In a scene from 2012’s Skyfall, James Bond is swimming laps on a rooftop pool in Shanghai. A breathless Daniel Craig, back to the camera, is then seen sitting on the rim of the pool. In a moment that lasts around five seconds, we see Craig’s sky-blue swim shorts.
Viewers recognised the swimsuit’s signature side fasteners, propelling Orlebar Brown into the spotlight, with sales quadrupling. The Setter-style shorts worn by Craig continue to be one of the brand’s bestsellers.
Nobody was more surprised about this than OB founder Adam Brown, who had no idea that his shorts would be used in one of the most iconic movie series of all time – the call was made by the film’s costume designer. They can now be found in Eon Productions’ archives, the British film company behind the Bond films.
The whole thing feels a bit like fate for 52-year-old Brown, who started his company in 2007. Back then, on his moodboards plastered next to Slim Aarons’ photography, were images of Bond. A few years later the Orlebar Brown team found themselves in front of Eon Productions and its archive director, Meg Simmonds, collaborating on a first of its kind collection.
“When this idea came up, one of the first stops was the archive to give Adam a background of our history and the legacy of Bond – and why we think it’s survived so long,” says Simmonds on a chilly March morning, seated in OB’s London headquarters. “As it turned out, it perfectly paired with the aesthetics of Orlebar Brown. It was a really happy collaboration from then on.”
And so the idea behind the collection fell into place and began to materialise. “Research through images, two sets of prototypes, fittings, it’s the same as anything else,” says Brown. “And then it has to be approved by Eon, which is ultimately done by American film producer Barbara Broccoli. Bond is her baby.”
The final pieces created are a modern interpretation of the archival clothing – a ready-to-wear capsule of Bond. “This is not about replicating – it’s about taking the spirit of these and turning them into something a little more contemporary,” added Brown. “There’s no shortage of fabulous imagery with great clothes waiting to be modernised and brought into a current, contemporary fit.”
Goldfinger (1964), Sean Connery
Simmonds: “Not many people can pull off that onesie. It’s unusual for the time and unfortunately we can’t ask the film’s costume designer (Beatrice ‘Bumble’ Dawson) why it was chosen. But that’s another level to Bond – besides being classic, there’s a playfulness. It’s like a little wink. There’s a sense of humour as well as being classy. And that’s a couple of the Bond ingredients that have kept it going. Orlebar Brown falls right into that category.”
Goldfinger towelling all-in-one, $545, Orlebar Brown
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), Roger Moore
Simmonds: “Most looks have never shown up in auction except for this one and we did buy it back fairly recently, so OB has that as reference for the piece. The rest of it was purely designed from images in our archive.”
Brown: “With this jacket, we knew that nobody was going to wear that collar – and the fit of it is very boxy – so we modernised it.”
The Man with the Golden Gun safari jacket, $595, Orlebar Brown
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), George Lazenby
Simmonds: “Very few costumes from the ’60s survived because, in those days, after the film finished you would liquidate your assets and just get rid of them.” It’s not known what material the shirt worn by George Lazenby was made of. Brown insisted on creating a version of this item, which is 100 per cent fine Italian linen.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service pleated shirt, $395, Orlebar Brown
The collection launches globally on May 15. Sign up here to find out more.