Friday, December 7, 2018

High-Rise: Laing's Descent (2016)


In High-Rise Tom Hiddleston stars as Robert Laing, a young doctor who moves into a luxury skyscraper rife with classism that eventually descends into violent chaos. 

Tom's wardrobe in the film is limited but - possibly more than in any other film - the clothes themselves are a key component of story. They distinguish between the upper class and lower class, and as the social order breaks down so do the clothes. The film is set in the 1970s so the costume designer, Odile Hicks-Mireaux, and her team had the task of finding items that were appropriate for the time period but didn't seem like a "parody". 

Here is a look at the High-Rise costumes on display at the Picturehouse Cinema in London. 

The Suit:

For the vast majority of the film Tom Hiddleston is seen wearing a grey herringbone suit. 

Dicks-Mireaux based his look on George Lazenby as James Bond in 1969's in On Her Majesty's Secret Service: 

"Tom was one of the very first people I met and I had decided to base it on the George Lazenby look from 1969 because Ben had said he wanted this narrow tie and not the seventies tie. So I had to do that crossover from sixties to seventies so he has a much longer jacket. It seems to work. He’s got a smaller shirt and smaller tie but still quite a wide lapel and a very long jacket with slight flair. I kind of explained to him what I wanted and he went to the fitting and he had to wear it quite a bit before, just to get used to the whole feel of it. It’s the way he works."

The last statement is very true! Tom showed similar dedication during prep for I Saw The Light by wearing his Buckaroo Hat 24/7, even while exercising. 

The crucial look was created by Chris Kerr, who has extensive experience with creating period items for films (Legend, Their Finest, Yardie). He took the direction from the costume designer and put his own spin on it: 

"The idea was that Laing's style looked correct for 1975 but as a young doctor would dress in this period. The 70's is all too easy to become over styled but this wasn't to be the case for Laing. We looked at real pieces from the period as well as photo references."

All together Chris Kerr created three full versions of the suit and several extra pairs of trousers. The costume department then gradually destroyed the suit to match the deterioration within the film. Tom himself was a huge fan of the suit, saying afterwards "I tried it on and it reminded me of the '70s..." and even kept a pair of the trousers after filming was completed.  

Here's a look at the transformation and breakdown of Laing. 

The tie was created by Peckham Rye, the Black Pin Spot. Tom told the BFI that his character Laing, has a special relationship with his tie. It is the final piece of civilized society that he symbolically abandons in the film. 

The Party: 

For a dinner party scene Tom wears a vintage '70s velvet suit from Angels Costumes. Angels was established in 1840 and has supplied costumes to 37 Best Costume Design Academy Award winners. In 2016 they were awarded the BAFTA for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema. The scene is significant because Laing is invited by Royal, the head architect of the High-Rise, and isn't told that it's a 18th Century costume party as a social experiment. This is Laing's first direct glimpse of the ugly side of the occupants within the building. 


Workout Wear: 

There are also several scenes where Laing can be seen exercising or playing Squash. Tom is wearing 1970s vintage Lacoste polo and shorts. His shoes are also from another French brand, The Kooples. But instead of vintage, these shoes were actually available from their S/S 2014 collection.  

Can Nothing Be A Costume? 

There's an endless debate about whether nudity is necessary in film or simply gratuitous but in High-Rise it serves a very important purpose and sets up the rest of the film. It's Laing's one carefree moment.  Tom on the significance of the sunbathing scene: 

"Laing moves into a high rise to get away from the entanglements of real life. He's actually recovering from a family trauma and he's looking forward to the anonymity and the clean, clinical space of his apartment. The first thing he does is he takes his clothes off and he sunbathes in the nude. And then that piece is interrupted immediately and he is never naked again. His way of exercising control is to stay clothed."

From then on even in his intimate moments Laing keeps his suit on. In the beginning Laing is shown as completely fastidious; showering multiple times, incredibly organized, and keeping to a strict timetable. He declares that he is determined to get everything right. But as the High-Rise devolves around him, his suit becomes his protection and his identity. - as Chris Kerr states "this makes you identify the breakdown of his character and the society in the tower whilst still being Dr. Laing". 

Thank you to Chris Kerr, assistant costume designer Ellen Crawshaw, The Kooples, and Peckham Rye for speaking with me and providing details about the wardrobe. Additional information was obtained from Neil McClone's interview with Odile Dicks-Mireaux and Instyle. Photographs by Aidan Monaghan

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