The Collection’s costume designers Chattoun & Fab brings high fashion to the smallscreen.
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.
NOT A KNOCK-OFF
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.
SUFFERING FOR BEAUTY
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!”
SPOT THE FAKES
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.