Tangerine velvet has never really been my thing. In fact, I would be lying if I told you that the idea of tangerine velvet, let alone a tangerine velvet single-breasted, one-button dinner jacket, had ever spent much time in my thoughts. What surprised me even more was that I came across such a garment at Huntsman. However, it made sense when I peeked inside the inbreast pocket and saw the customer’s name: Matthew Vaughn. I do not know how many films it takes to make a franchise, and it would be premature to call Vaughn the Cubby Broccoli of the 21st century – but with the release of the second instalment in the Kingsman series, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, he is certainly staking his claim.
For those who have spent the past three years marooned on a desert island, the Kingsman films are spoof secret-agent stories in which Vaughn toys with the tropes of espionage filmmaking, much as Tarantino has reworked the crime, blaxploitation, war and western genres. The new Kingsman serves up a diet of extreme slapstick violence, ludicrous gadgetry, implausible plotlines and cartoon gentlemanliness. In other words, if you liked the first film, Kingsman: The Secret Service, chances are that you will enjoy this one, starring Taron Egerton and Colin Firth (whose character died in the first film but has been miraculously reincarnated).
Vaughn envisages Kingsman being around “in 10, 15, 20, 30 years”, but not necessarily as filmed entertainment. He would like to think that even if “not movies, then definitely still as a clothing and lifestyle brand”. In fact, Kingsman, the pop-up shop, has already opened on St James’s Street, next to Berry Bros & Rudd, whereas the film is not released until September 20.
Kingsman is the name of the tailor’s whence the eponymous spy agency runs its operations. If habitués of Savile Row recognise it as Huntsman, then that is because it is. “The whole thing was born when I was having a suit made at Huntsman. I was bored of standing in the fitting room, so I imagined putting my hand on the mirror and it taking me to a secret place,” explains Vaughn. “As they’re tailors, they have to dress immaculately, and so for the movie I had to choose things that a modern-day gentleman spy really would wear.”
Product placement is, of course, nothing new, and nor is movie merchandise, but through Kingsman, Vaughn has come up with an ingenious way of combining the two. Following the first film, Kingsman co-branded clothing and accessories are now a staple on the men’s fashion website Mr Porter, with pieces from menswear partners such as Drake’s (tie, £120), Orlebar Brown, Turnbull & Asser, Deakin & Francis (cufflinks, £195, and money clip, £250) and Swaine Adeney Brigg (every properly dressed spy needs a bulletproof umbrella). Kingsman: The Golden Circle expands this initial foray into total lifestyle coverage.
The film is big on aftershave with offensive capabilities, and now there is a non-weaponised version (£95 for 30ml) with strong notes of vetiver, available from Azzi Glasser’s The Perfumer’s Story by Azzi. Dogs, another mainstay of the film, need beds (£250), leads (£80) and winter coats (£185) – in houndstooth tweed, naturally – so there are accessories by chic Belgravia canine and feline outfitter Mungo & Maud.
If you are taking man’s best friend for a walk, then you will probably want a pair of Kingsman Hunter wellingtons (£195) in navy or brown with rose-gold hardware. And if it were a bit chilly while you were out with the dog, you might want to warm yourself on your return with a Kingsman Higgs & Crick crystal tumbler (£275 for a pair) of GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 25-year-old (£550 for 700ml) or – if you are not able to bag one of the 2,000 bottles of this prestige Scotch – a shot of Old Forester Bourbon (£45 for 700ml), distilled exclusively for Statesman – the US version of Kingsman, with its HQ cunningly disguised as a Kentucky distillery.
“I made a rule that if I wouldn’t wear [or presumably drink] it proudly, then we’re not making it,” says Vaughn. And though I would not advise swapping your Huntsman bespoke for online-only Kingsman ready-to-wear, there is an underlying sense of quality. After all, Turnbull & Asser makes shirts for HRH The Prince of Wales (and James Bond); Swaine Adeney Brigg, also a supplier to 007 and the royal family, makes the leather goods; while Azzi Glasser is known for her bespoke fragrances for actors and musicians.
“I was just picking the best of British, so that it didn’t feel as cynical as, shall we say, other movies where they don’t really care if the brand’s right: whichever pays the most money gets in the film,” says Vaughn. Michael Hill, creative director of Drake’s, corroborates. “It’s highly unique in its concept as well as its execution. It’s put some of the best British makers together – each a master in its field – to create a very interesting cross-section of high-level British manufacture.”
