Saturday, 19 May 2012

Recreating a Masterpiece (Part 004) The Measures

Precis of previous blogs:

To help celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the Bond films, the Barbican in London is hosting an exhibition entitled, "Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style". However, most of the clothes made for the first actor, Sean Connery, have long disappeared, and so EON, the film's producers, have approached Anthony Sinclair to request faithful reproductions of some of the pieces originally made by the company. These include the famous evening suit worn by Connery in his first appearance as James Bond in the 1962 film "Dr. No", along with everyone's favourite - the grey Prince of Wales three-piece "Goldfinger Suit". The records of production of these suits have also vanished from Sinclair's archives, and so, with the help of the exhibition's curators, the specifications for the remakes are being put together piece by piece. The cloth has been chosen and the design determined, the next step is to establish a set of measurements.

Sinclair gets the measure of Connery

Following the release of "You Only Live Twice" in 1967, Sean Connery insisted that he had no intention of renewing his license to kill, and was replaced by Australian actor George Lazenby for the 1969 film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (OHMSS).  Lazenby had done his best to get into character prior to his audition for the role of James Bond, and actually arrived at the casting wearing an Anthony Sinclair bespoke suit. Whilst this would have ensured that he looked the part for the screen test, it was as close as Sinclair's tailoring got to the film production. The new Bond got a new tailor (Dimi Major of Fulham), the silver Aston DB5 was traded-in for an olive green DBS and to even greater surprise, the hero swapped bachelorhood for marriage.

A new look and fresh ideas were clearly considered to be important factors in trying to keep the James Bond franchise alive. You Only Live Twice had received mixed reviews, with a Variety magazine writer asking of the series, "Can it go on indefinitely?" However, the press did not react well to the changes that transpired, and although OHMSS was by no means a commercial disaster, the worldwide box office figures for this new Bond adventure were approximately half that of the previous film.

Lazenby wore a Sinclair suit for his casting - it worked.

In 1971, Sean Connery was coaxed into returning to the role of 007 for another EON production, "Diamonds Are Forever", which also saw the return of his tailor, Anthony Sinclair. The film was a success, reversing the fortunes of the Bond franchise, but the suits produced by Sinclair were to be the last he ever made for Connery ... or James Bond.

Connery's successor, Roger Moore, was to employ the services of Cyril Castle who had produced the tailoring for Moore's television appearances as Simon Templar in "The Saint" and Brett Sinclair in "The Persuaders". James Bond didn't have to travel far to visit his new tailor - Sinclair's address was no.29 Conduit Street, and Castle's premises were located opposite at no.42.

Roger Moore being fitted by Cyril Castle

Not only did Anthony Sinclair and Cyril Castle operate their business from the same Mayfair street, the other coincidence was that they had both, at different times, employed and trained a young apprentice tailor called Richard W Paine. Anthony retired in 1986, handing his shears down to Richard who continued to run the Sinclair business until 2005, when sudden illness forced him to cease trading. Thankfully, a recent improvement in health has allowed his return to the cutting room, offering his incomparable technical knowledge, experience and ability to the relaunched company, and there is no man alive more qualified than Richard to cut authentic reproductions of the suits worn by Connery as Bond.

Unfortunately, over forty years have elapsed since the original paper pattern was used, and given that the business has changed location four times during that period, along with several years of dormancy, it is understandable but regrettable that all records of Connery's work, including his pattern, have been lost. Even if Sir Sean were to step back into the fitting room it wouldn't help. Whilst the years have been kind to him, his figure is unlikely to be exactly as it was in the 1960's. Some kind of reference material from the time was desperately needed in order to create a true representation of the famous suits.

In January 2011, the company had received a call from British television producers Channel 4 who were piloting a new series that involved guests bringing interesting collectibles onto the show to be valued and then auctioned. A gentleman had brought an old suit along, and the producers needed to estimate its value. The label inside the in-breast pocket of the jacket showed that the garment was one of five "repeat" orders that had been made by Anthony Sinclair in 1966 for none other than Sean Connery Esq.

