where it truly matters.

  2. Yes,obviously.
    Also Italian cut of 60s was different to American mad “men look”.
    I should said: “now that narrow lapels and slender trousers are again in fashion”.

    • Okay. You did write silhouette, which is markedly different. I’d love to see trousers like Connery’s come back into fashion, because those too were quite a bit different from the tighter-fitting trousers that were popular in America in the 1960s. Trousers with pleats had almost completely disappeared in America in the 1960s, though all of Connery’s suit trousers had them in the 1960s. Anthony Sinclair still does do a Conduit Cut suit like Connery’s made bespoke. That cut doesn’t lend itself too easily to a ready to wear suit, or even made-to-measure. They also have a Special Order suit which has an updated, slightly trimmer cut, closer to a typical Savile Row suit. Lapel width can vary, and that’s the easiest thing to do. English tailoring has always been trim and neat no matter the era, Anderson & Sheppard notwithstanding.

  3. My impression is that the conduit cut is very similar to the neat and trim Milanese school of 60s.

    Also in Italy trousers had always pleats in 60s.

    • You’re right. Thanks for posting that image, those are really nice suits. The cut is very similar, though the chest is a little cleaner and trimmer and the jacket fits closer through the waist. The trousers in the Italian suits have reverse pleats whilst Connery’s trousers always had forward pleats, which come out a bit neater in my opinion. But there’s nothing unusually trim about these suit; they are simply well-tailored suits. Even though those are from the early 1960s, nothing about those suits dates them to the 1960s or any other decade; they are true classics. The cut of Connery’s suits also has little to do with 1960s trends. Anthony Sinclair was doing the same cut in the 1950s. I have a sports coat from the 1980s that looks very similar to the one on the right. They don’t resemble the “slim-fit” trend that has been popular the last few years at all.

  4. Thanks for your precious comments.
    Is interesting compare similar cuts from different cities.
    Here,from the left: a Roman two buttons (1962) ,a Neapolitan two buttons (1960) and a Milanese two buttons (1962).
    Milan suit is more close to conduit cut,Roman is neat but in mid of the road,and Neapolitan is a more bit spirited.
    Sicilian cut,for some reason is more similar to Milanese cut (maybe the strong British influence on the region).
    Anjway,Milan have always looked to London….see the Milan Metropolitan police in 60s,for exemple…..

    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/850/ghisa60.jpg/
    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/689/99199386.jpg/

  5. Matt, do you think that some books available at the “souvenir corner” of this Bond style exposition are interesting ? In term of Bond’s clothing / tailoring, I mean. Or are they just things for tourists, with a lot of trite remarks about men’s clothing ? I am asking you that because I can’t go to London before the end of the exposition but a friend of mine (not particulary interested in clothing) is there. Thanks a lot.

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