This Summer We’re Channelling: Léa Seydoux and Daniel Craig in “Spectre”

Léa Seydoux and Daniel Craig. Jonathan Olley/ SPECTRE © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq,
LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

This Summer We’re Channelling: a recurring seasonal series
in the journal that celebrates both style in film and summertime.

 
 
There is a distinctly touristic element to the action in Spectre. The far-flung worldwide locations have always been part of the public’s fascination with the Bond films, and one of the strengths of the movie franchise, but in this one in particular that exotic undertone is even more deeply felt. The sun-drenched, warm and lively scenes from Mexico (that beautiful five minute one shot that opens the film) and especially North Africa, filled with sounds and colours, are a world apart from the grey, numb, cold and unpopulated city scapes of London. Spectre, tying together legend and narrative development, is both a return to form, but also firmly planted in our 21st century dim reality that is taking more and more hold of us.

“Skyfall was a very dark picture because of the locations – a lot of it was shot at night or underground – and because of what Bond was going through as a character. I wanted a more proactive Bond, with more locations, and a greater variety of tone,” director Sam Mendes remarks in the book The James Bond Archives.

The film clearly portrays a post-Snowden world, a world under mass surveillance due to the proliferation of digital data collection. The story is centered on Bond’s setting out to dismantle Spectre, the global criminal organisation behind the villainy of many Bond films. But Spectre also refers to a ghost from Bond’s past. The sub-plot however has to do with a very contemporary and one of the biggest present-day concerns: the unification of global surveillance and the rapid growth of drone warfare, with agent C (Andrew Scott) planning to merge all espionage agencies and shutting down the double-0 program. Both the program and James Bond are considered “old world”. So they must go… but not so fast.

This “new era” scenario also describes the direction of the Daniel Craig Bond films, in view of the latest years’ revisionist changes brought to characters and story. And, despite my repeatedly stated appreciation of both new type of Bond and multi-dimensional Bond girl, it was the less pronounced psychological realism and the nostalgic feel of Spectre, anchored in those dreamy locations, that felt like a breath of fresh air this time.
 
 

Léa Seydoux and Daniel Craig. Jonathan Olley/ SPECTRE © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq,
LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.

 
And it all begins with the costumes and with the fact that there is much less explicit product placement, at least as far as the women’s wardrobes are concerned, in Spectre than in the previous four Daniel Craig films. Because as much as I appreciated Eva Green’s designer dresses in Casino Royale and their effective role in the plot, I still prefer proper costume design to off-the-rack shopping for a film.

Madeleine Swann (Bond’s love interest played by Léa Seydoux) wears almost exclusively custom made clothes, from the suit in Austria, to the incredibly simple and sexy sea foam gown on the train in North Africa, according to costume designer Jany Temime in a press conference after the North American film premiere in Mexico City.

We first see Madeleine at work, at her desk in the Hoffler Klinik on Gaislachkogl Mountain. She is a psychologist in an important clinic, but she is also the daughter of one of Bond’s former enemies, a Mr. White. She wears black trousers, an elegant black silk top and a charcoal grey blazer. She has a formal, rigid demeanor, very businesslike. She is smart and independent, and because of her father, her relationship with Bond is complicated from the very beginning, elements that qualify her from the start as a non-typical Bond girl. Then we see her travelling through Africa, on the way to Tangier. Naturally, her look is different. For start, a knee-length lightweight crème dress, white sandals and, one of the few recognizable brand products in the film, a brown Chloé saddle bag. And, as a matter of fact, it is a bag that makes perfect sense, not just because it is a type of bag suitable for travelling, but because of the location and of the brand itself. All the crème/white outfits Madeleine wears in Africa could very well be Chloé.

