Life on Film

From Bond to Bat­man, cos­tumer Lindy Hem­ming has clothed cin­ema’s lead­ing lights, writes elle kwan

Prestige (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

it’s 11 o’clock in the morn­ing at The Penin­sula Hong Kong, and it feels like the Arc­tic. Luck­ily, Lindy Hem­ming is far from icy. “I’m sorry it’s cold in here,” the Os­car-win­ning cos­tumer apologises. “We were up rather late last night, and it’s the best way to keep awake,” she gig­gles, rais­ing a brow and clutch­ing her cup of cof­fee. The late-night rev­elry oc­curred fol­low­ing Hem­ming’s talk to an en­thused crowd gath­ered for a BAFTA event at which she de­liv­ered sev­eral anec­do­tal high notes about her road to Hol­ly­wood.

Those glam­orous hills are a long way from Hem­ming’s iso­lated up­bring­ing in the moun­tains of Wales. In those re­mote fast­nesses hu­mans were in short sup­ply, but even then, she says, she had a fas­ci­na­tion for peo­ple. “I was so nosy,” she re­calls. Once in a while her fam­ily trav­elled to mar­ket, and Hem­ming, over­dos­ing on crowds, found her­self en­tranced. “I distinctly re­mem­ber hid­ing un­der the ta­bles and just watch­ing all these legs with the dif­fer­ent shoes com­ing at me.”

Al­though she was artis­tic and wanted to go to art school, her fa­ther scoffed, said she should do some­thing use­ful and packed her off to nurs­ing col­lege. It was as a nurse, while putting on shows for the pa­tients, that a friend about to en­ter Bri­tain’s pres­ti­gious Royal Academy of the Dra­matic Arts sug­gested Hem­ming join too, and she was ac­cepted for the school’s stage man­age­ment course, hav­ing no real idea what stage de­sign was.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing she con­cen­trated on cos­tume, and over the years sev­eral young direc­tors she worked with in the theatre be­came big in Lon­don’s West End and then in Bri­tish film. As their ca­reers blos­somed, so did hers. But it wasn’t a life of showbiz glitz. Far from it. “We all lived to­gether in a com­mu­nity house in Is­ling­ton,” she says, where rent could be di­vided

among many. Even when shows that she had cos­tumed were run­ning in Lon­don’s most prom­i­nent the­atres, money was tight and she still worked odd jobs at night to make the rent. “It was a long, long slog,” she ad­mits.

Then a call came to take her out of that life into an­other, far dif­fer­ent, world. A call for Bond. James Bond. Hem­ming nearly blew it. “I thought it was a hoax,” she said of the call ask­ing if she’d be free for a meet­ing. Think­ing it was a friend play­ing prankster, she as­sumed airs and graces, mock­ing the voice on the line. Some­how, the in­vite still stood and she showed up the fol­low­ing week at the ap­pointed time, shak­ing. Leav­ing her car, the shirt she had pressed so per­fectly got stuck in the seat­belt buckle and she ar­rived for the role of cos­tume di­rec­tor with a gi­ant rip. The drama, she says, prob­a­bly got her the job. “I was made bet­ter by my torn shirt in a way be­cause I stopped think­ing about whether I could do the job. I was just think­ing: How can I turn up look­ing like this? I sup­pose that dy­namic worked.”

Hem­ming went on to cos­tume five Bond films over 10 years: Gold­en­eye, To­mor­row Never Dies, The World is not Enough, Die An­other Day and Casino Royale. For the first time, the world’s most lux­u­ri­ous brands were open to her.

She at­tended cat­walk shows and pored over de­signer look­books. She vis­ited the fac­to­ries of Hermès and La Perla. Items were tai­lor-made or cus­tomised for the film. “Peo­ple would make us any­thing,” she says.

