c.2015 New York Times News Service
c.2015 New York Times News Service
LONDON — For spies as for CEOs, the rule of thumb is evidently the same: Dress for the job you want.
“Kingsman: The Secret Service,” a British spy caper starring Colin Firth, had its premiere here Wednesday night. Firth plays Harry Hart (code name: Galahad), a member of an elite private team of spies who battle evil (a lisping billionaire played by Samuel L. Jackson) and save the world — all from a secret headquarters at the Kingsman tailor shop, in the cozy confines of Savile Row.
As Galahad deflects bullets with a Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella, or clicks his George Cleverley heels to reveal a knife secreted in the toe of his oxford shoe, it becomes clear: Clothes make the man.
Kingsman training, which involves a regimen of sky diving, dog training and death defying, is not available to the common man. But in an unexpected twist to the script, the Kingsman wardrobe is.
The clothes that are so essential to “Kingsman: The Secret Service” are on sale now, thanks to a partnership among the film’s director, Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”); its costume designer, Arianne Phillips; and the website Mr Porter.
The clothing was, from the very beginning, at the core of the film.
“When I wrote the script, I was actually having a suit made,” Vaughn said. “You feel a bit weird looking at yourself in the mirror when they’re working. My imagination kicked in.”
(Huntsman, Vaughn’s Savile Row tailor, at whose mirrors the seed was planted, was eventually cast as the on-screen Kingsman shop.)
Vaughn brought in Phillips, the Oscar-nominated costume designer, to create the clothes, which from the first were intended to be sold as a stand-alone fashion collection — one not inspired by the film but used within it.
Phillips said that the clothes’ centrality to the story and their life off-screen piqued her interest.
“It’s not creating a lipstick for a cute romantic comedy, or a juniors line based on a teen musical or something like that,” she said.
Mr Porter, the menswear destination of Net-a-Porter, signed on at the outset.
“I’d always thought it’d be so amazing to work with someone in the film industry and make something happen like this,” said Natalie Massenet, the founder and executive chairman of the Net-a-Porter Group, who spent the early part of her career in Los Angeles, working in fashion but in proximity to film. “You say yes right away.”
Phillips had begun her Savile Row education years earlier while working on the costumes for “W.E.,” the Windsor and Wallis biopic that was the directorial debut of Madonna, whom she has long styled. Using English fabrics and English cuts (in particular, the double-breasted suit) she designed the Kingsman collection.
Double-breasted suiting, said Toby Bateman, the buying director of Mr Porter, doesn’t sell as well as single-breasted, but it gave the collection a selling point and a connection to British tailoring traditions.
“If you were making a film about Italian spies,” Bateman said, “you probably wouldn’t put them in double-breasted suits.”
The collection, which is available exclusively on Mr Porter, ranges from $650 for flannel trousers to $2,495 for a wool suit. It is rounded out by items created in tandem with classic English brands, including Cleverley for shoes, Drake’s for ties and pocket squares, and Turnbull & Asser for shirting.
The niggling question is whether men who gravitate to traditional labels along the lines of Turnbull & Asser will be drawn in or repelled by the prospect of dressing like an action-film star. Ultimately, the clothes will need to stand on their own, independent of the film — fittingly, since Bateman arrived at Kingsman’s London Fashion Week presentation in a suit from the second Kingsman collection, well before a second Kingsman film has been confirmed.
“I don’t expect anyone to simply buy a suit or buy a shirt because it’s got a connection to a film,” he said. “It might bring attention to the collection, but it’s not necessarily the incentive to buy.”
But Phillips’ experience suggests that interest will follow.
“I’ve been working with Madonna for 17 years,” she said. “You would assume that I have a lot of inquiry about the costumes she wears, which I certainly do. But nothing compares to a couple films I’ve done. When men identify with a costume they want to own, it’s almost like teenage girls. I actually had someone show up at my front door once, which was disturbing, asking me to make me a costume like Brandon Lee wore.” She was referring to the cult film “The Crow.” (The most sought-after piece of her career is a leather jacket she designed for “3:10 to Yuma.”)
Vaughn recalled an early fashion education through film, in the hazy pre-Internet days.
“You really watched these films and bands, and copied what they’re wearing,” he said. “Like Richard Gere in ‘Pretty Woman’ in Cerruti. I’d never heard of Cerruti.”