Categories: Fashion

7 iconic films that have inspired renowned fashion designers

Fashion and film have shared such a symbiotic relationship. You can’t think of the cinematic classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for example, without recalling Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress, courtesy of Hubert de Givenchy. The list goes on. Here are some of the fashion films to add to your watchlist.

While some of fashion’s finest have crafted iconic costumes for the silver screen, others have mined the world of cinema to find inspiration for their collections. There’s Raf Simons who, like countless creatives, has made no secret of his love for David Lynch. Alexander McQueen was a huge Hitchcock fan, often paying homage to the Master of Suspense in his theatrical runway shows. And for her last Fendi collection, Silvia Venturini Fendi modelled her idea of a powerful woman after the lead of a banned BDSM film.

Charade (1963)

Charade is a rom-com starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. (Film still courtesy of CELINE)

Hedi Slimane has come out of the shadows to curate his favourite films for the streaming platform MUBI, which is as close as we’ll get to an interview from the elusive Celine designer. Cinephiles may recognise cult classics like Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou and Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, or appreciate the irony of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now being on the list.

But Slimane’s most intriguing pick is Charade (1963), a romantic comedy that came out of Hollywood’s Golden Age starring two of its biggest faces: Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Who knew that fashion’s Prince of Darkness had a sense of humour? That’s not to discredit the film of its merits, as it’s often described as the “best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock didn’t make.” Besides Charade’s engrossing game of cat and mouse, fashion fans will delight over the stylish ’60s outfits Hepburn wears, designed by none other than Givenchy.

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

The Virgin Suicides marks Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut. Image: Courtesy Paramount Pictures

Francis Ford isn’t the only Coppola to have captured fashion’s attention. His daughter Sofia made her directorial debut with The Virgin Suicides exactly 20 years ago today, as noted by the Rodarte sisters. It’s easy to see how Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s feminine designs have been influenced by Coppola’s film, which tells Jeffrey Eugenides’s dark tale of girlhood in American suburbia. The dreamy movie also inspired Marc Jacobs’ Daisy fragrance campaigns, with the designer himself being a close friend of Sofia’s. Even Raf Simons is a fan, referencing the film at his Calvin Klein debut.

Fashion connections aside, The Virgin Suicides is worth a watch for its excellent soundtrack (a signature of Sofia’s filmography), the hypnotic performance put on by a 17-year-old Kirsten Dunst, and its depiction of isolation from the rest of the world.

Blue Velvet (1986)

Blue Velvet is one of David Lynch’s cinematic masterpieces. Image: Courtesy De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

David Lynch, master of the American uncanny, has been name-dropped as an inspiration by everyone from artists to musicians. In the world of fashion, however, his biggest fan would have to be Raf Simons, who has dedicated countless collections to the auteur. The most recent example is Simons’ Fall/Winter 2019 menswear collection, which comprised garments superimposed with stills from Lynch’s neo-noir classic, Blue Velvet.

Elsewhere, the surrealist masterpiece was also alluded to at Comme des Garçons’s S/S 2016 show, which featured designs in actual blue velvet and was soundtracked by the film’s score. As haunting as the rest of Lynch’s oeuvre, Blue Velvet sheds light on America’s dark underbelly and was made all the more memorable by its stars, Isabella Rossellini and Kyle MacLachlan. If you’re looking for a nightmare to escape into, this is it.

Belle de Jour (1967)

Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour was the film that immortalised Catherine Deneuve as a fashion icon. (Film still from Belle de Jour)

Another master of surrealism to note is Luis Buñuel, whose films offer a satirical take on the bourgeoisie. One example is his 1967 cult classic, Belle de Jour. It follows a fresh-faced Catherine Deneuve as Séverine, a Parisian housewife-turned-prostitute. Séverine, whose prim public persona contrasts with her secret sadomasochistic self, is the embodiment of contradictions, which often plant the seeds of Miuccia Prada’s collections. No wonder that she lists the film as a favourite.

Prada was also likely won over by Séverine’s outfits, designed by her idol, Yves Saint Laurent. Through his chic creations, Saint Laurent left his mark on cinema and made haute couture alluring again during the rise of ready-to-wear. Today, you can find traces of Séverine’s subversive schoolgirl look not just in Prada’s collections, but in older offerings by Valentino and Calvin Klein.

Maîtresse (1975)

Maîtresse is best known in the fashion world for its costumes, designed by Karl Lagerfeld. Image: Courtesy Collection Christophel

Like Belle de Jour, Maîtresse caused controversy upon release with its depiction of BDSM. Also like Buñuel’s masterpiece, the French film had more to offer than scandal: it was costumed by Karl Lagerfeld, who elevated its protagonist’s provocative style with high-fashion ensembles of corsets, gloves and leather pieces.

Those garments would later resurface at the Fendi F/W 2020 show. Before designing the collection, Lagerfeld’s successor, Silvia Venturini Fendi, screened Maîtresse at the Fendi atelier for her team to be inspired. Unsurprisingly, many of them walked out, but judging by the looks worn by Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber on the runway, none of Maîtresse‘s sartorial influence was lost in the designs.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

La Dolce Vita is regarded as Federico Fellini’s magnum opus. Image: Courtesy Riama Film

Renaissance man that he is, Alessandro Michele’s vision is not just informed by art, music and literature, but also by cinema. At Gucci, he has teamed up with filmmakers like Harmony Korine and Yorgos Lanthimos, while paying homage to others. Case in point: Gucci’s F/W 2020 show, inspired by Federico Fellini.

“I wanted to create a movie within a movie, like Fellini,” revealed Michele. Accordingly, he made a show out of Gucci’s fashion show, including the backstage bits. Besides Michele, Fellini also has fans in Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada and Tom Ford. The Italian director’s appeal can be explained through his stylish films, many of which have won awards for their costumes. The most iconic one is La Dolce Vita; the scene in which Anita Ekberg steps into Rome’s Trevi Fountain in a black gown left a lasting impact on both fashion and film.

The Birds (1963)

The Birds is one of many Hitchcock films that inspired Alexander McQueen. (Photo credit: Universal Pictures Company, Inc.)

Through a lens of horror and drama, Alfred Hitchcock often dug deep into the dark side of the human psyche. The same can be said of Alexander McQueen, who discovered his love for Hitchcock’s films as a child and expressed it through his designs as a couturier. His F/W 2005 collection was rife with references, from its Vertigo-inspired invitation to its set, seemingly straight out of Rear Window.

But the film McQueen was most obsessed with was The Birds, which he named his S/S 1995 collection after. His designs featured feathers and prints of birds, as well as the restrictive pencil skirts worn by the film’s protagonist. McQueen even had his models wear milky white contact lenses, which made them look like they had been attacked by the vicious winged creatures of the thriller.

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.

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Lifestyle Asia

Here's where you can read the latest news and stories from Lifestyle Asia and our sister titles PrestigeOnline and Augustman, curated from all of our editions in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and India.