Dressing Bond, a Serious Matter

by Chikashi

I like Daniel Craig as James Bond. I was not too keen on Pierce Brosnan, so I was looking forward to his replacement. I admit that I was very sceptical when Craig was announced as the new Bond. However, his performance in Casino Royale blew away my scepticism. Quantum of Solace had a disappointing script, but Skyfall delivered well beyond expectation. I actually think Craig is an excellent Bond. He is not Sean Connery, but why would Craig, or anyone else, be Connery? There is only one Sean Connery, so we should all get over it.

That said, there has been something of a sartorial tradition in Bond films that was firmly based on the works of London tailors such as Anthony Sinclair, Dimi Major and Douglas Hayward. Then, something went terribly wrong when Timothy Dalton became Bond: one couldn’t help thinking that the costume department went shopping with just a few dollars at an American mall, resulting in a very accomplished actor in the wrong gig, wearing some dreadful kit. Disaster all round.

When Brosnan became Bond, the franchise started on a recovery of sorts with Brioni. I never warmed up to the idea of an Italian house dressing Bond (and going all suburban by driving a BMW of all things), but it must be acknowledged that Brioni is preferable to whatever Dalton was wearing. Brioni was the methadone after the heroin: not ideal but a step in the right direction.

I appreciate the commercial reality of producing a costly film where product placement deals have become an important part of funding the production and keeping the funding structure simple for the studio and rights owners. The size of these deals necessarily eliminates the possibility of any genuine London bespoke tailoring house dressing Bond; none of them can afford it. It is a bit sad, but it is what it is. However, Bond ought to be dressed properly regardless, by someone who understands patterns, tailoring and perhaps most importantly, dressing. If the fit is wrong and the suit does not flatter the actor’s form, then what is the point?

Tom Ford has made the floating coat collar into a trade mark of sorts. He is usually seen in snapshots wearing one of his own designs with the coat collar up in the air, floating somewhere behind his neck, instead of hugging the shirt collar. He consistently looks as though he shops for suits at a thrift shop, wearing a jacket that was made for someone else. Since he signed up to dress Bond, he has provided Craig with floating coat collars, presumably to let everyone know that Craig is wearing Tom Ford.

It is very rare that vertical integration works well when component makers expand downstream to the finished goods business. They may achieve commercial success, but product success is rare. Zegna, the money and machine behind the Tom Ford label, are cloth weavers. They are good at weaving cloth. Their suits? There are many fans, particularly of the premier line made in the Swiss workshop. However, a beautiful hand-worked buttonhole cannot make up for shortcomings in measuring, fitting and pattern adjustments. And it certainly does not compensate for Ford’s failure to flatter Craig’s form.

Craig is built like a tank. I read somewhere that Craig had a lot of input in designing the wardrobe with Ford. Even if it were true, Ford’s job would have been to coax and steer Craig towards details that will flatter his form rather than make him look like an ape. It simply does not work to dress him in suits that are cut like those things from high street brands favoured by twig-like 20-something hipsters. The floating coat collar is distracting, but it is only a distraction compared to the comprehensive failure of the suits.

Harsh words, I admit, but it is a serious matter when it comes to dressing 007, no?

In Casino Royale, Brioni’s suits for Craig actually flattered his form. The coat sleeves were a touch too long for my taste, but that is picking nits. And, no, one would not mistake those suits as examples of a London cut. However, they looked good on Craig. I wish I could say the same about the Ford suits Craig wore in Skyfall.

Dressing Bond should be taken a bit more seriously and executed competently. We are not talking about dressing Forrest Gump or Derek Zoolander. The quality of Bond’s wardrobe matters.

The saving grace is that Ralph Fiennes was dressed rather well by my friend Timothy Everest. I suppose that Gareth Mallory, as Bond’s boss, would likely be dressed better than Bond in the real world, but this is the world of fantasy. Bond needs a better wardrobe, a proper London tailor rather than a dress designer. The Bond wardrobe is a matter that is as serious as funding the production.

Babs, please do something. It’s not an option to have Bond be well clothed but poorly dressed. I can hear Fleming spinning in his grave.

Update: It turns out Patrick Grant of Norton & Sons agrees with me (and a few other people).