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Lindy Hemming Talks Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style

Academy Award winning costume designer Lindy Hemming has worked on five James Bond films with Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig in the lead role. Who better then to curate an exhibition of 007 style? The most anticipated event of its kind for fans of the Bond aesthetic, gadgets, sets, cars and some unforgettable costumes, this ambitious project has been in the making for nearly a decade. Speaking exclusively to Clothes on Film, Lindy Hemming talks through her involvement with the exhibition and hints at what to expect when it opens next month in London:

‘Having worked for the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson on five Bond films over eleven years, I had wanted to either produce a book or make an exhibition of the Bond women’s costumes for some time. On Casino Royale I met up with Stephanie Wenborne who had come to be our new publicist, and she also had the same idea. She wanted to produce an exhibition for the 50th anniversary of the making of James Bond films.

Eventually, in 2009 we took the idea to the Victoria & Albert Museum, who seemed quite intrigued. However, they had decided to make an Exhibition on Hollywood costumes for 2012 (more about that event HERE), and our dates would not have worked had they decided to go ahead with us.

Cut-to mid 2011, by which time I had been working all year in America on The Dark Knight Rises (released 20th July), Stephanie once again got in touch to tell me that she had been proceeding with development of the exhibition idea and had enlisted help of Bronwyn Cosgrave (fashion historian and author) to produce a treatment. Stephanie had taken it to various parties and the Barbican Arts Centre was very interested in putting on the show to coincide with the Olympics. Was I still interested? Well, yes! So Bronwyn and I became co-guest curators. The first decision was what kind of exhibition would it be..?

The Barbican were not interested in a fashion only exhibition, which was fine, because I certainly felt that we could make a better exhibition if we approached all 22 Bonds from the point of view of the enormous amount of different kinds of design that went into them. Also at this point, we only had six months to mount an exhibition that would normally have taken two years.

Anyhow, Designing 007 became a reality and the choices of what to include were driven by the attempt to follow our brief and show at least 50% of artefacts that have not been exhibited before, attempting to represent, where possible, the whole span of the films. Costume design, Set Design, Storyboards, Marquette and Models, Props, Gadgets, Jewellery, Shoes, and Special Effects being some of the disciplines included, with about 70 mannequins and a progression in a kind of story order through the development of Bond’s world.

Very few costumes from the early films were kept, and not much of anything else, however Sir Ken Adam, the great production designer, had saved much of his design output, so we had that, plus we decided to re-create some of the iconic items, like Honor Blackman’s gold waistcoat from Goldfinger (1964), some very beautiful early evening dresses, and as everyone by now knows, some exquisite tailoring re-creation by Anthony Sinclair for our Sean Connery mannequin. There remained no pattern blocks for the Conduit cut suits made for Connery, but there are examples in the archive, only one brown 2 piece suit and one navy melton Chesterfield overcoat.

As to authenticity, we have had to rely on period knowledge, and reading anecdotes, and of course screengrabs by the hundreds. Not many really early costume designs exist, but we have drawings by Bea Bumble Dawson, Anthony Mendelson, Jaques Fonteray, Donfeld, Emma Porteous, and more. We also have some designs by fashion designers and a lot of clothes that cross over between our two similar, but so differently driven worlds.

When I was designing for Bond I took great joy in referencing the clothes from past films, or the colours. Most notably, I attempted my own take on the iconic white bikini worn by Ursula Andress in Dr. No (1962) while designing Halle Berry’s orange bikini and belt from Die Another Day (2002), and with Daniel Craig’s trunks from Casino Royale (2006) being a nod to Sean Connery’s pale blue poplin pair worn in Thunderball (1965), which are being re created for me by Sunspel. The white bikini has been loaned to us for the exhibition and it is the first time it has been exhibited.

I don t want to give too much away until we open, but suffice to say there are Bond women and villainesses aplenty. Because I worked on the films for such a long period, I am very well represented!’

With thanks to Lindy Hemming.

Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style runs from 6th July to 5th September. Tickets can be booked through the Barbican website.

© 2012 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.