The fashion world is where art meets commerce, taking highfalutin ideas but making them wearable on the human body, buyable for the average consumer, and desirable for the wearer with taste. Considering the high bar such a demand sets, one would think that would be enough to sustain an industry, considering the high bar such a demand sets, but fashion has always attracted the high-strung and those with a flair for the dramatic. But no one, bar no one, really ever topped two of the greatest in that arena, Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, whose fashion lines still bear their names today.
Coco Chanel was famous for her rivalry; arguably the biggest was with Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who, alongside Chanel, was one of the most prominent figures in the fashion business during the Interwar period. However, the one that caught the attention of the press was her feud with Dior, who fairly exploded onto the fashion scene in 1947 with a line that came to define the silhouette of the 1950s, referred to, even today, as “The New Look.”
Technically, Dior called that first collection “Corolle” in a nod to the bell-shaped petals that inspired his skirts. It was a throwback to the Belle Epoque, with structured silhouettes, padded hips, cinched waists, and tulle, taffeta, and silk organza layers for days, in defiance of a decade of rationing. Chanel’s response to these outfits that were less about celebrating a woman’s curves than forcing them to behave? “Dior doesn’t dress women. He upholsters them.”
Chanel had retired by the time Dior hit the scene, but she was so put out at his success and angered by his designs, she came out of retirement at 71 and never stopped working again. (She literally dropped dead while putting the finishing touches on what would be her final collection in 1971.) Chanel was already famous for her flapper dresses, the Little Black Dress (known as Chanel's Ford), and the Chanel suit, which remains a staple of fashion today.
Apple TV+'s The New Look, the first installment in what is a planned anthology series dramatizing some of the fashion industry's greatest moments in history, will deep dive into this era of Chanel's retirement, Dior's rise, and their competing collections for its first season. The streaming service has rounded up one hell of a cast for it as well, with Ben Mendelsohn as Christian Dior, Juliette Binoche as Coco Chanel, Maisie Williams as Catherine Dior, John Malkovich as Lucien Lelong, Emily Mortimer as Elsa Lombardi and Claes Bang as Spatz.
Here's the first season's synopsis:
Set against the World War II Nazi occupation of Paris, “The New Look” focuses on the pivotal moment in the 20th century when the French city led the world back to life through its fashion icon Christian Dior. As Dior rises to prominence with his groundbreaking, iconic imprint of beauty and influence, Chanel’s reign as the world’s most famous fashion designer is put into jeopardy. The interwoven saga follows the surprising stories of Dior’s contemporaries and rivals from Chanel to Pierre Balmain, Cristóbal Balenciaga and more; and, provides a stunning view into the atelier, designs and clothing created by Christian Dior through collaboration with the House of Dior.
The cast also includes Hugo Becker, Alexis Loizon, Thomas Poitevin, Zabou Breitman, Jodie Ruth-Forest, and Yahli Cohen. The immersive and contemporary soundtrack for the series is produced by Jack Antonoff and features covers of popular early to mid-20th-century songs performed by artists including Bleachers, Florence Welch, Lana Del Rey, Matty Healy of The 1975, Beabadoobee, Nick Cave, and Perfume Genius. The New Look is produced by Apple Studios and DB-AK Productions and is written, executive produced, and directed by Todd A. Kessler.
The New Look will debut with the first three episodes on Wednesday, February 14, on Apple TV+, followed by one episode every Wednesday through April 3, 2024.