Photo © Mark O’Connell

It is Summer 2023. As the streets around London’s Fitzrovia buckle in the heat, inside the lush headquarters of a leading fashion house and its Cape Cod trappings, wood paneling, red and white accents, and jet-set colouring, the Cold War has never ended.

To mark the fortieth anniversary of EON Productions’ James Bond adventure Octopussy, Orlebar Brown have produced their fourth 007 capsule collection and the first to focus an entire new catalogue on one movie. OB kindly invited this bullet-catching short-shorts wearing beach boy to experience Bond’s newest collection in the heart of Orlebar Brown’s creative hub – and to understand its thinking, influences and 007 design impulses.

The cut, poise and sense of Bond’s jet-age glamour is already all over much of OB’s swim wear, shirts, linen trousers, polo tops and high end accessories. Since Daniel Craig first wore a pair of Orlebar Brown’s shorter-wear Setter swim shorts in 2012’s Skyfall, there has always been an apt marriage between Commander Bond and Adam Brown’s fashion label. In a 2018 interview the company’s CEO and founder Brown suggested how “a picture of Sean Connery in baby blue towelling in some of the beach scenes were on the original mood boards when I first had the idea for Orlebar Brown”. Brown had once been refused entry to a beach bar because his beach wear was deemed inappropriate. Orlebar Brown was initiated to combat that issue for men, women – and spies – across the globe. And with sales and interest in the Bond collections surviving the vacation hiatus caused by a pandemic, OB’s mission has so far been wholly successful.

Photos © Mark O’Connell

For seven decades, the history of Bond onscreen has also been the history of costume design, and both male and female tailoring. And since the 1960s that male tailoring particularly has always spilled out from the soundstage and big screen to the high street – enabling audiences to savor, sample and participate in that sartorial relationship 007 has always had with his clothing marques, and that Bond sense of glamour and graspable adventure.

Photo © Mark O’Connell

Like the Bond series itself, there is a willful playfulness, sense of luxury, one eye on the past, yet contemporary style to Orlebar Brown. Both 007 and OB are predicated on a sense of vacation and the statement of a bespoke, sharp, youthful, and head-turning entrance. However, this is not fancy-dress Bond. This is not kitschy Bond dress-up for the office party. The designers and team at OB are rightly quick to remind this bullet catcher – and themselves – how their Bond clothing is far from cosplay. It is instead framed by fresh trends of production, construction, branding and environments alongside that Bond-minded grasp of colour, escapism, luxury and new masculinity.

Octopussy’s first edition on the page meets Orlebar Brown’s first editions on the rail.
Photo © Mark O’Connell

A wander through Orlebar Brown’s work room is fascinating. Designers carefully stitch and unstitch for future season’s collections. The walls are not only replete with proud remnants of past Bond collections, but also a multitude of fabric squares, pinned textures and earmarked materials, the working ponderings for summer seasons yet to be on the calendar, details about collars, shapes and coloring, stitching thoughts, random brainstorms of inspiration, the possible shape of a button, head shots for potential models and what sense of masculinity, body shape and vacation escapism Orlebar Brown want to transport their customers to next.

Stylists and creative co-ordinators redress mannequins with pride. There is a marked ease and welcome despite the work backdrop. And great care is taken to showcase that almost timbre-clad Cape Cod vibe throughout the displays, work spaces, front lobby and mindful fittings – and all with a design eye on OB’s red and white accent (apt as that too was the branding hues of Octopussy itself).

Steered by Orlebar Brown’s Design and Collections director Simon Long, the Octopussy Capsule Collection coyly avoids the obvious. Absent are any familiar marquee art tentacled logos that famously accompanied the film’s 1983 release and supporting lobby art. With Soviet imagery off the table and all circus, Faberge, nuclear war and Acro-star jet influences not stitched into the final thinking of this Bond ’83 collection, OB’s mood boards have still carefully mined director John Glen’s second directorial 007 caper – whilst aligning this to their own philosophies, buyer expectations, house style and market needs. Orlebar Brown’s journey through this collection would be no different to costume designer Emma Porteous’s contribution to Octopussy. As the 1980s unfurled for Bond, Porteous and her team would have collected samples, textures, materials, tones, fabrics, and kept a quiet eye on where fashion is and could be. Costuming a movie is less about characters and story, and often involves the practical considerations, product availability and tonal specs a fashion label embarks upon when creating a new line.

