Maybe I’m biased when I say that I absolutely loved Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style at the Barbican, but you don’t need to be a die-hard Bond fan to appreciate this 50th anniversary celebration of 007 films – and a Vesper at the Martini Bar afterwards makes a visit all the more rewarding.
The extensive exhibition uses an array of film footage, costumes, set recreations, props including gadgets and weapons, photos and behind-the-scenes commentary to create an immersive experience and a genuinely exciting exploration of the creative brilliance of the Bond canon.
Designing 007, which precedes the premiere of the 23rd Bond film Skyfall, marks the longest-running film franchise of all time and exhibits the design of the films from the initial planning stages to the final edit; style which, as Fort Knox set creator and seven-time Bond set designer Sir Ken Adam noted, has always been ‘slightly ahead of contemporary’. Over 50 years, producers Harry Saltzman and the Broccoli family have created iconic scenes (from Honey Ryder’s emergence from the sea in Dr. No to Jill Masterson’s gilded death in Goldfinger) and sparked fashion movements (such as the women’s trouser suit, glamorised by Pussy Galore’s provocatively masculine style in Goldfinger).
For fashion lovers the main attraction will probably be the Casino room, which showcases the glamour of the films, oozing luxury and brimming with sumptuous fabrics in vibrant colours. Memorable Bond Girl costumes are on display throughout the exhibition, from designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Cavalli, Prada, Alaïa, Tom Ford and Frida Giannini for Gucci; shoes by Gina, YSL and Jimmy Choo; and no shortage of Swarovski crystals. The costume designers who worked with the fashion designers are also given due recognition, including Oscar-winner Lindy Hemming, Hollywood ‘fashion king’ Donfield, Emma Porteous, Tessa Welborn and Louise Frogley, to name a few. The tuxedo (synonymous with 007) takes to the stage too. As with Ian Fleming’s Bond, the look is always classic, effortlessly suave and has little to do with fashion. As Pierce Brosnan stated, ‘I put on my suits and my tailoring becomes my armour’.
Throughout the exhibition, designers reveal the processes of their work and how some looks that have lasted an era were created on the hoof, such as Honey Ryder’s white bikini in Dr. No from 1962. The now-iconic bikini was hurriedly constructed from Ursula Andress’s own bra by Tessa Welborn. Welborn covered it with cotton, added a white army belt and scabbard to the ensemble and in so doing redefined the two-piece, launched a bikini craze and later inspired Halle Berry’s citrus-orange La Perla bikini as she emerged from the sea in Die Another Day.
What is so striking about Designing 007 is the timelessness of the style. Fifty years after Dr. No, we are still harking back to those cinematic moments, the women, the cars, the exotic scenery and trying to recreate the sleek glamour, the thrill and the effortless elegance of Bond – James Bond.
Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style runs until 5 September 2012 at:
Tel: 020 7638 8891