Bespoke suits and expensive watches, French-British Costume Designer Loulou Bontemps is no stranger to director Guy Ritchie’s cinematic universe, having also worked together on ‘Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare’ (2024) as well as ‘The Covenant’ (2023). The Netflix series ‘The Gentlemen’ expands on the story Ritchie started with the successful 1992 film of the same name, starring Matthew McConaughey.

“The world of ‘The Gentlemen’ is an absolute celebration of British country fashion as well as the fashion all around England. As much as we pay homage to the film, it’s completely different,” says costume designer Loulou Bontemps.

The winning ensemble cast is led by Theo James’ Eddie Horniman, who unexpectedly inherits the Lord title as well as a thriving weed business operating on his late father’s estate, and the story takes us deeper and deeper into the aristo-criminal world of the deceptively idyllic British countryside. Royals mix with the riffraff, and everyone’s looking to come out on top.

Guy Ritchie has honed his gentlemanly aesthetic over the years. The award-winning British director cares about clothing and fabric and how everyone looks on camera. There is a certain Ritchie-ness to all his productions, specifically in the visual storytelling, and Bontemps certainly had her hands full as the show features not only multiple different characters but a loyal crew for every gangster featured in the series.

“I think the most fun part was the fact that I kept being challenged, and I kept having to create completely different looks and then put them all together, so I think the collaboration of how all looks came together is what I celebrate the most,” adds Bontemps.

Bontemps spoke with Awards Focus about creating the heightened, stylized British country fashion with a gangster twist, the stunning real feather bespoke cockerel costume she made, and finding inspiration from both Elton John and Clark Gable.

Awards Focus: Could you tell us about initial conversations with Guy Ritchie for the look of the costumes, specifically for Theo James’ character Eddie Horniman?

Loulou Bontemps: For Eddie Horniman, it was really important to Guy [Ritchie] for the character to go through this whole style evolution throughout the show and, in doing so, transform from that humble soldier to a gentleman gangster. We started with dressing for function rather than fashion, and then by the end of it, he’s wearing these beautiful bespoke tweed suits and embracing being the man of the manor and at the same time embracing the fact that he is this gentleman and he is an absolute gangster.

AF: Theo James must’ve been jealous of his co-stars being able to wear all these gorgeous pieces right from the start.

Bontemps: I think Theo wanted to burn his waxed jacket by the end of episode four. He was like, “If I have to wear another one of these jackets, I’m going to lose my mind.” [laughs] He was very excited to evolve out of it.

AF: We have to talk about the cockerel costume you created from real fur. It looks stunning and is so pivotal to the story and Freddy’s character, played brilliantly by Daniel Ings. Could you tell us about that whole process and the inspiration behind it?

Bontemps: It was a labor of love. The inspiration came from sports mascots and Elton John, and wanting to create something not just completely unique to the scene but completely unique to the whole show. I wanted to do something that no one was expecting, and when you read the script, it was just a reference to a chicken costume, and I think everyone was kind of expecting me to buy something at an online store. I was like, “Absolutely not. This is going to be on the billboard.”

We made three costumes in total, one for Daniel [Ings] and one for the stunts, and I made an extra one just in case. We weren’t sure whether we would have blood on it or if it would get damaged because the weather in England is sporadic. It was all real feathers and all three costumes are actually still in quite good shape. I think there’s one in the Netflix studio and there’s one in the production studio.

The moment Daniel put it on, he was just in heaven. He just loved it, so he really earned that look. The costume really added value to the fascinating emotion you get in that scene where it’s completely devastating one minute, and then you’re laughing the next minute.

AF: Was there a particular scene that still stands out to you, either in terms of last-minute changes or perhaps just the weather. Were you caught in a snowstorm while filming a scene from the second episode where Theo James meets Ray Winstone’s Bobby Glass for the very first time, and they have this fancy barbeque with Kaya Scodelario’s Susie Glass?

Bontemps: The drama of British weather. You never know if it’s going to snow or rain or be super hot. You always have to be prepared. We all arrived on set one morning to film that scene, and it was completely covered in snow. We had to rethink the actors’ looks and add layers, and in that scene, Ray Winstone is actually wearing Guy Ritchie’s jacket. He was freezing and I had all these jackets, but they didn’t quite look right, and Guy said, “Go grab my Ralph Lauren”. And it was the perfect look, and Ray looked amazing in it and just owned that scene. Then we added a huge scarf to Kaya’s beautiful tweed outfit; she looked amazing, and then Theo toughed it out [laughs].

AF: Kaya nails look after look and one of my favorites is that red velvet suit, but I am curious about accessories and jewelry when putting together that Susie Glass look?

Bontemps: It’s a celebration of London fashion, mixing these luxury brands with vintage. We definitely had a lot of vintage jewelry, we had some new contemporary jewelry that’s all sort of inspired by vintage.

People forget about accessories, jewelry and a handbag and shoes or a belt completely transform and complete a look. You start by putting a look together and creating that silhouette, and then you start adding the jewels, and you might add a hat. Kaya wore berets quite often in the show and she looked fantastic. She’s got some of the most phenomenal handbags on the show, and fortunately, we loaned a lot of wonderful watches and jewelry and handbags from private collectors around London, which allowed us to have these outrageously expensive beautiful things that just pop. Kaya wears it so well that she earns every single look. By putting her in these powerful clothes and these powerful silhouettes, she transformed into this iconic Susie Glass character that everybody loves.

AF: I’d love to hear how you approached the different gangster looks. There is such a wide spectrum of criminal characters here. That must’ve been fun to create. I love gangsters in tracksuits.

Bontemps: I was trying to pay homage to the film without completely replicating it. I found these incredible references, and Sergio Tacchini had just rebranded in a way that was really good fun, and it’s also a brand from up north that is really loved.

For example, when I fitted Peter [Serafinowicz] for the first time, he said, “Can I take a picture of myself and send it to my mom?” He is from up north. He had an input in the sneakers that he wore, saying “I need these particular sneakers because that’s what I would wear with this tracksuit if I’m from Liverpool.” As much as it’s cool to put gangsters in tracksuits, it was also appropriate for the northerners because that particular brand and that particular style is very true to them. Then you juxtapose that with the British countryside gangsters, and then you got the London gangsters, and then you got the traveler gangsters.  

It’s a wonderful celebration of all these different styles from around the UK; even though we’re tiny, there are all these different elements of fashion that I’ve tried to bring in as much as possible so that all of these different gangs could have their own unique style statement.

AF: You mentioned the high-end accessories, and I am curious if you had to have special vaults for some of these expensive items.

Bontemps: A lot of the things we loaned would come for the day, and then they would be taken back. Especially with the watches, we had like over £6 million worth of watches in total on the show. I didn’t buy them, you could loan a watch that’s worth 500 grand for £1000 a day, and then someone was on set keeping an eye on the watch. I’m very new to learning this watching game, it’s fascinating, and people are so into them, and they’re real investment pieces.

There’s this one scene where Stanley Johnston [Giancarlo Esposito] is putting together the invitations for his ball, and I recreated it from a beautiful picture I found of Clark Gable. He is wearing this wonderful houndstooth blazer with a cable knit sweater around his shoulders, and he’s looking at these watches. I had that photo on my board when I was presenting to Giancarlo, and he loved it, and we ended up completely replicating it.