Gaby Aghion, the founder of Chloé, borrowed the name of a friend for the brand’s name and coloured it in the beige of the silk-like desert sand in her native Egypt. She had a visionary mind and took a revolutionary road, dreaming and shaping up a world of fashion for the woman of the present. The femininity Chloé clothes project is the only kind of femininity that makes sense, yesterday, today, tomorrow. It’s chic, practical, delicate, romantic, free, and beautiful on the outside, but also strong, believable, independent and confident, and even more beautiful on the inside. It’s also a femininity that isn’t afraid of being vulnerable, because that’s only human. It projects a woman that is perfectly at ease in her own skin, but who isn’t afraid of being seduced.

Bond matches Madeleine’s crème dress with a tan suede jacket, tan cotton gabardine chinos, navy polo t-shirt and suede boots. His look recalls the beige bomber jacket, navy polo shirt and pleated khakis that Timothy Dalton wears in Tangier in The Living Daylights, 1987. Dalton’s Bond was the most far-off from the gentlemanly spy and the first tougher, darker, edgier and more realistic, but more human Bond character, too. Craig’s suede jacket also brings to mind the suede jackets Roger Moore sported during his tenure as 007. Bond is a sensible man, after all, he dresses the part, but that doesn’t mean he can’t look sharp in casual clothes. Even in the heat of Morocco, he needs a jacket to conceal his gun and the choice he makes certainly serves the purpose much better than his signature fitted suits.

There is a new take on the polo t-shirt, too, which seems to be made of a lighter and more breathable fabric than 100% cotton. Timothy Dalton was the one who reintroduced the polo shirt to the Bond series in The Living Daylights after a more than 20-year hiatus – it was seen in the very first Bond film, Dr. No and had last been seen sported by Sean Connery in Thunderball. Daniel Craig wore his first polo t-shirt as Bond in Casino Royale – also short on the arms and featuring a cleaner fit, suitable for Craig’s more muscular and more action-prone Bond.

The suede jacket will be worn later on again, on the train when they talk about the gun, this time paired with a light blue shirt. Madeleine is wearing a green sleeveless shirt (presumably, or it could be a shirt dress) with pockets, thus carrying on the African adventure theme.
 

Léa Seydoux. Jonathan Olley/ SPECTRE © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq,
LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.

 
Léa Seydoux’s Bond girl isn’t just desirable, but she loves being desirable. What woman doesn’t? “You shouldn’t stare,” Madeleine tells Bond on the train when she appears in the sea foam evening dress for dinner. “Well, you shouldn’t look like that,” Bond replies. The seduction game is a two-way street. That’s the way it is, that’t the way it’s always been. In Bond movies, too. In an interview for British Vogue, Léa Seydoux said her character was different than a typical Bond girl, but that she didn’t mind the cliché of the Bond girl. Most women in their own mind love a Bond girl, too, stereotype or not (and if we had really taken the time to properly analyse the ultimate typical Bond girl, Honey Rider, we would have noticed that there is more than what meets the eye to even the famous feminine bikini), and don’t care about gender politics. Who says differently is lying.

Madeleine is certainly depicted as a woman with her own life and her own past and with her own inner conflicts, with something to fight for and against, but she is not the first one nor the strongest Bond girl. Carole Bouquet was one. Eva Green was another one. They both saved Bond’s life after all, in two completely plausible scenes. But that is not to say that it’s either good or bad that Madeleine Swann is not as tough as them. It’s a character trait, she’s different, and that’s a good thing.

“It’s about, like, how to find your own freedom,” Jany Temime asserted. And that is something different for each one of us. For a Bond girl, too. There is something mysterious about Madeleine Swann, in a very classic way. This romantic feeling is reflected by the clothes she is wearing, especially in Africa (and especially if we observe the contrast between her feminine wardrobe and the blue lace dress that Oberhauser chooses for her, a clear sign of his controlling and powerful character, not Madeleine’s). “Her style’s a little bit nostalgic; I wanted to keep that sort of feeling about it because they are travelling in Morocco, looking for things that happened in the past,” Jany Temime told Style Caster. Madeleine reveals to Bond how every year her parents used to return to the hotel where they had spent their honeymoon, and where Bond and Swann have arrived in search of the clue “L’Americain”. It is a place, not a name.