The label inside the in-breast pocket proved the provenance of the suit
The person who was planning to take part in the show had found the suit in the back of his mother's wardrobe. His father had worked at Pinewood Studios in the 1960's and happened to be a similar size to Sean Connery. He'd been involved in the production of You Only Live Twice and was in need of a new suit, so when filming was complete he managed to persuade the wardrobe department to sell him one of the multiple number of identical grey herringbone suits that had been prepared for 007 (the budget for this film, the 5th in the series, had grown and the practice of making several copies of each costume had begun - in the event that one or more could possibly be destroyed by special effects or action scenes).

Bond artefacts do appear at auction from time to time, but items of Sean Connery's wardrobe from his tenure as 007 are extremely rare - and expensive. The costume was limited in the early films, and Connery was fond of Sinclair's tailoring, reportedly keeping hold of many of the suits for his personal use. When EON Productions contacted the company in late 2011 to request reworks of the original suits, it was hoped that the grey herringbone number would still be available, or that perhaps the owner would be kind enough to loan the piece in order to allow measurements to be taken from it. Unfortunately, the company was too late to act and the suit had been sold.

Connery puts his grey herringbone suit to the test in You Only Live Twice
Fearing that the precious item may now be many thousands of miles away it was a great relief to discover that it had been bought by a young man who worked in the City of London, in fact his office is located minutes away from the Barbican - the venue for the upcoming exhibition.

The necessary introductions were made and the new owner kindly offered to loan his prized possession to the company. It would now be possible to take direct measurements from the original outfit and "reverse-engineer" a pattern that could be used as the basis for the re-creations.

On Saturday 19th May, the suit came home to its makers, and there to greet it was the man charged with the job of drafting the replacement pattern, Mr. Richard W Paine. The company now had everything required to begin the process of cutting and making the suits in time for the exhibition.

Richard W Paine examines the original article


Monday, 7 May 2012

Recreating a Masterpiece (Part 003) POW

In addition to the reproduction of the midnight-blue evening suit worn by Sean Connery in Dr. No, Anthony Sinclair has been commissioned to remake another piece of Bond's original wardrobe for the upcoming exhibition at the Barbican, Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style.

The curators of the exhibition and the tailoring firm agree that an event showcasing Bond style could not be complete without the inclusion of 007's most popular outfit - the three-piece costume often referred to as the "Goldfinger Suit".

Sean Connery (007), Honor Blackman (Pussy) and the Goldfinger Suit

Released in 1964, Goldfinger was the third film in the Bond series and the first of the 007 blockbusters, having a budget of over $3 million (the equivalent of the previous two movies combined). It met with both critical acclaim, receiving Academy, Grammy and BAFTA awards, and commercial success, breaking box office records and recouping costs in the first two weeks of distribution.

The increased production expenditure  afforded Sean Connery the pleasure of a wardrobe upgrade for his third outing as 007, which included a matching waistcoat for one of the five suits made by Anthony Sinclair for the film. The result was arguably the most famous set of conventional clothes ever worn by a man on screen.

The cloth chosen for the iconic three-piece ensemble is often mistaken for pick & pick or sharkskin, a semi-plain design used to make many of Bond's suits - but not this one. The pattern selected was actually a subtle Glenurquhart check, usually referred to as Glen plaid in the United States or, more universally, Prince of Wales check ... often abbreviated in tailor's notes as "POW".

There is a common misconception that the pattern was named as a result of the Duke of Windsor wearing the design in the early 1900's when he was Prince of Wales but, whilst he did much to popularise it, the story dates much further back in history.

The Duke of Windsor in Prince of Wales check

The origin of the classic black and white check actually lies in the valley of Glen Urquhart in the Scottish Highlands. It is a pattern adopted in the 1800's by Caroline, Countess of Seafield, to be worn by her gamekeepers on the Seafield Estate.

