LONDON — If there's one thing James Bond has taught us it's that behind every great spy is a great tailor.
A new exhibition at London's Barbican Centre explores the style of the suave secret agent, displaying costumes, props, set pieces and design drawings from half a century of 007 films.
Assembled with help from the films' producers — who have a new Bond movie to promote in the fall — the exhibition includes the spy's tuxedos, Bond girl ballgowns and villains' vestments, as well as a selection of props and gadgets. There are also sketches by the films' influential set designer, Ken Adam, whose cavernous lairs and sleek space stations did much to create the movies' modernist luster.
The show is both a reflection of the remarkable staying power of Ian Fleming's fictional secret agent and a tribute to the British, European and American craftspeople and designers who have created the look of the quintessentially British icon.
"The films always attracted the greatest design talent," curator Bronwyn Cosgrave said. They ranged from the German-born Adam to costume designer Lindy Hemming, a Briton who helped put together the exhibition.
"In the beginning they didn't have the money — but they had the ingenuity," Cosgrave said.
Some of the items on show have become mini-icons, from the white bikini worn by Ursula Andress in the first Bond film, "Dr. No," to the tight blue swim trunks sported by Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale."
Cosgrave said that since "Dr. No" in 1962, "Bond has consistently led the way" in style.
Sean Connery's "conduit cut" Saville Row suit from the 1960s films is "the men's equivalent of a Chanel suit," while a sharply cut tuxedo is so identified with the character it has become known as "the James Bond look."
"It's sexy," Cosgrave said. "When does a man look his best? In a tuxedo."
"Designing 007" opens Friday and runs to Sept. 5. It will then tour internationally, opening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto in October.