Fashion historian Bronwyn Cosgrave likes to describe the style of the James Bond movies as “slightly ahead of contemporary.” It’s that cool Britannia look defined by a suave secret agent in a bespoke tuxedo always accompanied by improbable technology and beautiful women.
At the North American premiere of the exhibition Designing 007: 50 Years of Bond Style, Cosgrave said the show she curated with costume designer Lindy Hemming for London’s Barbican Centre was intended to capture that look rather than trade on Bond nostalgia. Perhaps that is why it can be so hard in the show, now awkwardly shoehorned into the TIFF Bell Lightbox, to figure out what is a real prop or costume and what is a contemporary reproduction of some long-since discarded bit of moviemaking. Tiffany Case’s white trouser suit from Diamonds are Forever is the original 1970s costume; the golden body on the round bed from Goldfinger is pure re-creation.
Design fiends may appreciate the arch crafting of an exhibit that invites viewers to walk through the iconic gun barrel of the title credits to enter the show. Kids may like the loudly playing video clips from the 23 Bond movies, but Bond nerds are going to wish for more silence and more space so they can really concentrate on the iconic items tucked away behind glass. There are set designer Ken Adam’s original sketches for Goldfinger’s Fort Knox. There’s the briefcase that Sean Connery carried on the Orient Express in From Russia with Love.
When it comes to disposable pop culture, what’s wrong with a little nostalgia?