Laurence Olivier liked to say that he built his characters from the shoes up. That’s also the mantra of Arianne Phillips, the costume designer behind the seams of Kingsman: The Secret Service, director Matthew Vaughn’s ultrastylish British spy movie. The film’s present-day heroes practice an elegant, perfectly knotted brand of espionage that harks back to the Roger Moore–Bond era. “Men’s tailoring is at the center of the story,” Phillips says. It’s not just because this agency of elite spies operates out of the back of a Savile Row atelier, which provides them with impeccable sartorial armor but also because, in this film, the clothes really do make the men—including Colin Firth, who, for his first action movie, transformed his physique to be operations-ready.
“Proper tailoring makes up for so many flaws in a man’s body,” says Phillips, who first worked with a Savile Row master, Martin Nicholls, on Madonna’s 2011 film, W.E., for which Phillips outfitted James D’Arcy as the Duke of Windsor. (Nicholls returns as her collaborator here, and many of the looks they created—as well as the accessories Phillips designed with British heritage brands like [Cutler and Gross](Cutler and Gross)—will be sold on MrPorter.com starting this month.) “Colin didn’t really have any flaws,” Phillips clarifies. “But when he came in for a fitting wearing his workout clothes and put on that jacket, all of a sudden his posture just changed. It was exciting to see.”
Photos: Kingsman: Behind the Scenes
“Because action movies are so physical, we created up to six versions of each suit.” Photograph by Jaap Buitendijk.
“Sophie Cookson plays a young recruit who comes from a privileged background. She’s the English version of preppy, a bit like Kate Middleton.” Photograph by Jaap Buitendijk.
“Sofia Boutella plays Valentine’s sidekick, a henchwoman with prosthetic legs who does the dirty work. Boutella is also a dancer and very physically gifted.” Photograph by Arianne Phillips.
“Samuel L. Jackson is a bad guy—a tech entrepreneur named Valentine with a God complex whose clothes are a little age-inappropriate. He’s not quite cool, but he definitely has real flair. He’s also super-obsessed with color, so a lot of his costumes are very tonal. Everything matches.” Photograph by Jaap Buitendijk.
“Michael Caine is an icon of the genre, and he was referenced so much on my mood boards. He plays the head of the Kingsmen. His clothes have more bravado than Colin’s, which are very classic.” Photograph by Jaap Buitendijk.
“Taron Egerton plays a young recruit from a rough part of town. As research, I took a lot of undercover photos of kids in East London. I wanted him to wear what these guys usually do: Fred Perry shirts, Adidas sweatshirts.” Photograph by Arianne Phillips.
“You can see our tailor at a fitting with Michael Caine. To me, Michael’s style in The Italian Job and Harry Brown is everlasting.” Photograph by Arianne Phillips.
“I based these recruits’ pajama-like uniforms on Winston Churchill’s famous one-piece ‘siren’ suit.” Photograph by Jaap Buitendijk.
“For Colin, we modernized the traditional Savile Row silhouette: softened the shoulders, dropped the waist.” Photograph by Jaap Buitendijk.
“We used only British fabric and only British brands. Turnbull & Asser made the shirts. Cutler and Gross made the glasses.” Photograph by Arianne Phillips.
“The Kingsman club tie was made by Drake’s. I actually designed the pattern with Matthew [Vaughn, the director], who grew up attending an English boarding school and going to Savile Row tailors. He understands the culture better than anyone. There are so many rules to British presentation, things you can and cannot do. ” Photograph by Jaap Buitendijk.
” Being a Kingsman is about having the right attire from head to toe—and, once you are ready to reveal it, the right weapon.” Courtesy of Arianne Phillips.