"I'm nervous," guest of honor and award-winning costume designer Arianne Phillips said, before the screening of "Dressing The Part," a 55-minute documentary celebrating the stunning scope of her career produced by Mr. Porter. Well, kind of ironic considering that — as anyone who follows her Instagram knows — Phillips's life is pretty damn fabulous, intentionally or not. (She takes funny face selfies with Jean Paul Gaultier and just a casual shot with BFFs Jeremy Scott and Courtney Love.)
The doc opens with Phillips recounting the start of her trajectory styling "this guy," meaning her friend and then-Soho neighbor Lenny Kravitz for his 1989 debut album "Let Love Rule." Lots of her famous friends and collaborators, like Gucci's Alessandro Michele and Tom Ford, pop up in the film (and in the audience at the screening). At one point, Madonna, whom Phillips has been styling for tours and videos for nearly two decades, admits she was initially "intimidated" about being a third wheel to the very cool designer and Love. But turns out, Phillips was just feeling shy about being the "center point" of the evening.
"She gets to make other people the center of attention by putting incredible things on them and making them wear incredible stuff. So it must freak you out to have the lens turn around on you. Because you are the lens," co-host of the evening and Mr. Porter cover star Pedro Pascal glowingly said to her during a joint interview before the screening at Metrograph.
The actor — whom you may have crushed on as Oberyn Martell from "Game of Thrones" (RIP) and ethically conflicted DEA agent Javier Peña in "Narcos" — co-stars in the upcoming "Kingsman: The Golden Circle," which Phillips also costume designed. Like the first 2014 Matthew Vaughn-directed action spy comedy, the sequel continues with its high-fashion twist: The nattily dressed British secret service agents, led by Colin Firth (whom Phillips also dressed in dapper suiting in Tom Ford's "A Single Man"), work undercover out of a bespoke tailor's shop on London's Savile Row.
But the costumes in "Kingsman 2" stand out beyond all that perfectly tailored gentlemen's suiting. The American Statesmen join the action and intrigue this time around, in the form of good ol' cowboy spies Channing Tatum's Agent Tequila and Pascal's Agent Whiskey, who wears a particularly spectacular country western-style snowsuit, as seen in the trailer. (The lasso makes for a chic accessory, too).
"It takes a brave person to want to wear basically a Marlboro Man puffer onesie," laughed Phillips, who looked to '70s-era Robert Redford at Sundance, Steve McQueen and Lee Majors — "the international ski playboys" — for inspiration. After multiple fittings in multiple countries, the one-piece jumpsuit was then custom-built to Pascal's exact measurements for perfect snugness.
"It's the most intimate I've ever, ever become with a costume, let's say that," said Pascal. Interestingly, the actor went for the fittings (some featuring unshapely '70s vintage ski suits for reference) before being officially cast in the movie. "I'm telling you — Arianne Phillips got me cast," he said. "She started making me look so good in the fittings that it was undeniable. There wasn't any other way to envision the character."
"I've never had a character so delivered to me via the look and the costumes, and I haven't had the types of conversations that she let me have with her as a designer," Pascal added later. "I'm not a cowboy. I wouldn't know where the fuck to begin as far as being a 'southern gentleman.' And so the relief that I experienced to have that path laid out for me through the costumes — more so than any other experience I've ever had. Forgive me Michele Clapton."
The second "Kingsman" installment finally lets the ladies into old boys' spy and big bad club of the first, including Julianne Moore's delicious turn as Poppy, a drug baron who's built her own demented version of idyllic '50s Americana (and has a penchant for literally turning henchmen who have displeased her into a flawlessly grilled and seasoned burger patty). She also also has a wardrobe full of vividly printed, '50s-style dresses. "The first thing Matthew [Vaughn] said to me, 'Poppy's a cross between Martha Stewart meets Margaret Thatcher," Phillips laughed.
"It was a relief to have a female character or two in the movie because it's such a testosterone fest having done the first one," she added. "It was fun to be able to do pretty printed dresses. It's a relief. And Halle [Berry as Ginger], she's like a practical .. "
"She's a lab rat," Pascal interjected, about tech support whiz Ginger's white shirt and vest looks.
The documentary also coincides with Phillips's and Mr. Porter's latest launch of the Kingsman "costume to collection." In a rare film-meets-luxury retail arrangement, Kingman-branded clothing isn't a watered down and franchised out to another manufacturer. Instead, Phillips created the costumes with the retail collection in mind, or sort of.
"The first thing Matthew Vaughn said to me was 'no matter what, you have to design great costumes. Don't even think about the collection because we're telling a story. If we don't have a great story and great costumes, it doesn’t matter," she said. "But the thing that was so great was knowing that I was part of the [retail] equation." For example, when she was designing Colin Firth's suits for his Harry Hart character, she made sure that the high-end fabrics would also be available to re-create the exact look for the Kingsman collection. "So that the person that buys this suit — it's not inspired by [Hart's suit], it actually is the suit."
Phillips notes that even compared to 20 years styling and designing iconic Madonna looks, like the Jean Paul Gaultier kimono in the "Frozen" video and that fabulous rhinestone-covered cowboy aesthetic in "Music," the menswear from Phillips's films, like "3:10 to Yuma" and (I'm guessing) "The Crow" inspire stalker-level frenzy when it comes to re-creating the looks. So she took extra care to create a high-level of craftsmanship and quality to the collection, which is like a movie's version of see now, buy now.
She also enjoys the rare opportunity to be directly involved and credited with a collection designed straight from the movie, referring to her supersuit designer friends being excluded from the blockbuster merchandising arrangements. "The costume designer's not invited into that equation," she said. "So I took it really to heart. This is a chance to have integrity in this product and not cheapen the movie. It can elevate with the ethos of what the 'Kingsman' and Mr. Porter are about. It was the perfect synergy."
And the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Before the film began, Brand & Content Director Jeremy Langmead addressed the crowd and announced that Kingsman has been one of the top 10 formalwear brands on Mr. Porter since its debut in 2015. This "Kingsman 2"-themed collection features character-channeling (but ultimately very wearable) pieces, from double-breasted Prince of Wales checked suiting to Agent Tequila's blanket-lined selvedge denim jacket, in case one wants to bring out their best Channing Tatum. Sadly, a cowboy ski onesie isn't in the mix.
"Actually, they have a vest," said Phillips, about the winter essential that Whiskey layers over said onesie (above). "They have the puffer vest."
The Kingsman collection is available now on Mr. Porter and 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 22.