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They bring us beauty and magic: why prestige TV series about fashion are TV's new obsession | Television

They bring us beauty and magic: why prestige TV series about fashion are TV's new obsession |  Television

 


VSPublic transportation and public transportation have very little in common, but the adage of waiting for a bus for hours and then three arriving at the same time has a certain current intersection. In January, a drama series about Spanish designer Cristbal Balenciaga and his 30 years of work in Paris premiered on Disney+. Close behind comes the Apple TV+ drama The New Look, which arrives this week, and chronicles Christian Dior and his contemporaries as they navigate World War II. Later this year, Daniel Brhl (Good Bye, Lenin!, All Quiet on the Western Front) will play Karl Lagerfeld in a series which has been given the working title Kaiser Karl and will trace the late designers' rise in the fashion world to Paris. in the 1970s.

It's striking that a glut of television, not just about fashion, but also about the rarefied world of high fashion, can carve a path onto our screens in such a short time. On the one hand, the reasons are obvious: the characters are colorful and complicated and the clothes are beautiful. There are big egos and even bigger hats, era-defining haircuts and sharp rivalries. But on the other hand, if it was so obvious, why didn't it happen sooner?

This kind of fashion TV feels like a departure. From America's Next Top Model to Project Runway and Next in Fashion, fashion on TV these days often means reality. Or what fashion writer Justine Picardie sums up as brilliant Saturday night television, talk shows and Strictly, which are not ostensibly about fashion, but about dressing. This new wave, she says, brings us beauty and magic in a different way.

The mid-century fashion that is the subject of these new series is what Helen Warner, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia and the University of East Anglia, says. author of Fashion on Television, considers this period as a more general concern in terms of fashion history. We've moved from society's elites dictating style, as was the case in the 1800s, to a system in which specific designers set trends, she says. There is a mythology around it and a certain element of mystique around these characters.

The world's most famous Frenchman Ben Mendelsohn as Christian Dior in Apple TV+'s The New Look. Photography: Roger DO MINH/Apple

They are also household names. Take Gabrielle Coco Chanel. She is, says Picardie, who spent a decade researching her for a 2010 book called Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, one of the world's most famous figures when it comes to women. Christian Dior, for his part, was not only the most famous Frenchman in the world, but, in the aftermath of World War II, his name would probably have been even more recognizable than that of Charles De Gaulle or Jean-Paul Sartre because it becomes this huge economic stimulus.

Then there's the fact that not only were they big names, but many of them were big characters as well. Once again, let's take Chanel. It's no surprise that The New Look, a show named after the sartorial revolution that Dior inspired in post-World War II Paris, is as much about her as it is about him. He’s an incredible character, says Picardie. She adds spice, glamor and questionable ethics to Balenciaga and The New Look, with the complex image of her collaboration with the Nazis making for prickly viewing. In one scene from The New Look, Juliette Binoche, perfectly cast, drinks cocktails and spouts witty one-liners while sitting next to Heinrich Himmler, the SS commander, at a dinner party.

These new shows highlight what many fashion fans have long known: fashion is intrinsically shaped by its social, historical and political context. But also that it shapes him. Once again, Chanel is a good example. It influenced modernism, known as Picardie. Picasso called her the most intelligent woman in Europe. She expressed modernism through clothing. Becoming famous during World War I, when women were truly entering the workforce for the first time, she changed the way women dressed. She gave herself dignity [when] women did not have the sartorial dignity that couture accorded to men.

However, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that we are only here for the historical depth. The public is curious. Of course, we'll watch them for the human interaction and depiction of the ups and downs of a kind of success that few of us experience. But we also love a bit of tabloid titillation, says fashion and identity commentator Caryn Franklin, former presenter of The Clothes Show, knows her way around fashion on the small screen. It shows us, she says, that they were like us most of the time: sometimes wonderful, often deeply competitive and insecure, and sometimes badly behaved but all the while better stylish and much better connected with stylish people. that we.