We then see them in the middle of nowhere, on the train, and Madeleine has “this crazy, sexy dusty green evening dress, a moment beautifully built up, in a suspenseful kind of way,” the costume designer explained. “I didn’t want a red carpet dress but something that could be rolled up in a suitcase, dressed up or dressed down. Something sexy and simple.” It evokes the history and glamour of the Bond films and creates a timeless effect, too. But the dress is also practical enough to allow for movement during the fight scenes. It’s classic and modern, the standout of her wardrobe, in Temime’s words. “This is the first time that she catches Bond’s attention, so I wanted the dress to be more like second skin for her and also as simple as possible because of the situation.”

Bond is wearing a white tuxedo for the occasion. “She had that dress. He had that white tuxedo. They are in Morocco, in a train, which is an incredible look. Together they are like a dream couple.” The untraditional ivory Windsor tuxedo jacket (by Tom Ford, who also provided several other outfits for Craig’s character), rather than calling to mind Bond’s past white tuxedos (Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Diamonds Are Forever, Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun, A View to a Kill and Octopussy), sets our imagination on Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Again classic, again romantic, again Morocco. Daniel Craig’s Bond turns out to be very classic indeed. Confident and sure of himself and with the exactly right clothes for the situation.
 

Léa Seydoux and Daniel Craig. Jonathan Olley/ SPECTRE © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq,
LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.

 
Next we see them in a wrecked train station out in the desert, from where they will be soon taken to a desert compound where the villain, Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), is waiting for them and where, he explains, is controlling information and manipulating the world. She is dressed in white wide legged trousers and a dainty white blouse, carrying her Chloé bag (again, the whole look could be Chloé). He is wearing a light brown jacket and the same gabardine trousers from before, both by Brunello Cucinelli, white shirt and rust brown knitted silk tie. Brunello Cucinelli is reportedly a personal favourite of Craig’s in real life and a brand he has brought to the franchise. As I was saying earlier, I am not the biggest proponent of product placement in movies. But I am an admirer of Brunello Cucinelli, the man and the designer, and of his way of making fashion. This is one of the few fashion companies with handcrafting and humanity at its soul, a brand that is rarely present on social media, because it is aimed at people who do not buy only what the internet tells them to buy, at people who appreciate the fine things in life. That’s the fashion brand that makes perfect sense today. And it makes sense on this James Bond, too, with firm, well-rooted values, but who is willing to bring a modern-day sensibility to them.

This is the first time since Pierce Brosnan’s navy blazer in GoldenEye that James Bond has worn an odd jacket that’s not part of a suit, as it was noted on bondsuits.com. The colour is appropriate, too, and a return to brown suiting, albeit a very casual take on that. The look also seems to pay homage to the “brown barleycorn hacking jacket and fawn cavalry twill trousers that Sean Connery wore in Goldfinger“, as Matt Spaiser of Bond Suits further observes. Another return to form. A classic look made modern, without the self-awareness and pretentiousness that so often characterise contemporary men’s looks, and sometimes Daniel Craig’s Bond wardrobe, too.

“Is this really what you want?,” Madeleine asks Bond. “Living in the shadows. Hunting. Being hunted. Always looking behind you. Always alone.” For the first time since and before Vesper Lynd, Bond seems to have found his match. But that doesn’t mean that the ending isn’t very un-like Bond. And that’s exactly why it sets up intriguing starting ground for No Time to Die.
 

Editorial sources: For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond, edited by Lisa Funnell / Revisioning 007: James Bond and Casino Royale, edited by Christoph Lindner / The James Bond Archives, edited by Paul Duncan / bondsuits.com / BAMF Style / Katie Davidson interview with Jany Temime for Style Caster, 2015 / Léa Seydoux interview for British Vogue, November 2015

 
 
More stories: Bond Girl Style: Eva Green in Casino Royale / For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond / Bond Girl Style: Carey Lowell in Licence to Kill

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