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—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.”