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Brokaw: ‘The New Look’ is a deep dive into the horrors and tragedies of World War II

By Francine Brokaw - Special to the Daily Herald | Feb 14, 2024

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Episodes of "The New Look" premiere Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, on Apple TV+.

Apple TV+ has a dark new drama, “The New Look,” which delves into the lives of French fashion designers during and immediately after the Nazi occupation of France. The main subjects are Christian Dior and Coco Chanel; however, other notable designers do make appearances, like Pierre Cardin, who is a new designer at the time.

Ben Mendelsohn plays Christian Dior, Juliette Binoche is Chanel, Maisie Williams is Catherine Dior, Emily Mortimer is Elsa Lombardi, John Malkovich is Lucien Lelong and Glenn Close is the editor-in-chief of “Harper’s Bazaar.” Talk about an A-list cast portraying historical figures.

The story starts off as a tribute to French fashion and is meant to be a nod to how the fashion industry, led by Dior, helped bring the world out of darkness after the horrors of the war. But if you think this is a series dedicated to haute couture, think again. This is a series about the dark side of the French occupation by the Nazis and how those in Paris dealt with those dark days in history.

The show is based on actual facts and by the end viewers will most likely not want to purchase any more Chanel No. 5 perfume. Chanel is seen collaborating with the Nazis to further her wealth and her company. And yes, it has been confirmed that Chanel along with her friend Lombardi were couriers for the Nazis at one time. Chanel also worked alongside several high-ranking Nazis, including Walter Shellenberg. Her style of fashion and nose for great scents might have been spectacular; however, her personal decisions made her someone who had fallen off the pedestal of greatness when she decided to join forces with the Germans.

Christian Dior, on the other hand, continued to design for the house of Lelong even though he knew his designs were going to be worn by German women. He had to do this to keep the money coming in as he was working with the French resistance and harboring some of them, not least of which was his sister Catherine, who was deeply connected with the resistance. She was a patriot and took on several assignments that put her life in danger. Catherine was captured by the Nazis and tortured in a concentration camp. She was one of the fortunate ones — if you can say that — who survived, but she had horrific stories of what happened in the camps and on the streets of Paris. The Nazis were brutal and referred to as animals, and they certainly lived up to that reputation.

When the occupation was coming to an end and the Allies were freeing the country, Chanel fled to Switzerland. If she stayed in France, she would be captured and tried as a Nazi collaborator and possibly, or more likely, executed. Tensions were high and anyone thought to be a collaborator with the Nazis was thought of as the scum of the earth. Chanel had been deeply involved with them. She even had them invoke the Aryan laws, which took all properties of Jews away. Chanel’s business partners were Jewish, so she used this law to help her in her business and quest for more wealth. The show portrays her as a greedy, unfeeling, ruthless woman.

Christian Dior, on the other hand, is portrayed as a man with deep feelings who did whatever he could to help rescue his sister from the Nazis. His friend and employer Lelong stood by his side throughout the ordeal.

The 10-episode series takes viewers deep into the depths of the horrors of the Nazis. The initial episodes are dark and show the tragedies that occurred during the occupation, while the rest of the series is dedicated to the aftermath of those tragedies and inhumane atrocities committed by the Nazis. While the world is trying to return to a somewhat normal existence, the French haute couture industry decided it was up to them to help this effort. By bringing beauty back to life and gorgeous fashions to women, life could begin again. And it was Dior who began this transformation out of the darkness the world had been plunged into and back to the light with his designs that lifted everyone’s spirits. Who would have thought that fashion could do this?

Each episode builds on the previous one as the story unfolds with the backdrop of the war and of family situations. The first episodes of “The New Look” premiere Wednesday on Apple TV+ with the rest rolling out after that. This is not an easy story to watch. It is, however, a reminder of what humanity can do to each other with inhumane actions. It shows the downfall of the legend of Chanel and Dior’s dedication to his family, country and career.


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