Wednesday 18 July 2012
Last Update 22 July 2012 12:21 pm
Mason. David Mason. Tall, debonair, dashing in a three-piece pinstripe suit; here is a man worthy to be associated with the timeless hero, James Bond. I meet him at the tailoring establishment, Anthony Sinclair, just off Savile Row, where he is Creative Director.
He’s got a story to tell, so we step out of the hushed refinement of the store and walk at a smart clip down Piccadilly. Then, in the buzz of a packed coffee shop, he leans back in his armchair and regales me with a tale full of twists and turns, and infused with Hollywood stardust.
It all starts in a setting not associated with Bond: Manchester in the North of England. Here a young Mason is studying for a degree in chemistry, and trying to find ways to supplement his student grant. He comes into contact with tailors in the area, and is fascinated with the whole process of suit making. Taking measurements, making patterns, selecting fabrics, cutting the cloth, doing the final fittings, and watching with pleasure as a satisfied customer tries on the finished product.
He takes on part time work and soon finds his hobby turns into a passion. On graduating, he starts his own tailoring business and eventually makes his way to the holy grail of bespoke — London’s Savile Row. Here he works front-of house, and continues to expand his knowledge of all aspects of the fine tradition of hand-crafted tailoring.
Sitting alongside him during the days on Savile Row, is a tailor called Richard Paine. Mason and Paine chat and eventually became friends. Mason assumes Paine is a tailor employed by the store, but Paine in fact has his own business, which he inherited from the distinguished tailor, Anthony Sinclair.
Here the Bond connection kicks in. Anthony Sinclair had the distinction of making the Bond suits, for the first, and some say the definitive Bond, Sean Connery. Paine worked as Sinclair’s assistant and when Sinclair died, he passed on the business to Paine.
Mason, who has been a Bond fan since boyhood, is intrigued. Over the years the pair discuss building on the Bond connection, and take the trouble to patent the name, but sadly, due to ill health, Paine is unable to act on the plan. However, as the Golden Anniversary of Bond approaches, they realize it is ‘now or never’ if they are to take action. With Paine still in poor health, Mason with Paine’s blessing, assumes creative control of the company and launches a website celebrating the link between Bond and Sinclair.
Here fate steps in: A sharp eyed executive comes across that information floating in cyberspace and picks up the phone. He just happens to represent the Broccoli family? Who? — What’s with the vegetable connection? But yes, listen up — we’re talking about the heirs of Albert Romolo “Cubby” Broccoli, the American film mogul who produced the first ever Bond movies. The Broccoli family, through the production company, EON, continue to produce the Bond films to this day.
It turns out that EON is marking the Golden Anniversary of Bond with a special exhibition (July 6 — Sept. 5), at London’s Barbican entitled, ‘Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style’. But there’s a problem — they have none of the original suits. So the executive has a request.
‘Can Mason provide EON with some of the original suits worn by Sean Connery in the first Bond films?’
With a sense of crushed dreams, Mason, has a short reply. “No.”
None of the suits — not even the patterns — can be found in the archives of Anthony Sinclair.
So all seems lost. But in the great tradition of Hollywood blockbusters, this tale is not yet told. The phone rings again. Wearily, Mason takes the call; it’s a producer from a British TV station, Channel 4, making a show in which members of the public try to auction collectible items. The producer wants Mason’s help in providing a valuation.
OK — says Mason — wondering why his expertise is called for. It turns out that a 1960s Bond suit, purchased by a former employee at Pinewood studios in England (where many of the Bond movies were shot), is being offered for sale on the program.
The employee used to approach the wardrobe department at the end of filming and for a few shillings, buy the suits worn by Connery in the films. He was the same size as Connery (6’ 2”/ 46 inch chest/ 33 inch waist), and would wear them with pride down to his local pub on Saturday nights out.
Naturally, Mason wants to buy the suit — but he can’t afford the asking price. Cue strains of weeping violin. But then he has a brainwave; perhaps he can just borrow the suit, to take a pattern. He rings the owner; cue weeping violin again — he’s just sold the suit. But the new owner it transpires is in the UK and might be open to lending it out. Cue swelling orchestral chords — eureka — Mason gets a call, the suit bearing the label, Anthony Sinclair, is wending its way back home.
Now in a brilliant feat of ‘reverse engineering’ a pattern has been created from the suit. A cloth, Barathea woven from a blend of Merino Wool and Super- Kid Mohair, has been selected: Taking shape right now is an exact replica of the very first Bond suit. It’s an evening suit, or tuxedo, in midnight blue. (Midnight blue under artificial light can appear ‘blacker than blue’).
The first glimpse of James Bond comes in the opening scene of ‘Dr. No’ (1962), where he is dealing cards. The shot is a close up of his hands and the silk cuffs of his tux. Next is a back shot, and then with the Bond theme tune swelling in the background, comes the first full sighting of James Bond - suave, ironic and impeccably attired in the evening dress of an English gentleman.
That look has inspired men ever since, and because the cut of the suit is so simple and classic, it’s a style that hasn’t dated.
For the exhibition, Anthony Sinclair is also re-making the lightweight Prince-of- Wales check 3 piece suit worn by Sean Connery in ‘Goldfinger’ (1964).
Anthony Sinclair is in the process of creating a ‘Ready- to-Wear’ range which given its cachet should prove popular.
The magic of Bond lives on!
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