Sharp Shooters: The Women of Bond

As N.Peal launches the first ever women's 007 cashmere collection, Nancy Durrant, arts editor of the Evening Standard, explores the power, style and enduring appeal of the women of Bond.

I've never liked the phrase Bond Girl. There's something condescending about it, a whiff of naive teen crossed disconcertingly with Playboy Bunny. And yet, I'd argue that many of the women who've appeared in the franchise over the years have been more than just conveniently imperilled eye-candy. Some might only appear briefly - especially in the early films - or be saddled with questionable names (even Honor Blackman's ninja judo skills struggled to override the less-than-subtle Pussy Galore), but my goodness they were memorable.

Ursula Andress was the first Bond woman, aged 26, when she emerged from the sea in Dr. No, in a cute but practical white bikini, which not only held a knife but also rivalled Boudicca's breastplate in the support stakes. Her appearance as Honey Ryder seared itself on the public imagination, so much so that when, more than 40 years later, Daniel Craig's 007 sauntered from the waves in brief baby blue shorts in Casino Royale, we all got it. Remember this? It said. Of course you do, because it was goddamn fabulous.

Andress, with her peculiar mystique (selling seashells sounds curiously euphemistic) and effortless style, set the class bar high. Her successors, though, have continued to push it upwards - often with one finger, while fighting off a pair of goons.

Tatiana Romanova (From Russia with Love) was a double agent, honey-trapping Bond while also falling for him in a series of increasingly lush outfits, culminating in a chic lemon and lime ensemble, which remained uncreased as she shot Spectre's Rosa Klebb. Firmly on the wrong side but still magnificent was Fiona Volpe (Thunderball), a flame-haired Italian Spectre assassin, groomed and clad like a society wife and deadly in every way. And what about the side-switching May Day, played in A View to a Kill by the breathtaking Grace Jones? She literally couldn't be cooler.

But unsurprisingly, it's the more recent Bond women who have really shone, adding both style and substance to Bond's relentless shenanigans. Michelle Yeoh's tough Wai Lin (Tomorrow Never Dies), a martial arts master and a rare Bond woman who actually keeps him at arm's length while there's work to do; Naomie Harris' supercool Eve Moneypenny, originally a field agent and savvy enough to help out Bond when he goes rogue in Spectre; Lucia Sciarra, the fiery widow of a crime boss who, played by Monica Bellucci in the same film at the age of 50, made Bond history as the first of the agent's lovers even close to his own age. Then there's Dr Madeleine Swann, a French psychologist (exactly what Bond needs, let's face it) with a strong dislike of violence and a fantastic line in evening gowns (That frock! On the train! Oh my). And I cannot wait for No Time to Die, to meet Lashana Lynch's 00 agent Nomi, the first woman to tell James to 'stay in your lane' (arguably also exactly what Bond needs). I raise a martini to them: Bond women, we salute you.

Nancy Durrant is arts editor of the Evening Standard. She says: 'I couldn't care less whether you shake or stir my martini, but it should be very cold, very dry, and very, very dirty.'