“I wanted to champion great British brands,” says Vaughn. “For instance, I always thought George Cleverley made fantastic shoes [Eggsy semi-brogues, £595] – they made the shoes for my wedding.” He married Claudia Schiffer, an executive producer of the film, who has, with Artdeco, created a Kingsman cosmetics line (from €10.95), including a nail polish and lipstick that appear in scenes at Poppy’s Parlour (the robot there is modelled on Mrs Vaughn).
Shoes are not the only Kingsman item to come from Vaughn’s personal wardrobe. “He wears Cutler and Gross and is photographed in them – he does not take them off for the cameras, so we knew he was sympathetic to eyewear,” says Marie Wilkinson, the brand’s style director. She was impressed by the detail into which Vaughn was prepared to go. “When I was taken to meet him, I was told, ‘Matthew wants to interview you to make sure you know your stuff.’ He asked me about aspheric lenses and put me through my paces. I really liked having a technical conversation rather than just getting straight down to aesthetics.” Rest assured, in addition to any asphericity, the glasses (£295) worn in the film by Firth are handsome, following his eyebrow line perfectly without any superfluous details.
Vaughn doubtless could have just sold a licence, but instead “he wanted a partnership and to be in control at every step of the way”, says Wilkinson.
“We haven’t paid anything to be involved. It’s been a real partnership,” says Campbell Brown, president of Old Forester. “We’re supporting the film through marketing and promotion. We helped launch it at Comic-Con in San Diego with a very elaborate bar takeover of the Hard Rock Café.” And when Jeff Bridges, one of the film’s stars, attended this year’s Kentucky Derby, “we made the Statesman Bourbon available for purchase throughout”.
The introduction of American characters has opened the way for a range of denim, shirting and accessories in association with Jean Shop (belt, £150), but where possible Vaughn has tried to work with British brands. Sometimes, however, this was not achievable or appropriate. “I thought it would be great to do a modern version of Dunlop Green Flash because I think they were my first pair of sneakers.” But unable to acquire the rights, he made some sneakers with Adidas (Superstar, £140). “Because Eggsy [Egerton’s character] is from the street, we had to keep it authentic.”
Nor could he find the right British-made smartwatch, opting instead for Tag Heuer’s Connected Modular (£3,100). “In this film, the character has to have a smartwatch; it’s tied in with the plot. Then, weirdly, I saw Jean-Claude Biver [the charismatic LVMH watch boss] on Bloomberg talking about launching the first smartwatch that could be changed into a mechanical watch, and I thought, ‘Alleluia, there is a gentlemanly, elegant version of a smartwatch.’ I also try to work with people I like, and Jean-Claude’s great.”
It is easy to see Kingsman as a cynical exercise in brand extension, but on closer acquaintance with the concept, it really does seem that this is something about which Vaughn cares almost as much as the film. For him, much of the pleasure of making the films appears to have been developing the products and then integrating them into the plotline or vice versa. Some are just invented for fun. “My favourite thing is a belt with a hip flask that slides in and out of the buckle. If a man goes shooting, he can wear it and have a sneaky dram.”
Bearing in mind this is not overly intellectual arthouse filmmaking, the products, whether they play major or supporting roles, tend to slot in nicely. The only jarring note I can recall was a patterned black leather holdall that hung around Colin Firth for a scene or two too many.
“There’s an elegance out there that I want to celebrate as much as possible. It seems to be a growing trend,” says Vaughn. “When I said Kingsman was going to be about double-breasted suits, everybody replied, ‘No, double-breasted suits will never be in fashion again.’ I said, ‘We’re not interested in fashion.’” Vaughn has since allowed himself the odd smirk: “I’ve seen a lot more double-breasted clothing than five years ago.”
He now has another target for sartorial rehabilitation. “In the new Kingsman, we have tried to reinvent smoking jackets.” To which I owe my tangerine encounter at Huntsman. “Try on the orange smoking jacket,” he urges me. “I promise you, everyone laughs, and then they put it on and go, ‘Oh my God, this looks rather good.’” Which was exactly my experience when I surreptitiously tried on the one he was having made at Huntsman.