Last updated: March 9, 2012 10:14 pm

Culture corner: The desert life aquatic

While fishing and fashion might have little in common, this season has been swimming with underwater references

The new British film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen brings aquatic attire to the big screen. While fishing and fashion might appear to have little in common, this season has been swimming with underwater references, from the coral reef backdrop and shell-shaped handbags at Chanel to tropical fish prints at Mary Katrantzou.

In the film, based on Paul Torday’s 2007 bestselling novel and directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat), buttoned-up Scottish fisheries expert Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) and public relations executive Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Emily Blunt) try to help a visionary sheikh (Amr Waked) realise his dream of introducing his salmon fishing hobby into Yemen’s deserts.

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Blunt’s wardrobe is awash with coral-coloured clothing, including a scoop-neck cashmere sweater. English rose Harriet charms the dour civil servants at Fred’s office in silhouette-framing, knee-length dresses. Her classic office wear is paired with this season’s shoe (chunky of heel, open of toe).

Costume designer Julian Day (Control) hunted hard to find the perfect wardrobe for Harriet, allowing Blunt to score another style success, although the razor-edges of her scene-stealing turn in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) are softened here. The Downing Street press officer who orchestrates the salmon transportation, Patricia Maxwell (Kristin Scott Thomas), wears sheer silk blouses, including a pale blue shirt with small beaded rows across the front that create the effect of water rippling, and add a feminine undercurrent to her business jackets. “I didn’t want her to look starchy, I wanted her to look sexy,” says Day, who received help from British designer Jaeger to achieve the effect.

Fred is so moved by the sheikh’s vision that he shakes off both his scepticism and his wool suit (a vintage Burberry number from the 1940s) to trade them in, for, as Day puts it, “Lawrence of Arabia-style clothing”. Hip men’s label Folk provided the pocket-detailed linen shirts and sand-coloured trousers that help McGregor make the transition from suburbia to the dramatic landscapes of the Yemen.

Providing a foil to Barbour wax jackets and river-wading sports gear, the sheikh boasts saffron-coloured satin trim on his robes, spun from materials sourced from markets in London’s Hackney and Southall.

And the pearl in the oyster? Harriet’s one-shoulder Giorgio Armani gown, with silver fishtail skirt flowing from a structured dark velvet bodice, definitely fits the bill and makes for perfect banqueting attire at the sheikh’s Highland estate. Who said fishing was dull?

‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ is on release in the US now and in the UK next month

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