Halle Berry’s fuch­sia dress in Die An­other Day was a spe­cial re­quest to Versace af­ter Hem­ming saw the orig­i­nal, in yel­low, on the cat­walk. It was adorned in cas­cades of hand­stitched Swarovski crys­tals that were as heavy as the dress was mes­meris­ing. Many of the looks she cre­ated be­came iconic — Berry’s belted or­ange bikini for in­stance.

She also cre­ated two vastly dif­fer­ent James Bonds. Pierce Bros­nan ap­peared all suave Euro­pean el­e­gance while Daniel Craig’s back­story rip­pled with mil­i­tary mus­cle. How did she be­gin this task? “Well. I al­ways say, imag­ine them both with no clothes on — they couldn’t look more dif­fer­ent!”


From Bond she went to Bat­man, where she gave Heath Ledger’s an­ar­chic Joker in The Dark Knight his di­shev­elled pur­ple suit and out­fit­ted Tom Hardy’s Bane in The Dark Knight Rises with a glo­ri­ous mil­i­tary-in­spired shear­ling coat. She put Harry Pot­ter in his in­vis­i­bil­ity cloak in The Cham­ber of Se­crets and has more re­cently been at­tend­ing to Won­der Woman’s strik­ing red, white and blue en­sem­ble, for the film of the same name slated for re­lease next year.

But de­spite the grand­ness of these de­signs, her pieces are rooted in re­al­ity. Just as peo­ple in­ter­ested her as a nosy five-year-old on mar­ket days in Wales, still it is peo­ple that drive her to­day, be they real or fic­tional. The stag­ger­ing at­ten­tion to de­tail with which she in­fuses char­ac­ter wardrobes comes af­ter she first fur­nishes them with a com­plete psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­file. The out­fits she cre­ates con­sider their char­ac­ters’ men­tal states as much as they do style pref­er­ences.

Chris­tian Bale’s Bruce Wayne — Bat­man’s al­ter ego — she saw as try­ing to fit the per­sona of a stylish play­boy, so she se­lected for him a wardrobe of Ar­mani suits. The mod­ern look she gave Sally Hawkins’ Mary Brown in 2014’s Padding­ton (Hem­ming is now at work on the se­quel) com­bines Bri­tish ec­cen­tric­ity with a hand­ful of de­signer names and a touch of artsy vin­tage, and was in­spired by women walk­ing past Hem­ming’s stu­dio in East Lon­don. “She was like Not­ting-hill-stroke-hack­ney. I could show you those peo­ple. She was real!”

And what of the other real? The ac­tors play­ing these parts. Are they a pain? Hem­ming doesn’t hold back. On day one of Bond, she says, Pierce Bros­nan was shak­ing with nerves. “He was ter­ri­fied, like me. We were like two ba­bies,” she says. She had a lit­tle fall­ing out with Jack Ni­chol­son, when he didn’t want to come in ahead of film­ing for fit­tings. By con­trast, Chris­tian Bale, deemed by many to have an ego the size of a walk-in wardrobe, was a plea­sure on the Bat­man tril­ogy.

In a world of make-be­lieve, Hem­ming is a truth-teller pre­cisely be­cause she re­mains so fab­u­lously down to earth. She’s daz­zled by di­a­monds, made giddy by glam­orous fab­rics and good style, and has ac­cess to the world’s big­gest brands, yet she’s most of­ten, like to­day, dressed in black, prob­a­bly in a Cos shirt paired with flats. “I’ve al­ways dressed ex­actly the same,” she ad­mits.

She’s still chirpy as the in­ter­view ends, even as she ad­mits the glacial tem­per­a­ture is get­ting to her. “My legs are frozen!” she says.

As she goes, I have to ask. Has she ever lifted any of her best pieces off set? “No! I’d get ar­rested!” she says, bustling with out­rage. But she has been given pieces, she says. Like the leather belt from Berry’s bikini — and the pants to match. “I might wear it to the pool later,” she jokes and breezes out the door.

“Peo­ple would make us any­thing for James Bond”

this page: a still from padding­ton; op­po­site: hem­ming cre­ated the joker’s look in the dark knight rises

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