Arianne Phillips, the costume designer for Kingsman: The Secret Service is as American as they come. The New York native and long time Madonna stylist has designed many of the pop star’s concert tours and for musicians such as Lenny Kravitz, Courtney Love and Justin Timberlake. But a movie set in Savile Row, the spiritual home of bespoke tailoring and the epitome of Britishness, didn’t daunt her, she says.
Having designed for Tom Ford’s very classy A Single Man, and won an Oscar nomination for Madonna’s period film W.E., Phillips has indeed earned her stripes. She recently spoke with The Directory about Kingsman, the movie, and the subsequent fashion label for Mr Porter, for which she’s already working on a second collection.
You worked on the costumes for a very British film, ‘W.E.’, and now for ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’, based around British spy agents. As far as aesthetics go, how different or similar were the two films?
I’m a bit of an anglophile anyway, so I thought that this was an excuse to really get into it, to do my research about Savile Row. I already knew a little bit about it and had already sort of started the process on W.E. with the Duke of Windsor and so this was really just a continuation of that, which I thought was really exciting.
What was it about ‘Kingsman’ that compelled you to say yes?
The relationship between film and fashion goes both ways. Fashion influences film and film inspires fashion but, until now, it hasn’t really been right. So, for the first time culturally, we’re at a point where we have a global medium like film, with a global reach, being met with e-commerce with Mr Porter that has the same a global reach. So, it just seems like there is a synergy between the two for the first time. As a costume designer, to be able to curate it all together and to show it in its entirety on Mr Porter as it’s meant to be seen, is just one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my career.
Tell us a little bit about how you go about creating the looks for the main characters in film, namely Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson and Taron Egerton.
My job as a costume designer, really, is to illustrate a character and to tell a story for the filmmaker. The difference, which, in a way, made my costumes more thoughtful, was that I knew that eventually it would become a collection. So, the mood boards were a combination of great British men of style and the great history of the British spy genre movies, from the Harry Palmer movies, to James Bond. There’s such a wonderful tradition of great British men’s tailoring and British men’s style.
With Kingsman, Matthew Vaughn really wanted to keep things authentic and classic and timeless, but it’s really just a balance when you’re designing a film. I wasn’t really creating a fashion collection, I was creating characters, and the colours that I used were appropriate to the design of the film and to what I thought was appropriate for classic Savile Row.
Go get yours
The Kingsman collection is now available on Mr Porter. Kingsman: The Secret Service releases in the UAE on February 12.