‘This is our third collaboration with James Bond,’ says Adam Brown of Orlebar Brown. ‘And it looks back into the screen archive for inspiration, with a view to offering a wardrobe that can be worn every day.’
Orlebar Brown first became involved with Bond when its “Setter” swimming shorts featured on 007’s sculpted nether regions in Skyfall. The pale blue swimwear looked great, and referenced the earlier films, where Sean Connery’s Bond wore similar-coloured resort shorts in From Russia with Love, light blue swim shorts in Thunderball (with a black belt), and a darker blue pair of swim shorts in Goldfinger.
‘It worked brilliantly in Skyfall when Daniel Craig wore the “Setters”,’ says Brown. One of the reasons for this was that Orlebar Brown specialises in tailored-style swim shorts that have a smart look, which is perfectly in tune with Bond’s personal aesthetic. And in referencing the style of earlier Bonds – just like the vintage Aston Martin DB5 and the recurring trope of the tuxedo do – they contributed to the familiarity that lies at the heart of the appeal of these movies.
On the back of this, the firm launched a selection of swim shorts in 2018 featuring prints of vintage Bond film posters. This led, in 2019, to a collection of pieces that directly referenced memorable looks from the films – including a pair of Thunderball-inspired pale blue swim shorts with button-down belt loops and contrasting navy blue trim at the top to replicate the look of Connery’s black-belted pair. Other pieces took their cue from the screen wardrobe – a belted all-in-one short sleeved and short-legged blue towelling “romper suit”, and a blue towelling robe that bore a label declaring “The Property of Dr Julius No, Crab Key” referencing the garments worn by 007 and Honey Ryder after they are taken prisoner in Dr. No.
‘The last collection was really more about costume,’ says Brown today. ‘We were referencing big theatrical moments – the blue towelling romper suit, the ecru towelling safari shirt from Diamonds Are Forever. This collection is more wearable. We decided to think of it in terms of Bond looks where, had Orlebar Brown been around at the time, 007 might have worn these things.’
The pieces are therefore simpler and more contemporary, but still rooted in the resort wear style of Ian Fleming’s super spy. ‘The interesting thing about Bond for us at Orlebar Brown is that he is a commander in the navy, so he has a connection with boats and the sea,’ says Brown. ‘In the films, there are always scenes on boats and beaches and in and under the water. As a resort wear brand, that makes him a great icon for us.’
Brown reveals that 007 has been on the Orlebar Brown design team’s mood boards from day one. ‘He’s British, he travels, he’s slightly eccentric, the films are fun. All this means that Bond is a perfect match for our DNA and take on life.’
The new collection reflects this take – an easy collection of summer pieces. No period detail here, just wearable modern menswear with a warm-weather spirit. There’s the Thunderball blue linen short-sleeved shirt, the Dr. No ivory cotton-silk knitted polo shirt, the Moonraker black merino half-zip knit, the For Your Eyes Only white cotton day shorts, the You Only Live Twice pink cotton poplin shirt, and the Octopussy midnight blue cotton Harrington jacket, to name a few.
‘My personal favourites,’ confides Brown, ‘are the Thunderball blue gingham shirt in cotton, which has a white towelling lining – I’ve already stolen the sample; and then there’s an elegant cream linen suit with a single-breasted blazer jacket and flat-fronted trousers. It’s inspired by the style of Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and looks great with a pastel shirt’.
When the Bond films were first made, travel overseas was not something open to the masses, and part of the appeal of the spy franchise was that it transported people to exotic locations where the hero could wear casual clothes. Today, we can wear these looks at home or abroad, as the male wardrobe has relaxed significantly. And given the uncertainty surrounding travel at the moment, channelling a bit of 007 style might just be the way to bring a sense of summer adventure into our lives.