Monday, 21 January 2013

The Great Prada?

So Miuccia Prada has unveiled 4 sketches of her costumes for Baz Luhrmann's film The Great Gatsby. Costume designer Catherine Martin collaborated with Prada to create over 40 looks for the film, inspired by the Prada and Miu Miu archives. But don't be fooled, archives does not necessarily mean 1920s archives: the dress above is inspired by Prada A/W 2011/12. Prada and Luhrmann have reignited a working relationship that began on Romeo and Juliet (1996)

Now I would normally be the first one up in arms to say 'but costume and fashion design are not the same thing'. However this not any costume design, this is not any film. It is a Baz Luhrmann film. This is the man who was inspired by the plots of opera to set a musical in the Belle Epoque France with contemporary pop songs. He set Romeo and Juliet in contemporary-esque Florida. Some may say he's style over substance (and they wouldn't be entirely wrong), but he's also a man who's very keen on blurring the boundaries between pop culture and high art. He's the man who didn't make a commercial advertising Chanel, oh no, he directed one of the most expensive short film ever made.

Catherine Martin has said: "Baz and Miuccia have always connected on their shared fascination with finding modern ways of releasing classic and historical references from the shackles of the past. This connection is central to our relationship with Miuccia Prada on The Great Gatsby, and has connected our vision with hers. In the same way Nick Carraway reflects on a world that he is within and without, we have tried to create an environment that the audience will be subconsciously familiar with, yet separated from."

 "Our collaboration with Prada recalls the European flair that was emerging amongst the aristocratic East Coast crowds in the Twenties. The fashions of the time saw the development of a dichotomy between those who aspired to the privileged, Ivy League look of wealthy Long Island and those who were aspiring to European glamour, sophistication and decadence. Our collaborations with Prada reflect the collision of these two aesthetics."

If you think this sounds a little wanky, try watching any of the behind the scenes extras on Moulin Rouge! (2001). This is what Baz Luhrmann does best: he creates fantasy. One of his fantasies is that he is the most amazing visionary director who has ever lived. But the visually stunning, in depth fantasy worlds which he creates accounts for a large part of his success, his creates unadulterated escapist entertainment in the truest sense of the word. He knows how to successfully blend modern with period, upper with lower art forms. These may not make for the best 'character' designed costumes, and they will not win any awards for historical accuracy, but subtlety has never played a large part in his production design. Or any part of his film making. The collaboration with Prada and the release of the designs today is part of a well oiled campaign to ensure we are talking about the film months before it's release. But you can be sure that Martin and Luhrmann worked closely with Prada to create a well rounded and thought out world of their creating. No-one who has seen pictures or previews of the film can deny that it looks visually stunning. To me this seems to be more or less what Joe Wright and Jaqueline Durran did much less successfully with Chanel in Anna Karenina, and look at all the nominations it's scooped this season.

I was disappointed when I heard Baz Luhrmann was adapting The Great Gatsby. I love F. Scott Fitzgerald's book and think there are already two very good screen adaptations: the 1974 film with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, and the lesser known 2000 film with Mira Sorvina and Toby Stephens. I believe that Luhrmann's delight in the pretty, sparkly and over-dramatic will result in him completely missing the depth, subtelty and tragedy of the book. And I'm not the only one to think so. But will Prada's designs add to a completely stunning world that is a skillful blend of the contemporary and flapper eras? Will the film be a blockbusting success with millions of fans world wide? I'd bet money on it.

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