Apple TV+’s The New Look, which premieres on Wednesday, Feb. 14 with its first three episodes, examines the lives of fashion powerhouses Christian Dior (played by Ben Mendelsohn) and Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche) the people, as opposed to the ubiquitous brand names we all recognize today.
Set in Paris during World War II, the series follows Dior and Chanel as they try to forge ahead in fashion during Nazi occupation. Before long, both designers are compromising their morals in order to survive and sustain their brands. “I think [Christian] is navigating [war] not knowing what he’s doing,” Mendelsohn tells TVLine. “I think he has some principles. I think they are being eroded, in any case.”
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Still, Mendelsohn calls the drama a “love letter” to Dior that highlights his anxiety, sensitivity and shyness, but also his quiet tenacity. “One of the surprising things about Christian, he actually has a ferocious ambition, but it’s very, very, very far back in,” Mendelsohn shares.
Though the series confronts the perils of war, it doesn’t cast judgement on its characters. Instead, it sets out to examine the grey areas of global conflict and show how war forces people to make unthinkable decisions without a road map.
The series also pulls back the curtain on Coco Chanel’s Nazi ties, which are often minimized today or forgotten about altogether. Before the war, Chanel was the “queen of fashion,” Binoche says.
“She understood very early on that being a businesswoman was going to give her freedom, independence, and that was the main thing that was important,” Binoche says, “because she knew she couldn’t count on a man.”
But when the series picks up in 1943, it’s perhaps Chanel’s “fierce need for independence,” as Binoche calls it, that pushes her to make several sinsiter deals with the Nazis as she is willing to do anything to ensure her brand outlives the war.
In trying to find the common denominator between Chanel as a champion for women’s fashion and Chanel the Nazi collaborator, Binoche focused on the designer’s early childhood experiences — which are not addressed in the series — to approach her role without judgement.
Chanel “learned to be a liar, in a way, in order to survive,” Binoche explains, highlighting how the real-life designer concealed her childhood growing up in an orphanage in order to be taken seriously in the affluent fashion world.
And it’s in the name of survival that Dior and Chanel continuously bend their moral, ethical and creative boundaries throughout the 10-episode season. Ultimately, their lives are upended by war, changing the trajectory of their careers and jeopardizing their legacies.
Hit PLAY on the video above to hear the cast and crew tease what’s to come in the series. Then, hit the comments to share whether you’ll be watching The New Look to see Chanel and Dior come to life on the small screen.
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