‘The Collection’ Is Filled With History

by Laura Rosenfeld

There are so many things to love about period pieces on TV, but what delights me the most are their sumptuous costumes and sets as well as the drama-filled storylines. Luckily, I'm going to find plenty of both of those things in Amazon's new original series The Collection, which premieres on Feb. 10. Of course, period dramas are also rooted in history, so I have a feeling that I'm going to wonder if The Collection is based on a true story when I view it, too.

The Collection takes place in a very real moment in world history as Paris and the rest of the globe try to recover and rebuild following World War II. Brothers Paul (Richard Coyle) and Claude Sabine (Tom Riley) hope that their eponymous fashion house will help restore Paris to its former glory. Paris was under Nazi occupation from 1940 until 1944. Even after its liberation, the city still faced hardships, including rationing and starvation.

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The Collection's creator, writer, and executive producer Oliver Goldstick has described the series as “an entrepreneurial fable set at a pivotal moment in France’s history when fashion truly became a vehicle for transformation and re-invention," according to Deadline. He goes on to say:

"At its heart, it is the story of a volatile family who pay a steep price for their ambition… Post-war Paris was a chaotic era of stark contrasts — hope and romance was in the air, but the shadow of the Occupation and its moral recriminations also haunted the city. In this divisive world, mystery and secrets abound; knowing too much can cost you a lot — even your life.”

Goldstick has said that he drew inspiration for the fictional House of Sabine from a variety of Paris designers, such as Balenciaga, Fath, and Lelong, according to The New York Times. However, The New York Times and several other publications have drawn parallels from the Sabine brothers' attempt to resuscitate Paris as the fashion capital of the world after the war and how Christian Dior's 1947 "new look" collection revitalized the city and revolutionized fashion with its ultra-feminine voluminous skirts, cinched waists, and accentuated busts.

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In fact, The New York Times points out many other similarities between The Collection and Dior in post-war Paris. For instance, there's a scene in the series where a woman wearing an elegant Sabine dress is attacked by a group of poor women selling fruits and vegetables, which the publication said was reminiscent of a real-life event where two older women tore at a young woman's Dior dress because they were so offended by its perceived extravagance. The New York Times also compares the House of Sabine's financial support from a French cotton magnate to Dior's funding from Marcel Boussac, who made his fortune in textiles.

The real-life costume designers behind The Collection, Chattoune and Fab, told The Telegraph that they aimed to show how important fashion was in 1947 France, which isn't often seen on screen. To do so, they found inspiration in more than 2,000 images stored in Paris' fashion libraries. But Chattoune, whose real name is Françoise Bourrec, told The Telegraph that they didn't look at much of Dior's work because "we didn't want to be too close to him." Still, the designers described to The Telegraph the challenges of recreating the intricacies of late 1940s fashion, including the "eight" or the "Carolle," which the publication describes as "Dior’s trademark silhouette of exaggerated shoulders belying a waif-like waist, and ramping up the volume of each skirt by joining eight circles together, where they would usually have one."

As many historical ties as The Collection has, like any series, it's likely that it'll take some artistic license with its depiction of the time period. Still, it looks like The Collection is going to be filled with enough drama, secrets, and style to satisfy anyone.