Saturday, 25 February 2012

The birth of the Conduit Cut

The classic lines of the contemporary Conduit Cut

During the 1950s, Anthony Sinclair established a successful bespoke tailoring business in London's Mayfair district, an area long renowned for exclusive shops, hotels, clubs and restaurants.

Although Sinclair did not produce military uniform, his clientele included a number of British Army officers who called upon him to craft their civilian attire (mufti). They favoured slim, cavalry-cut trousers, paired with a single-breasted coat with a firm but natural shoulder.

The coat was cut for ease of movement, with a degree of chest drape and generous sleeves topped with signature roping. The waist was nipped, ensuring that the buttoned-up coat remained close and neat, and the flared skirt over the hips balanced the shape (styling cues undoubtedly taken from the hacking jacket - a garment more than familiar to Sinclair's sporting gentlemen).

The hourglass shape created by Anthony Sinclair suited the athletic physiques of the military men. It was a style distinctly at odds with the boxy, double-breasted suits popular at the time, and became fondly referred to as the "Conduit Cut", after Sinclair's Mayfair premises at 29 Conduit Street.

Whilst the Conduit Cut has evolved subtly over time, it retains the key elements of style and function that set Anthony Sinclair's tailoring apart from that of his peers a half-century ago. It is a classic design, best formed from plain or subtle patterns of worsted, mohair or flannel cloth, so embracing Sinclair's clear and simple philosophy of presenting a well-dressed man.

One of Sinclair's British Army clients was Irish Guards officer, Terence Young, who went onto a career in the film industry, famously directing the first ever Bond film, Dr. No.

The son of a Police Commissioner of the Shanghai Municipal Police, Young was born in China and educated at public school; then, just like the fictional James Bond, he read Oriental History at St. Catherine's College, Cambridge. 

To many, Terence Young WAS James Bond. There is little doubt that he fitted the character's profile perfectly - the erudite, sophisticated lady killer, dressed in bespoke finery, always witty, well-versed in all matters of style and taste ... a well-travelled man of the world. He was the perfect man to prepare unknown Scottish actor Sean Connery for the leading role in Dr. No.

Author Robert Cotton outlined the story:

When Connery arrived, far before filming began, Young saw his best opportunity to mould the actor to his own image. As Lois Maxwell related in one of Connery's many biographies, "Terence took Sean under his wing. He took him to dinner, showed him how to walk, how to talk, even how to eat." Some cast members remarked that Connery was simply doing a Terence Young impression, but Young and Connery knew they were on the right track. Then, late in pre-production, when Connery was almost ready to make his debut, Young took Connery on a lunchtime trip into London, to his own tailor, Anthony Sinclair. It was time for Connery to "put on the suit" as it were. It was time for Connery to become James Bond.  

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Original Bond Girl

Ursula Andress and the famous white bikini

Ursula Andress was born on March 19, 1936 in Ostermundigen, Berne, Switzerland. Her career began as a nude art model in Rome, which led to her first roles in the Italian movie industry.

She became instantly famous around the world following her appearance as Honey Ryder, a shell diver and James Bond's object of desire in Dr. No (1962). In one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history, she rises out of the Caribbean Sea in a white bikini. The scene made Andress a global sex-symbol, and for many she remains the ultimate Bond Girl. The performance was emulated by Halle Berry, who wore an orange bikini and white belt in the 2002 Bond film, Die Another Day.

Andress's skimpy white outfit is regarded as monumental in the history of the bikini, and sales of two-piece beachwear rocketed after the release of Dr. No. The white, hipster-style design, featured a wide British Army belt with brass buckle and fittings, and a scabbard on the left side to hold a large diving knife. The original was auctioned in 2001 at Christie's auction house in London, and sold for £35,000 to Robert Earl, the owner of the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain.

Andress won a 1964 Golden Globe "New Star of the Year" award for her performance in Dr. No, but her voice wasn't actually heard in the film. Although she is fluent in English, French, Italian and German, her accent was considered too strong and was dubbed, with speech provided by Nikki van der Zyl, and the calypso by English actress Diana Coupland. She made a further Bond Girl appearance as Vesper Lynd in the 1967 James Bond parody Casino Royale in which her own voice was used.


The famous beach scene in Dr. No is said to have been inspired by Botticelli's Renaissance painting, The Birth of Venus, in which the Roman goddess of love and beauty emerges from the sea on an open shell.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (1486)