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Classic French Films Continue to Influence Popular Fashion

“The film fashions of today are your fashions of tomorrow.” That prediction came courtesy of Elsa Schiaparelli, whose rival, Coco Chanel, was one of the first designers to capitalize on the image-making potential of the silver screen when she began designing costumes for Hollywood stars in 1931 at the request of MGM boss Samuel Goldwyn.
Few epochs have informed fashion more than France’s New Wave Cinema of the 1960s and ’70s, which spawned such enduring icons as Catherine Deneuve, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Seberg, Romy Schneider, Jeanne Moreau and Anouk Aimee.

“At that time — Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) — cinema was really considered an art,” says Camille Seydoux, sister and stylist to thesp Lea Seydoux. “Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, all those directors were really inspired by fashion. When you see ‘Belle de Jour,’ you can see that fashion is a really important aspect of the movie,” says Seydoux of Luis Bunuel’s masterpiece.

“Actresses inspired both directors and designers,” she adds of the film’s star Deneuve, who played longtime muse to the film’s costume designer, Yves Saint Laurent. Audrey Hepburn, too, had a long and loyal friendship with her go-to costumer Hubert de Givenchy.
Fast forward to the 21st century and the landscape looks vastly different. “The world has changed so much,” says stylist Elizabeth Saltzman, a consultant to former Saint Laurent creative director Tom Ford, who’s editing his sophomore film, “Nocturnal Animals.”

“The relationships do still exist; the difference is they were few and special prior to the world of fashion exploding because of Instagram and social media. There are a lot of designers now, and brands pay for placements. It depends on how powerful the movie star is — and what’s in her contract.”

“Fashion became a real business,” Seydoux says. And with it, the nature of the relationship between director, designer and muse altered. “Before, designers were looking for a muse to get inspired — now fashion looks for a muse to sell more,” says Philippe Uter, stylist to French stars Ludivine Sagnier and Louise Bourgoin.

As a result, “TV shows and movies, and music videos, have become more and important — they’re now the art pieces that make a statement,” says Jonathan Frydman, former PR & events director at Karla Otto Paris. Cases in point: Beyonce’s recently dropped video for her song “Formation” is ripe with Givenchy name checks, a nod to her pal Riccardo Tisci.

Another recent development has been a series of exits at the major French fashion houses. As Paris Fashion Week kicks off March 2, all eyes are on the famed City of Light.
“We’re not sure what to expect,” says Frydman.

“So many fantastic designers left their jobs — there are no leading names to represent brands such as Christian Dior or Lanvin.” However, adds Frydman, the city has also seen an injection of fresh talent. “Demna Gvasalia just arrived at Balenciaga and his approach and philosophy is so interesting; Julien Dossena achieved an amazing challenge in the rebirth of Paco Rabanne; Guillaume Henry did the same for Carven and is now at Nina Ricci; and Coperni (designers Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer) are now at Courreges. There’s a new wave of designers.”

Not to mention, a new wave of muses, including Oscar winner and Dior darling Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg (longtime friend to Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière), Chloé spokesmodel Clémence Poésy, Melanie Laurent (close to newcomer Maxime Simoens) and Léa Seydoux (the new face of Louis Vuitton).

At the end of the day, Uter says, “Cinema and fashion are important to each other. To promote a brand, designers need the glamour of actors, and to promote a movie, what’s better then a dazzling and elegant casting on the red carpet?”

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