Lindy Hemming has a set of Daniel Craig's famous La Perla swim trunks. Photo: KGC-65/22
If As they say, clothes make the man, then Lindy Hemming created many of the most unforgettable movie characters. The Welsh costume designer has dressed everyone from 007 to Paddington Bear, from Batman to Wonder Woman, from Lucius Malfoy to Lara Croft.
She won an Oscar in 2000 for Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy for costumes whose handcrafted idiosyncrasy stands out. was seen again in her latest production of Wonka, a prequel to the 1971 Gene Wilder musical.
The crazed chocolatier, played by Timothée Chalamet, says his candy-striped trousers came “from the postman in Minsk” . But for Hemming, every item of clothing has a backstory that goes far beyond any script details.
She tells me that the lining of the maroon velvet coat “was printed on raw silk and dyed to look like something imported from Morocco. He has a piece of hand-knitted knitwear that he probably got from his mother. He collected eclectic things from everywhere, including a top hat that belonged to an old wizard somewhere.”She describes director Paul King, with whom she worked on both Paddington films, as a “master of color,” “the most color-centric person I’ve ever worked with or will ever work with, I think. Thus, almost everything that everyone wears is painted in one color or another that matches their character. And almost everything has a visible texture.”
Hemming bought fabrics from wool merchants and sent them to her “wonderful dye room,” including the velvet for Wonka’s coat, “to give them extra depth.” and you can see on the camera how sometimes it looks quite shabby, and sometimes it kind of burns out the screen.”
The 75-year-old ran three portable buildings at her Leavesden studio in Hertfordshire, which she filled with photographs and newspaper clippings showcasing “unusual fashions” of the 1930s and “eccentric characters”. “You have Willy Wonka, who comes from a barge, so we looked at all the barges. I imagined a place from Ireland to the Baltic.” Her cutters, tailors, printers, knitters and hat makers produced up to 10 sets of each outfit to withstand the brunt of the characters' various on-screen exploits. It all paid off. Just the sight of villains Bleacher and Mrs. Scrubbit in their pajamas had audiences laughing during my preview before actors Tom Davis and Olivia Colman even opened their mouths.
Lindy Hemming at the London premiere of Wonka, November 29, 2023. Photo: Getty
It may seem like a lifetime away from her first job as an orthopedic nurse in Oswestry, Shropshire. But Hemming grinned in recognition when I asked if there were any transferable skills.
“There are! The best part is that when you're a nurse, you get to touch people, reassure them, support them.” “It was a really good workout, mostly in saying, 'Take off your sweater,' without worrying about them suddenly being naked in front of you or having to carefully measure them.”
While staging performances for patients, other amateur artists “all told me: “You are so powerful, you need to go to the Rada and be a director.” Having received a generous grant, that's exactly what she did before she learned that “there is such a thing as costume design.” /> Christian Bale in his Lindy Hemming-designed battle suit in The Dark Knight
But Hemming, who now lives in the Tuscan mountains, began analyzing people's clothing much earlier. As a child, she sat with her brother Martin under her parents' market stall in Carmarthenshire. “We used to discuss human feet, shoes and stockings.”
I ask what she can tell about me from my outfit. “I think it’s very neutral to come to someone,” she says. So tacky, in fact, that she notes that “it actually matches” the beige furniture of a five-star hotel in central London “quite well.” Before I can feel too offended, Hemming explains that she is “really more interested in your face and your eyes than I ever was in your clothes. Or how you move, what your silhouette is, where you are from, your name.”
Timothée Chalamet in the movie “Wonka” » Photo: Jaap Buytendijk
Hemming, who has worked on five 007 films, from Pierce Brosnan's GoldenEye to Daniel Craig's Casino Royale, believes James Bond looks best in blue. It was she who chose his skimpy La Perla swim trunks for what she calls her “Ursula Andress moment,” and during a fitting with producer Barbara Broccoli, she made the final decision. “After having so much fun with Barbara and him, we settled on them. No one told him what to wear, but I think we were both pretty convincing.” La Perla gave Hemming one of the pairs to take home as a souvenir; she also has a library of samples of every fabric she has ever used.
Bond was her golden ticket to the big leagues of fashion houses. The doors of Gucci, Armani and Versace swung open. “And you will be treated with complete confidence. One day when I was on Bond Street, one of the men's clothing stores I always went to put on Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger. And I thought this had gone too far!
Angelina Jolie in a Lara Croft costume designed by Lindy Hemming < p>Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the release of her first feature film, Richard Eyre's Loose Ties. More recently, she's made a name for herself with superhero films, including Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, although she “didn't know much about Batman at all” when she got the call.
She found herself at the center of a social media kerfuffle in 2017 when her Amazon costumes in Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman were compared to Michael Wilkinson's much skimpier version that followed her in Zack Snyder's Justice League. She admits that having a female duo was important because Jenkins was “very conscious of it being an example to young girls, wanting women to be as strong and brave as men.”
Suitable for you: Hemming dressed every Bond from GoldenEye to Casino Royale Photo: LANDMARK MEDIA/Alamy Stock Photo
“I approached it as if it were sportswear and armor made from fabrics available to them where they lived on Themyscira. “Everything I do, I try to make it a reality, and not a single woman in a situation similar to war will bare her breasts.” At the same time, she has no time for “meaningless nonsense” and “Internet quarrels out of nowhere.”
Hemming, who was so eager to work on a “political Western” that she began writing her own script, honed her craft using Mike Leigh's improvisational techniques while working on each of his films, from the 1983 TV movie “Meanwhile” to 1993's “Naked.” She also costumed the original production of Abigail's Party (although it remains frustrating that union rules meant the BBC didn't credit her in the TV version).
Form and function: Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman Photo: Clay Enos
What sets Lee and King apart as distinctly British directors is “that it’s all about character. These are those who understand something about humanity. That's why you'll cry when you watch Paddington,” she says, becoming emotional. “I'm going to cry! This is because you are watching the bear, but in reality the bear is telling you all the human emotions and telling you about what is happening in society. And Willy Wonka in his other iterations may not be such a well-rounded person, with a story like: learn to read, look after people, be kind. All those simple messages are what makes people love these characters.”
The productions may have gotten bigger, but she insists her approach has changed little since her days scouring charity shops to work within a tiny budget Four weddings and a funeral.
“It's not how much money you have, it's whether it looks good,” she says. “Actually, I think it's the opposite.”
Wonka is in theaters now