The Col­lec­tion

The Col­lec­tion’s cos­tume de­sign­ers Chat­toun & Fab brings high fash­ion to the smallscreen.

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Sea­son 1 Sun­days (from 2 April) BBC First (*119) 21:00

The launch of fash­ion de­signer Chris­tian Dior’s lav­ish “New Look” in Fe­bru­ary 1947 caused mouth­froth­ing out­rage in bleak, postWorld War II Paris. In Oc­to­ber 1947, pho­tog­ra­pher Wal­ter Carone cap­tured the mo­ment when poor, fu­ri­ous women on the Rue Lepic tore the ex­trav­a­gant new Dior dress from a young woman’s body in protest about the “waste­ful” use of fab­ric. This re­al­life mo­ment is the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind a sim­i­lar scene in episode 2 of high­fash­ion pe­riod drama The Col­lec­tion (2016) on Sunday 9 April. And while the se­ries amps up the drama with mur­der, se­cret Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tions, busi­ness in­trigue and fam­ily shock­ers, it’s re­ally an ex­quis­ite treat for anyone with even a pass­ing in­ter­est in Post-War fash­ion, thanks to the in­cred­i­ble work of French cos­tume de­signer Chat­toune & Fab.


A de­sign team of 10, in­clud­ing ac­tual Parisian tai­lors, took six months to cre­ate the in-se­ries de­sign stu­dio House Of Sabine’s daz­zling re-launch col­lec­tion of 30 gowns. And they had 1 200 more pe­riod out­fits to source and make for the core cast and ex­tras (many of which were hired from cos­tume li­braries in Paris, Rome and the UK). While the de­signs ref­er­enced late 1940s Paris fash­ion, noth­ing has been copied from Dior’s fa­mous col­lec­tion; it’s all cre­ated from scratch. Chat­toune & Fab ref­er­enced over 2 000 images stored in Paris’s fash­ion li­braries, blend­ing el­e­ments from many dif­fer­ent dresses from the time so that The Col­lec­tion didn’t just be­come a cheap knock-off Dior story – al­though Dior fans will also spot mo­ments in­spired by his au­to­bio- gra­phy Dior By Dior (1956) – but in­stead cap­tured the essence of the ex­cite­ment around the new look.


Dior – and The Col­lec­tion’s Paul Sabine (Richard Coyle) – re­belled against aus­tere wartime dresses that were as boxy and straight up-and-down as pos­si­ble thanks to fab­ric ra­tioning. In­stead, the show fea­tures hour­glass sil­hou­ettes and long, full skirts that used an unbelievable amount of ma­te­rial and labour – think 50 me­tres of fab­ric in­stead of just two! “Women had been lib­er­ated dur­ing the war with jack­ets and trousers and sud­denly, ‘Ooh! Fash­ion comes and it’s let’s go back to corsets and be un­com­fort­able,’” jokes Chat­toune. It was a time to say, ‘Hey, the war is over, so let’s live again,’ but the ges­ture of op­ti­mism wasn’t just sen­ti­men­tal. There was a con­certed ef­fort to re­claim Paris’s rep­u­ta­tion as the world’s fash­ion cap­i­tal, bring­ing in busi­ness and cash to help France strug­gle back onto its feet again. As a re­sult, the clothes in The Col­lec­tion are as lav­ish as they are el­e­gant. One wed­ding dress from The Col­lec­tion used 70 me­tres of fab­ric, “Which makes it very heavy. So much so that it was painful to wear for Jenna (Jenna Thiam, who plays Nina the seam­stress-turned­model),” ex­plains Chat­toune. “It’s like wear­ing 25 out­fits at once and so the dresses are un­be­liev­ably heavy. Cou­ture is not for every­body!”


While The Col­lec­tion is set is Paris, it was partly filmed at the Swansea Bay Stu­dios in Wales. An en­tire au­then­ti­cally shabby Parisian neigh­bour­hood, from bak­ery to butch­ery and cin­ema to train sta­tion and de­sign houses, was built on a back lot so that the show didn’t have to pay sky-high fees to close down real Paris streets for film­ing.

Claude Sabine Claude (Tom Ri­ley), Paul Sabine (Richard Coyle) and model Nina (Jenna Thiam) turn fan­tasy into fash­ion.

Nina mod­els the in­fa­mous red dress.

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