It’s this social and economic volatility (“buzziness,” Ritchie calls it) that he wanted to capture, albeit under the guise of a clever heist movie. Status symbols figure prominently: In a dealmaking scene, the shadows of glinting skyscrapers—the specter of changing commerce—frame the head of Wilkinson’s struggling kingpin; elsewhere in the film, a Louis Vuitton Murakami bag becomes the conduit for a hefty exchange of cash. “It is a much more consciously styled movie than Guy’s others,” says RocknRolla production designer Richard Bridgland. And though Ritchie was intent on presenting what Bridgland calls “a very smooth, new London,” when it comes to discussing RocknRolla’s distinctive aesthetic—from felon One Two’s (played by Butler) spare, tech-filled bachelor pad to the simple, understated wardrobe of Russian billionaire Uri (Karel Roden)—the director is frank about the fact that he doesn’t spend lots of time pondering buttonholes and swatches.
“It’s really not that complex,” he says. “The costume designer comes up with a load of stuff that she throws on my desk, and I say I like that, and I don’t like that. It’s pretty straightforward.”
Suzie Harman, the designer in question, says that despite his casual, see-what-sticks attitude about clothes, “Guy is such a sort of boy, and he gets really excited about the tiniest little thing.” Harman’s mandate was to keep modern the film’s characters, who live in a city far more sophisticated than the one inhabited by the lowlifes of Lock, Stock in 1998; tweed plays heavily in the men’s suits (for which she turned to venerable British tailor Crombie), while Newton’s character, Stella, is clad in Valentino. “It was important to make the whole Guy Ritchie genre grow up a little bit.... If he had his choice, he’d have everything fabulous and wild onscreen at one time,” says Harman.
Harman is hardly the only woman influencing Ritchie’s tastes. From whom, after all, did he learn of Murakami bags and Christian Louboutins? “Probably my wife,” Ritchie admits. “I don’t know how long Vuitton has been making what I deem relatively humorous bags. ’Cause they’re quite funny, right? They’re so over-the-top, they’re humorous.” As if to swat away the image of himself chatting bags with Madge, Ritchie adds, “I’m relatively ignorant to fashion, unless it jolts a reaction out of me. So I quite like expensive kitsch; I quite like a bit of the kitschy side of Vuitton. For all the wrong reasons. Or perhaps the right reasons, I’m not really sure. But probably not the reasons they were designed for.”