Collections Director Long reminds how such a collection not only has great global interest and how Orlebar Brown’s Bond collections to date remain popular throughout America, Europe, the UK and beyond. He underlines too how this Octopussy capsule has to also operate – and sell – alongside OB’s existing ranges, styles, seasonal beats and audiences. A holiday should lift one’s soul. A holiday shirt should go one better. So whilst Octopussy is not a beach Bond film, this collection successfully aligns with both OB’s riviera philosophy and EON Productions’ Cold War caper. Not every Bond film is a vacation movie. Yet, with its autumnal Bond caressed by John Barry’s Out of India scoring from arguably 007’s last travelogue decade, Octopussy is very much a good bet for Orlebar Brown.

Photo © Mark O’Connell

From the outset, a military green Sebastian silk polo shirt is easily taking the Cuban air base overture and Roger Moore’s spin as Colonel Toro as influence. The salmon pink padding of production designer Peter Lamont’s Soviet seats in his lush war room set possibly feed into a toweling Howell mauve shirt and stretch cotton Bulldog shorts combo. And the India-centric linen suits marking Roger Moore’s arrival into Octopussy‘s Udaipur world are beautifully recreated here – with Griffon linen trousers and an Ullock linen two-button blazer wholly reminding of Sir Roger and that Englishman abroad motif that OB are wholly mindful of. Although I will stand on this beach hill when pondering if the truffle-hued towelling Howell shirt is a direct nod to the gorilla costume in the film’s final act!

As Collections Director Long details, the patterning, fabric, and stitching of this collection is not all scene-inspired. Far from it. The geometric shapes of Moore’s own shirt makers fabrics and ties feed into a white Burnham style shirt, the midnight blue and white Bulldog shorts made of the complex Jacquard weave, and a rather sleek midnight blue Horton shirt (reminding of the Harrington jacket from Octopussy OB previously included in their 2020 007 Heritage Capsule) all echo the Moore era of Frank Foster shirts, Douglas Hayward tailoring and that transatlantic glamour of a runway touch down followed by a catwalk strut through Arrivals.

A tentacled motif for one of the best pieces of the collection – the Octopi Bulldog shorts.
Photo © Mark O’Connell

Perhaps the landmark and most recognizable pieces of this capsule collection for fans of 1980s Bond and Octopussy are the delicious blue-ringed octopus motifs. Taking the original octopus designs of sketch artist and painter Maciek Piotrowski (A View to a Kill, Aliens, Doctor Zhivago), the Octopussy Collection cannily also uses his original title logo which was never used on the final branding of Bond ’83. OB and their fabric printers and technology have crafted a luxuriant pair of Bulldog swim shorts and an accompanying Travis shirt – both of which echo the flow, Indian heat and midnight luxury of Maud Adams’ own emblematic gown from the film. This big Octopussy fan feels these are the pieces that will fly out the stores quicker than an Acro-star flies through Cuban airbases.

Replete with Asian contours, Indian curves and a slight Bollywood flourish, Piotrowski’s recurring ‘Octopussy’ typography of this collection brings a new Asian slant to the OB world. It takes the jet-set, Thunderball era trappings of Orlebar Brown’s previous 007 capsules and replaces them with nods to the Indian subcontinent – and the very Bollywood branding, signage, Raj era oppulence and fonts scattered across the streets and walls of the film’s Udaipur scenes.

An additional pair of white Bulldog shorts compliment a Howell towelling white and blue shirt takes Piotrowski’s ‘007’ logo and repeats it to fun effect (and inadvertently reminds of a similar 007 logo spray painted onto the Berlin Wall when the EON circus came to town to shoot Octopussy in August 1982).

Maciek Piotrowski’s original Octopussy and 007 logos used to towelling effect across the collection
Photo © Mark O’Connell

Octopussy is a willfully, unusually timeless Bond film. Apart from the odd origami-minded fold-up jet, Sony monitor and Seiko timepiece, Bond ’83 never feels particularly contemporary – with its émigré palaces, vintage cars, lush barges, hot air balloons, steam trains, elephant chases and rare, historical gems. It is therefore a rich blank canvas for Orlebar Brown, its retro-now eye and the legacy of EON Productions’ Octopussy. The Cold War has never been hotter.

Orlebar Brown’s sixteen piece Octopussy Capsule Collection is available now.

A special thanks to Simon Long, and the whole design, creative and marketing team at Orlebar Brown.