“[…] dresses well and meticulously generally in dark double breasted suits.” Ian Fleming describing Le Chiffre in his first James Bond novel Casino Royale.
And there are dinner jackets
Today I’d like to talk about my purple velvet dinner jacket that I had made by a tailor in Hoi An circa 2019. I made a YouTube video about that experience where I also had a safari jacket made, some psychedelic shirts (JW Pepper style) and a grey plaid suit jacket. Although the video itself doesn’t document the making of this velvet jacket, I wanted to include some old photos and discuss the inspiration of this, and the provenance of the original.
My purple velvet jacket was of course inspired by the one Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelsen) wore in Casino Royale. Although, because I did so little research on the jacket at the time (it was kind of an impulse decision to have this made) I was unaware that the one in Casino Royale was black. Regardless, it was a happy accident because I’ve since come to love and appreciate how the purple makes this jacket more special and here’s why.
The jacket has since been my go-to for any black tie event. I’ve worn it to casinos, weddings, premieres and it always allows me to stand out a little more from the tuxedos you see. Although some will say that velvet dinner jackets are not black-tie. But as my colleague Matt Spaiser reminded me recently only the bow tie need be black. Daniel Craig at the No Time To Die premiere, exhibit A your honour.
Who made the original?
There has been some scrutiny as to who was the original tailor for the one we see Mads Mikkelsen on screen. In the production notes for Casino Royale, the costume designer Lindy Hemming says;
“Le Chiffre is a menacing man who lives in a twilight world. He’s not flashy, he’s secretive. He isn’t a man who is much interested in clothes, but what he wears is expensive and luxurious. His Brioni evening suit is velvet, to emphasize richness.”
It’s my personal belief that whether Hemming misremembered or was contractually obliged to cite Brioni as the tailor of the dinner jacket, she was incorrect. I consider the maker of the jacket was Soho tailor Chris Kerr who’s father had previously made clothes for Robbie Coltrane in GoldenEye, and he worked alongside his father to make for Coltrane once again in The World is Not Enough.
I interviewed Chris when co-writing the book, From Tailors With Love, An Evolution of Menswear Through the Bond Films. He spoke about that black velvet dinner jacket:
Mads is like an athlete isn’t he? A very fit man. That’s where the idea of putting him in a velvet tuxedo rather than a wool tuxedo came from, just to try and bulk him out a bit. And then she (Hemming) said, ‘Well let’s make it a three-piece as well. Let’s get some layers going.’
I said ‘Okay why don’t we make the waistcoat in velvet as well then if we really want to bulk him up a bit.’ I went to his hotel on my own to measure him. I remember that he was staying in a rather smart hotel and then I fitted him in the shop several times.’
On the other hand
Though to counter this, the jacket was sold at auction for £20,000 through Christie’s, and they cite that the lining is Brioni branded. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Chris Kerr has certainly taken ownership however by listing this as an example of his work on his blog. Could it be he made multiples and Brioni made a few originals?
According to an article on Bond Suits by my co-author Matt Spaiser,
The jacket has four buttons on the cuffs, and Le Chiffre leaves the last one open. Beyond the velvet cloth, the dinner jacket breaks from tradition with a second button on the front, pocket flaps and a single vent.
By contrast my purple velvet dinner jacket is a single button with double vents. I too have 4 buttons on the cuff but they are not working cuffs. Hence why most people with bespoke jackets will undo the last button on the cuff to demonstrate their tailored-superiority. (My jacket is bespoke, they just must have ignored that detail as it was an extremely rushed construction). My lining is a bit more ostentatious, a cream and purple paisley.