It was during a hunting trip to the Estate that another young royal, Edward VII (Queen Victoria's son and grandfather of the Duke of Windsor) became attracted to the design when he was Prince of Wales - a title he held for almost 60 years, being the longest serving heir-apparent.

Edward lived a life of luxury that was often far removed from that of the majority of his subjects. However, his personal charm with people at all levels of society and his strong condemnation of prejudice went some way to assuage republican and racial tensions building during his lifetime.

The Prince was renowned for his elegant, sporting style, and regarded internationally as the most influential male fashion figure of the 19th century. He adapted the Glenurquhart design to his own specifications, creating a larger scale black and white pattern which became known as Prince of Wales check.

Edward, Prince of Wales, wearing the eponymous pattern
The famous cloth design continued to evolve throughout the 20th century, falling in and out of fashion along the way. It was sometimes woven as a large-scale check from widely contrasting shades of yarn to dramatic effect, and conversely in reduced size with similar yarn tones to create the subtlest of patterns.

Prince of Wales cloth was soon produced in a broad range of colours beyond the original monochromatic shades of grey, but the most significant development came with the introduction of a windowpane check that overlaid the basic pattern. This over-check was usually woven with a different colour to the ground design, and the most popular combinations remain today as blue or pink over grey.

The more distinct, large-scale checks incorporating clearly defined windowpanes were prevalent in the 1940's and 1950's, complimenting the square, boxier styles of suits worn during that era. They grew to over-scaled dimensions during the excessive styling period of the 1970's, returning to more original (but still large) proportion in the 1980's, suiting the wide-shouldered look of the time.  

Cary Grant (Fleming's choice for Bond) in over-checked POW
By 1964, Sean Connery had established himself in the role of James Bond and even earned the approval of 007's creator, Ian Fleming, who was originally against the choice of actor on the grounds that he was "unrefined". Connery had proved that he could present himself otherwise, aided, by no short measure, with the sublime tailoring skills of Anthony Sinclair, who was again called upon to provide Bond's suits for Goldfinger. On this occasion, Sinclair was to surpass even his own high standards.

The prelude to the unveiling of Sinclair's sartorial masterpiece is a scene in which Bond returns to consciousness aboard Goldfinger's private jet. He is unshaven and somewhat dishevelled after being tranquilised. He retires to the bathroom to refresh himself in preparation for the meeting with his nemesis. The destination is Goldfinger's horse ranch in Kentucky, and by a stroke of remarkable luck, the perfect outfit for the rendezvous had been packed.

Connery emerges clean-shaven and immaculately attired, illustrating pride in himself and due respect for his adversary, albeit someone who has just recently spared him his life. As he prepares to step back into another dangerous situation, his psychological body-armour is reinforced by another layer - a breastplate in the form of a beautifully tailored waistcoat. It is tastefully adorned with a slim lapel; a fine tailoring detail reminiscent of the turn-back cuff applied to the Dr. No evening suit, adding a note of elegance and touch of class. Bond's new look is invincible ... and irresistible (witnessed by the eventual succumbing of the sapphically inclined Pussy).

The perfect choice of cloth had been made; suitably light in weight for the warm conditions, and appropriately light in colour given the informal setting. The pattern selection, Prince of Wales check, is exactly right for the sporting environment of Goldfinger's stud farm. Small in scale and devoid of windowpane or colour, the cloth was woven from the subtlest of yarn combinations to produce a design so delicate it is barely visible - fitting and apt given Anthony Sinclair's philosophy that, "less is more".

How did you manage to make me look so good?


The cloth selected for the recreation of the Goldfinger suit is to be provided by another of Anthony Sinclair's earliest suppliers, Holland & Sherry. Their reference number 749/016 is a 10 ounce Super 120's worsted and a perfect match to the original in terms of colour and design.