‘Fiction needs more female spies,’ says feminist writer Natasha Walter, ‘after all, women are trained to keep secrets’. Her fiction debut A Quiet Life puts a woman at the centre of a spy thriller. She’s not the first –action adventuress Modesty Blaise has been around since 1963- but she’s one of very few. The latest is the BBC America phenomenon Killing Eve. It has won a bunch of accolades (with nine Emmy nominations pending) and its writer, woman-of-the-moment Phoebe Waller-Bridge has been hired to polish the script of the new Bond movie. Due to premier next Spring, Waller-Bridge says it will ‘treat women properly’. And hopefully we will get a dash of her tongue-in-cheek humour.
Max Mara imagines the wardrobe for a film yet to be made. All the tropes are there, but turned around. Modesty Blaise is the new 007. She admires Bond’s elegance, but questions his modus operandi. Bumpy car chases, shootouts and cataclysmic explosions -dangerous, dirty and unnecessary, she thinks. With a strategic hint and a well laid trap, she manoeuvers her adversary into surrender. No need for a gun then, but the holster makes for a very stylish design detail.
Our film begins in London; a car rides through rain streaked Whitehall, heels click briskly in the corridors of power, the dark hush of a wood paneled office. She wears spy-style trenchcoats and sharp shouldered three-piece trouser suits in ‘sharkskin’ and Prince-de-Galles. Later, lunch at a discreet Mayfair watering hole; she wears a playful mix micro foulard prints in black and white. To the airport; she never travels without a generously proportioned bush jacket and a perfectly designed Whitney bag. The latest are small, soft and neat or big enough for overnight (you never know).
A private jet delivers our heroine to a palm fringed island. She crosses the glittering bay by speed launch to a sequestered hideaway. She favours tropical military uniforms –shorts that graze the knee and multi-pocketed shirts in eau-de-nil, shell pink, and powder blue. Perfect for keeping cool when chasing through the jungle.
She is prepared for every eventuality. Cocktails with the subject of her assignment? A grand affair at the Governor’s mansion? She has long pale paisley print bias cut skirts and fluid pastel gowns with tough looking braces. She walks across the lawn to a waiting helicopter in a flurry of diagonally placed silk volants. In this film –and in real life- Max Mara never lets her down.