In anticipation of “No Time To Die,” the 25th film in the James Bond series, Mochi Magazine sat with the woman behind the costumes, Suttirat Anne Lalarb. We chatted about the Bond legacy and respecting what came before as part of her design process. If you haven’t already seen it, check out the movie trailer, teasing the film’s U.S. release on Oct. 8, for a glimpse of Lalarb’s work. (Quiz: Is the dress worn by Ana de Armas black or blue? Read the rest of the interview to find out the answer!)
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
IP: It’s such a treat to finally meet the person behind the costumes of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Steve Jobs” — which is one of my favorite films — and the 2018 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. Last year, we were supposed to do an in-person interview but due to the pandemic, we couldn’t. So we’ve been waiting for this day to chat with you about costume design and the long-awaited film, “No Time To Die,” which is being released next month. How does it feel now that the world finally gets to see it in theaters?
SAL: I’ve been waiting, too! It’s really exciting. I’m like everyone in the pandemic — locked away, working, and doing whatever I’m doing. But I can’t wait to see it!
IP: What was your design process? Did you feel any pressure to maintain the 007 sultry legacy?
SAL: Yeah, definitely, you have to. It would be irresponsible not to pay attention and imbibe what had come before. This is Daniel Craig’s fifth installment as Bond so there’s a certain continuity of character — and I don’t mean character as a personage in the film, but character as in his character. So I wanted to make sure the journey he’s on in this film makes sense with the journey he’s been on over the course of the last four films he was in.
Then, of course, this chapter of Bond — how does it fit into the whole lexicon of all the Bonds? With something that has been so successful, definitive, and iconic, not just as a film franchise, but as this character in particular, I don’t think you can really safely attend to it with the respect that it deserves. It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily mining from what came before, but you can, at least, have it floating through your cells when making decisions. You can either decide to pay homage to a certain version of Bond, a certain scene, certain sequence, and certain look, or you can decide to reject it and go somewhere else. But know why you’re doing it and that you’ve done it.
IP: Did you feel added pressure since this may be Craig’s last hurrah?
SAL: Absolutely. You want to make sure Bond leaves the same kind of impression he’s left with every version of himself throughout the history of the film. Also, in this film, he’s a very different Bond than the previous one. He’s this strong, silent, brooding adventurer that he’s been in all the other films, but there’s another emotionally vulnerable layer that’s been exposed [in this film] and in various degrees over the last few films. So there is another layer to the costumes that helps project this.
IP: We get a little taste from the trailer of the whole look of the film, but it’s nice to hear from the designer on their vision and/or intention for the whole aesthetic of the film.
SAL: You have this heavy responsibility to make sure you’re respecting what came before you and understand certain things. I wouldn’t call them rules, but some earned certain truths about Bonds that it’d be weird to stray from. Also, there’s constant negotiation — whether I’m trying to work out a look in a drawing, or out shopping to get inspiration, or collaborating with a designer like Tom Ford on a few key pieces. I definitely want to make sure it’s working for the character in the scene and what action is required. Some may want to have a sort of checklist of all the brands Bond wears. However, my approach is to make sure Daniel Craig has whatever he needs, so he’s wearing clothes as the character, as opposed to the clothes wearing him. It’s really important to make sure the style doesn’t constantly supersede the substance of the man.
There are thousands of decisions and things we have to do. I remember every single one of them. I always want everything to feel like it was an instinctual, inherent decision, and not something that was tortured. Like is it the pink polka dots or is it the orange stripe — not that the film had [these patterns]. I didn’t want anything to appear like it was a tortured decision, but everything had to have a sort of essentialness to it and where it just felt natural.
IP: My absolute favorite look from the trailer is of Ana de Armas, the black high-slit number. It’s sexy, bold, sophisticated, and elegant, all at the same time. What was your favorite costume in the film to design? I’m pretty sure you have a few, but if you could choose one?
SAL: I should have an answer to this question and should have expected it. I was so invested in every single costume. I don’t only mean every single costume, but every single piece of the costume. I have such a visceral memory of how things came to be, whether or not we made them in the workshop — this amazing workshop of people making things.
I have so many favorites, but we did make a great pair of trousers for Bond in the final act of the film. It was a lovely process, somewhat inspired by a photograph of a vintage pair of trousers that I showed Daniel when we got the script pages and we knew we wanted to have a military knot. I have a big fashion history library and pulled up a lot of options and honed in on a few. Daniel came into my office and we looked at [the options]. He just loved them, so we decided to go down that path, but they were period.
The trousers definitely weren’t going to be very long since we want to be very Bond-esque. They take their nod from the real thing, but we’ve modified them to make them feel more Bond-like and definitely more contemporary cut and practical for the scene, which is a very heavy action scene. Parallel to that, some of the costumes worn by Lashana Lynch were made according to what the character needed to be able to do and have these clothes embody them and enhance their strengths. These costumes are particularly memorable pieces.
IP: Did you have to make multiples for the action sequences, especially for the Ana de Armas number?
SAL: The dress is actually a midnight blue. Depending on what screen you’re watching the trailer on, it might be black because it’s a black tie scene, but it’s definitely midnight blue. The lighting in the scene is pushing it more toward black. We did have a number of those dresses indeed. We knew she had some pretty heavy duty stunts where we had to make the dresses durable for that. And it’s a very, very thin delicate fabric. So there were things we had to do to the actual dress to make it survive what the film was going to put it through.
IP: How was it collaborating with director Cary Joji Fukunaga?
SAL: He was such an amazing visionary, and I already had been a fan of his films before he came to this project. It was really exciting to get to work with him. His work has a hefty visual stylistic presence, layered on to what is already a very stylish franchise. There’s a lot of pressure to meet all these ideas of high-style. He was very clear from the beginning — he gave me a few adjectives and the scope to come back with ideas, my interpretation of what those adjectives were.
When I design, I’m really interested in helping the character become fully three-dimensional, in-your-face characters. It’s not that they’re so real that the film feels like a documentary, but lifted enough to make it worthy of cinema, especially of a franchise like this. In the beginning, [Fukunaga] gave me a remit of his ideal style, which was exactly what I would do. It’s grounded in reality, but with a heightened reality — like a little push. Between that and all the character discussions with all the cast, it was a really fluid operation for me because I was starting from character and script first, and then the style.
IP: My final question is: what are you working on next?
SAL: I’m working on something in the Star Wars universe at the moment — another Holy Grail of design.
IP: Wow! I’ll have to interview you again for that project. You’re an inspiration to all of us and especially for younger generations that don’t necessarily know that costume design is a path to take. I want to thank you and congratulate you on all of your success!
SAL: Thank you for saying that. It’s really lovely to hear. Sometimes, not on purpose, you’re so deep into your projects that you’re not thinking about what it means outside of yourself. It’s a really good reminder. So I really appreciate you telling me that, thank you.
The Fall 2021 issue exists in the liminal space bounded by fear, superstition, and taboos in order to decolonize all that goes bump in the night. From taboos to tradition, check out Mochi’s latest issue here! And if you like what you are reading, please support us through our end-of-year Ko-Fi campaign.
Photo credit: United Artists Releasing
Last modified: November 13, 2021