Apple TV+’s lavish period drama “The New Look” kicks off in spectacular fashion as Coco Chanel, portrayed by Juliette Binoche, makes a bold entrance, cigarette in hand and ammunition on her lips. The year is 1955, and at a press conference overshadowed by Christian Dior’s rising popularity, Chanel unleashes a verbal assault on her younger rival, branding him a “nervous wreck” and deriding his designs as imprisoning creations devoid of true artistry.
The series’ premiere, streaming on February 14th, lays bare the bitter rivalry between Chanel and Dior, highlighting Chanel’s disdain for Dior’s iconic “New Look” silhouette that she views as a regressive step for women’s fashion. Drawing from historical accounts, the show captures Chanel’s acerbic wit and fierce determination to reclaim her position at the forefront of haute couture.
In real life, Chanel’s disdain for Dior ran even deeper, with scathing remarks about his designs being “uncomfortable” and likening women wearing them to “old armchairs.” Yet, beneath the surface of Chanel’s animosity lies a complex figure whose own tumultuous history informs her actions.
The series deftly navigates Chanel’s controversial collaboration with the Nazis during World War II, contrasting her opportunistic dealings with the harrowing experiences of Dior’s sister Catherine, a French resistance hero. While Dior’s connection with the resistance underscores his commitment to principles of courage and resilience, Chanel’s entanglement with the Nazis exposes her morally ambiguous nature.
The origins of “The New Look” itself are shrouded in unexpected twists, much like its titular character. Created by Todd A. Kessler, known for his work on “Bloodline” and “Damages,” the series delves into the complex psyche of both Dior and Chanel, exploring their internal conflicts amidst the backdrop of post-war France.
While Dior’s artistic legacy is celebrated, the series doesn’t shy away from presenting Chanel as a multifaceted individual, grappling with the challenges of survival and legacy. Drawing parallels between Dior’s rise to fame and James Gandolfini’s journey with “The Sopranos,” Kessler highlights the shared struggles of artists navigating fame and identity.
With meticulous attention to historical detail and nuanced character portrayals, “The New Look” promises a captivating exploration of two fashion icons and the turbulent era that shaped their destinies.