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.