“Every day is a math problem, a massive constant math problem,” says Suttirat Larlarb.
She is the Costume Designer for the latest James Bond film, No Time to Die, set to open this weekend after a massive delay in release due to the pandemic. While 007’s looks are always a slick affair, to pull off the bespoke and tailored aesthetic for which James Bond is known through the rigors of an action film takes a lot of calculations behind the scenes.
“Many of Daniel’s suits are required for incredible action sequences, of which we need 33 plus multiples of the same suit with slightly different sizing and technical requirements,” Larlarb explains.
“We have to account for stunt padding or harnesses, or for the stunt double and photo double. Daniel has 12 to 20 of his own that are the same but slightly distressed for post explosion, post water, a little bit of blood, every kind of damage you can imagine that might need to befall a suit like that. But it always has to look perfectly tailored for him.”
Although it’s more than just the fittings for a film like this, there are the heavy logistics to consider from production to delivery. Take for example the story of Bond’s tux in the film. It was developed and fit in New York, after which 33 versions of them had to be made, the production of which happened in the north of Italy. Getting just one suit to Jamaica where the filming was taking place involved calculations, couriers and people staying up late to receive packages or getting on a flight overnight to get the tuxes where they needed to be.
“The amount of hands that it passed through is quite an interesting tale,” she laughs. “So it’s such that we have an incredible team of logisticians that make it happen.”
For Larlarb, this process is helped by partnering with designers who have worked with the Bond franchise in the past and who understand that it’s more than about ordering 10 of the same thing. Which is why the fashion brand or designer is less relevant than the experience and understanding the brand may have in executing costuming for a film like Bond. This goes against the perception audiences have about the Bond franchise which is known to some extent for its fashion and glamour, which makes audiences naturally believe there are a slew of high-fashion designers involved in the costuming.
“For me, the brand involvement was always secondary to what the requirements of character and costume design were. So if a brand had traditionally worked with the Bond franchise in the past, I would note that and know that I could go to them to potentially help us produce what we needed,” the designer explains.
One of the brands Larlarb worked with closely for this film is Tom Ford, who produced the tuxedo Bond wears in the film along with several suits and jeans. Ford had produced suits for the Bond franchise in the past, so for Larlarb, between the brand’s aesthetic and quality combined with the brand’s experience in working with Bond films prior, she felt confident that Ford and his team would have the technical knowledge to help her achieve her goals.
Although, for the first time, this particular Bond film is about much more than 007. This is one of the most diverse Bond films to date, which is very special to Larlarb because of the four very strong female protagonists.
There is Monie Penny played by Naomie Harris, the new character of Nomi played by Lashana Lynch who is MI6’s new best and brightest and also the first black, female 007. There is the high-profile psychologist called Madeleine played by Lea Seydoux (who is a return character), and lastly, there is Paloma played by an Ana de Armas, a field agent for the CIA on her first mission.
“Traditionally, one could say that many female characters in the past, even though they’re iconic figures, could be relegated to the realm of feeling a little bit like wallpaper, and these characters are absolutely not that at all. ” Larlarb says.
“They are strong, self-possessed, important, plot-driving women, all in their own right, and this was a really fantastic opportunity to be able to put a stamp on those kinds of female characters in a Bond film.”
While there were strong female players on screen, this Bond film also had strong female players offscreen which set the stage for a new, more supportive, dynamic for the Costume Designer during the process.
“For this film, I had so much support from a strong female producer and from Phoebe Waller Bridge who was part of the script process. This was so different from when I was a young, aspiring designer of color, where I wasn’t seeing representation, certainly on screen and definitely not within the ranks of the production process,” Larlarb says.
“So there was a lot of positive reinforcement and female awesomeness that was so present with this film. It was so heartening to me to be able to, in this moment, be the person charged with dressing these strong female leads.”
No Time to Die is in theaters nationwide this weekend.