Fashion buffs have had something of a bumper crop this year, with 2021 seeing the release of not one, but four major fashion films and a mini-series. Encompassing the murderous drama that overshadowed the Gucci family through much of the 1980s and 1990s, to the skilful clothes-as-storytelling adopted by Princess Diana when she was barred from speaking publicly, to the highest level of hand-work that denotes haute couture, this year has offered visual splendour of every description.
Even Disney characters got a shoo-in, as the evil intentions of Cruella de Vil were explained in a back story. Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Netflix created a mini-series about the flamboyant life of the American designer Halston, who went from society darling to outcast in a startlingly short period of time.
'House of Gucci'
Directed by Ridley Scott and staring Adam Driver and Lady Gaga as Maurizio Gucci and his ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani, the film tells the murky story of the Gucci family’s fall from grace with the murder of Maurizio, at the hands of a hitman hired by Reggiani.
Based on true events, the film also stars Al Pacino and an almost unrecognisable Jared Leto, and while it has been discredited as fictitious by the Gucci family at the heart of the scandal, the fashion at least is spot on.
With the company no longer owned by the family, the present chief executive Marco Bizzarri granted full access to the company archives to the Oscar-winning costume designer Janty Yates, meaning that the looks, many of which were designed by Tom Ford, who was creative head during this period, are seriously fabulous.
Gaga’s character Reggiani, in particular, is seen wearing some amazing vintage Gucci pieces, from monogrammed, leather-fronted dresses to heavy fur coats.
Set during a single, pivotal weekend in the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, the film by Pablo Larrain focuses on the immense pressures faced by Diana, who, as one of the most famous – and photographed – women in the world, understood how to use fashion to express herself.
Barred from voicing an opinion by royal protocol, she made her views known instead through her clever choice of clothes. Case in point: when her husband, Prince Charles publicly admitted to adultery, Diana stepped out in what has been dubbed her "revenge dress", a slinky, off-the-shoulder little black dress to show the world what he was missing.
Starring Kristen Stewart as Diana, many of the looks were created in close conjunction with the French house Chanel, including the silver-beaded, organza evening gown that features on the movie poster. The house also opened its archives, allowing the Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran to take vintage pieces, such as a red tweed coat, from its autumn 1988 ready-to-wear collection. Much of the jewellery worn in the film meanwhile, was created by the regional jewellery house Mouawad.
Starring Ewan McGregor, this Netflix mini-series plots the rise and tragic fall of the American designer. Visually arresting, it explains just how Halston's flowy, sinuous dresses came to define the hedonistic days of 1970s New York, while giving an insight into the designer's muse, the ever-stylish Elsa Peretti, who would go on to create her own line of jewellery, including collections for Tiffany.
While wonderfully over the top, this Disney film explaining how the villain of 101 Dalmatians became so infamously stylish, reveals how the would-be-puppy-murderer started as a fashion designer. Starring Emma Stone as the young de Vil, it is set in London in the 1960s.
While all other designers embrace hippie florals, Cruella instead heads somewhere darker, and more menacing with her work. While this story may be made-up, just like the real-life talents of Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and even Alexander McQueen, the tale is about fashion with a foundation in beautiful excess.
While less high profile than the others, this drama by director Sylvie Ohayon is a must for fashion lovers, as it recounts the quiet devotion to craft within the Christian Dior atelier.
Starring Nathalie Baye as Esther, the head seamstress, and Algerian-French actress Lyna Khoudri as the young apprentice, this film is the gentle tale of the transfer of know-how between generations, and as such is a visual love story to the unsurpassed skills of les petites mains (translation: the little hands) that transform haute couture from a two-dimensional drawing into a wearable work of art.