Thanks to the disparate demands and varying production schedules of feature films and fashion design, by the time a movie hits the multiplex most of the attendant wearable merchandise falls into the "inspired by" category — reflecting but rarely capturing the true essence of what's seen on screen.
Now filmmaker Matthew Vaughn, costume designer Arianne Phillips and men's luxury e-tailer Mr. Porter are poised to flip that script.
When Vaughn's latest film, 20th Century Fox's "Kingsman: The Secret Service," starring Colin Firth and Taron Egerton, hits U.S. theaters on Friday, consumers will find a related 60-piece collection of upscale British-made men's suits, suit separates, outerwear, accessories and furnishings ranging in price from $150 to $2,995 already available for purchase online. While the offerings include a range of co-branded pieces with long-established British heritage brands (Turnbull & Asser, for example), the heart of the assortment is an entirely new stand-alone label called Kingsman, introduced at mrporter.com on Jan. 13.
Vaughn's adaptation (he's also co-screenwriter) of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons' graphic novel "The Secret Service" certainly seems tailor-made for such a tie-in. It focuses on a group of exceedingly well-dressed British secret agents who use a Savile Row tailor shop as a front and whose grooming of new recruits has such a strong "clothes make the man" through-line it feels equal parts James Bond and "My Fair Lady." Fittingly, what the filmmaker had in mind for a product tie-in was something much more ambitious than an assortment of after-the-fact T-shirts and tchotchkes.
"From the outset Matthew wanted to create the idea of a new Savile Row heritage brand," says Phillips. "He thought that there was something missing from [the current] market, that everything was either an overly modernized version of Savile Row or it was antiquated. He wanted to create a silhouette for the movie that also could be echoed in this line of clothes — this Kingsman brand."
Mr. Porter was a natural fit not only because of the site's heavily British point of view but also because, as an online-only retailer, it has flexibility not enjoyed by bricks-and-mortar counterparts. "We knew we could launch the collection whenever the film came out," Mr. Porter's buying director Toby Bateman said. "It wouldn't matter if it came out this year or next year." (And in fact, the movie's opening date was postponed by about four months from its original scheduled release last October.)
Bateman and Phillips worked closely to develop and source what would become both the on-screen costumes and eventual retail collection. "I approached it in a very nonlinear way," Phillips sad. "It was kind of back and forth, working on both [aspects] simultaneously."
To emphasize British heritage, they sought out many of Mr. Porter's existing brand partners. Turnbull & Asser, for example, not only made the dress shirts worn on screen by Firth, Egerton, Michael Caine and Samuel L. Jackson, but also makes the Kingsman by Turnbull & Asser shirts offered to consumers.
The same is true of Cutler and Gross eyewear, Corgi knits, Mackintosh outerwear, Drake's neckties and two styles of George Cleverley footwear (including a velvet tuxedo slipper embroidered with the K-in-a-circle Kingsman logo).
For the suit at the center of the collection, Phillips collaborated with Savile Row tailor Martin Nicholls, with whom she'd worked on Madonna's 2011 period film "W.E." about the romance between Wallis Warfield Simpson and King Edward VIII of England. They created a silhouette that would serve as the template for Kingsman label suits and focused on British heritage fabrics; bold pinstripes, chalk stripes, tweeds, Prince of Wales checks, houndstooth checks.
The result? Firth looks his sharpest, clad in a double-breasted pinstripe suit that strikes a perfect balance between old-school cool and modern, sleek elegance. The boxiness that traditionally comes with a double-breasted jacket is replaced by a more tailored fit in this three-button, peak-lapel number that nips in ever so slightly. Updated tweaks include a higher button stance and slightly shortened jacket length. It achieves that elusive goal of both well-heeled men and well-trained secret agents: to be singularly outstanding without standing out.