These are interesting characters who were sidelined and ignored by Disney+'s Kaiser Karl. Photography: Disney

As for the timing of it all, Warner points out that spikes in fashion film and television often coincide with periods of economic crisis. She cites a series of Hollywood films made during the Great Depression, such as Mannequin and Stolen Holiday, designed to facilitate tie-up opportunities with department stores in an effort to stimulate the economy. Right now we find ourselves in a cost of living crisis And climate emergency. Given that the fashion industry's contribution to global emissions is well documented, I wouldn't rule out the idea that these shows are partly a response and partly an attempt to manage the industry's image of the fashion.

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Commerce greases the wheels. These big brands are very popular on social networks. Dior has 46 million, Chanel 60 million and Balenciaga, more modestly, 14 million. TV types will no doubt be wise to these measures. This is an important cultural phenomenon, Picardy says, so perhaps the editors at the big streaming media services thought: Clearly people are interested. If some of you are tempted to dig a little deeper into the Napoleonic era, which was the backdrop to Louis Vuitton's life, they might be interested to learn that his eponymous brand now has more than 55 million of followers on Instagram.

Picardie underlines the effect of The Crown. Very popular, it showed that people could be interested in a different and alternative vision of history. In The Crown, the story is viewed through the lens of British royalty. In this new series of fashion shows, history is approached through the prism of haute couture. Why not use Chanel, an incredibly complex, sharp-tongued and charismatic character, as a lens through which to tell a chapter of the story that has been told many times before? Or Balenciaga, whose camera shyness has made him something of an enigma, in stark contrast to the virus- and stunt-hungry clothing of today's Balenciaga brand.

In both cases, the lens alternates between zooming in on the details of the royal family and the fashion world respectively and zooming out, giving us the bigger picture. In The Crown there are episodes exploring the moon landings and the Aberfan disaster; in Balenciaga and The New Look we get a glimpse of life in Paris under Nazi occupation. Particularly through the character of Catherine Dior, Christian's sister, The New Look delves into the history of the French resistance, in which Catherine participated until her arrest in the French capital in 1944, before being tortured and transported to the Ravensbruck women's concentration camp. .

Picasso called her the most intelligent woman in Europe. Juliette Binoche as Coco Chanel in Apple TV+'s The New Look. Photography: Roger DO MINH/Apple

This doesn’t happen in a cultural vacuum. These stories are also told in museums and galleries around the world. Women Dressing Womenshowcasing the work of French couturiers alongside contemporary designers such as Rei Kawakubo and Simone Rocha, is now on view at the Met in New York, while in Paris, the Museum of Decorative Arts will exhibit the fantastic creations of Iris van Herpen until April. It follows successful exhibitions at the V&A. The Dior show was their biggest and most successful [fashion] show of all time, just like Chanel, the tickets were sold in two days, points out Picardie. Bina Daigeler's costumes from the Balenciaga show were even displayed in an exhibition in Madrid and there were, she says, long queues. There were so many people that it couldn't just be people interested in fashion, so many people came.

Looking to current fashion could also provide clues. We are struggling with fast, even hyper-fast, fashion. Supercharged e-retailer Shein can decide on a product, manufacture it and send it to customers in less than three weeks. In contrast, the slow, painstaking process of sewing can take months. Daigeler believes the beauty of this process and its fruits play a role. In a world where fast fashion is the norm, I think it now makes it interesting for people to look at what high fashion was.

In a sense, the real question might be: why did it take so long for these creators to take their place on the small screen? These are interesting characters who have been marginalized and ignored, believes Picardie, whose initial research for Miss Dior, a book about Catherine Dior, in 2011, met with no interest, although the book would become a bestseller upon its release. publication in 2021. It's only now that other forms of the wider culture are saying: Oh yeah, maybe it's worth doing this, there will be an audience.

But despite all these theories, there is also a certain magic in these moments of convergence of cultures. Daigeler has already seen it. When she was working on Mrs. America, the Hulus miniseries about feminist activist Gloria Steinem, a Steinem movie was also in the works. I think it's often a coincidence. As she says: I don't know if it's just something in the air.

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2/ https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2024/feb/13/they-give-us-beauty-and-magic-why-prestige-dramas-about-fashion-are-tvs-newest-obsession

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