Costume designer Lindy Hemming is a veteran of five James Bond movies—she has designed clothes for both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig over the past decade and a half. She spoke to Indulge about her association with Agent 007 and the difference in approach needed to dress both the actors. Edited excerpts:
ON HER ASSOCIATION WITH JAMES BOND:
When I designed the costume for Bond for the first time, it was for Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye, and it was the 1990s. There had not been a James Bond since Timothy Dalton, who had been styled in a very late 1980s kind of way.
The idea was to rediscover the old elegant Bond. All of us—me, the producers and director Martin Campbell—we all felt that we needed to follow the original intention of the James Bond books—a man who “effortlessly inhabits his own skin” and wears his classic, and pretty timeless, British wardrobe with ease. This ability, we must assume, comes from the confidence he has in his own social background, class, physical build and prowess and his naval training.
When an audience sees Bond, (and this holds true for all the characters that a costume designer clothes), it must believe that he could really exist and, although they may love and covet his tailoring, which foremost should contribute to our believing in him and his ability to pass through all kinds of situations, among all kinds of different people, without being too exotic, or fashionable, or noticeable, because…he is a spy.
ON HOW TO FIND THE CHARACTER IN AN ACTOR:
Finding a “character” with an actor involves researching who he is, where he has come from, how much money he has, what his occupation is, etc. This could be quite tedious. It is, however, how I work, and how the most brilliant actors work. Daniel Day Lewis, Robert de Niro, Christian Bale, to name a few. It probably is obsessive, but it’s the way you help the actor to create a character. And James Bond is no different.
ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BROSNAN AND DANIEL CRAIG, THE LATEST JAMES BOND:
I would say the most important difference is that there is a different actor playing Bond, and I’m surprised you don’t say that. How could Daniel Craig play Bond in the same way as Brosnan? They look completely different, they move differently, and the way they choose to play the character is, obviously, different, too.
More interesting is the purpose behind the change of actor. The producers must have hoped to take Bond in a different direction, and to attract a new audience.
As far as costume was concerned for Craig, he was younger, smaller, built in a way that was reflective of the more modern influences on men. He, therefore, had to have a redesign, different shapes of tailoring, and different accessories. These needed to appeal to a new audience who had more interest in men’s fashion.
His suits became tighter and meaner, and his casual wear more fashion-sport style. Hence his La Perla Grigio trunks, in the slightly tongue-in-cheek emergence from the waves, following the Ursula Andress and Halle Berry bikini scenes in Dr. No and Die Another Day.
Also his Sunspel polo shirts and his new Omega Seamaster with a black rubber strap for the water sequences.
ON WHETHER JAMES BOND IS A STYLE ICON:
I don’t see Bond himself as a trend setter; he is a classic luxury dresser. He likes his clothes to be perfect for whatever occasion. It’s the women in Bond movies who change according to fashion.
ON HOW TO DRESS LIKE BOND:
It is perfectly feasible for a man to dress like Bond, and it need not cost millions. But the main ingredients are difficult to find in India. The standard of tailoring now available in Italy and, to an extent, in Britain, is so lightweight, cool and perfectly fitted, and companies such as Brioni, Tom Ford and Ermenegildo Zegna have advanced so far with fabrics and tailoring that it is difficult for any regular tailor to emulate.
Of course, handmade Church’s shoes, shirts from Turnbull and Asser and underwear from Sunspel can be bought. But nowadays many other brands are as good; maybe they just don’t have the Bond association though.
Accessories are easy, and a pair of lovely gold antique monogrammed cufflinks on a perfectly fitting cuff, just showing an inch below your jacket sleeve, and above your Omega watch, should not be too hard to achieve.
ON HOW TO CHOOSE BRANDS FOR BOND:
My rule in choosing brands is that they can only appear on screen if I find them doing justice to the character. I have never used any brand for any other reason. Keep it all real. Don’t insult the audience; they are very savvy and they see bad product placement from a mile away. I think the modern Bond, played first by Brosnan and then by Craig could have worn clothes from Aquascutum, Burberry and Dunhill, and, now, as some of our British tailors are revamping their methods of production, maybe that tailoring could come back to the UK.
Incidentally, at the giant Bond Design and Style Exhibition at the Barbican Arts Centre in London to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bond movies, the original tailor of Sean Connery’s suits—the newly revived Anthony Sinclair Company—reproduced the conduit-cut gray Prince of Wales three-piece suit worn in Goldfinger, and the stunning midnight-blue tuxedo worn by Bond at the casino in Dr No. Maybe they could once again dress the next Bond.
ON HOW SHE WOULD DRESS THE NEW BOND:
If I were costuming the new Bond, it would be well into the future as Craig has several more films to go…but what I do will depend entirely on who the actor is, and what the story is about. I can guarantee, though, that there will be many multiples of whatever I choose, as the stunts will only get more complicated, requiring more identical versions of each costume.
(As told to Sidin Vadukut via email)