For the fashion kind, the color cerulean is anything but. That, and a few other lines from The Devil Wears Prada have been officially incorporated into our daily vernacular since the movie laid bare the ups and downs of the industry. More than a decade later, whether it be its accidental sequel The September Issue or any web series on industry figures, we've been obsessed with inside looks at just how the fashion world ticks. But now, thanks to an all-female produced and starring series, the wait is over. Add Elles to your must-watch list.
Produced by French director Maurine Pagani, the informative Elles follows more than just Anna Wintour; its list of interviewees include fashion journalists, photographers, influencers, models, and more. For anyone who wants to be a part of the industry, it's an up-to-date look at how fashion has changed since the days of coffee fetching interns and mail rooms, and even better, where its prominent figures think it's headed. What's more, they're all women — and for legitimate reasons.
With so many industry shakeups, there's no better time to comment on the state of fashion than the present. And what better subjects than those who are leading the change? Ahead of its release on Wednesday, we spoke to Pagani on how Elles is different from any other fashion docu-series, why it's important the series was produced by an all-female team, and why titles matter in the ever-changing landscape of fashion jobs today. Peep the trailer below.
At what moment did the idea for Elles come to you? And how did you go about realizing that idea?
"In May, 2016, I was working as an assistant on a documentary about haute couture and 'les métiers des arts,' and one day, we were shooting Dior archives at their headquarters. At that time, Raf Simons had left his post as artistic director and everybody was waiting for the house to name his successor. As I was talking with the staff, it came up that they didn’t know who it would be. A few names came up, but I realised that there weren’t that many female designers showing their collections during Paris Fashion Week.
"I was surprised to see the lack of female designers across all fashion weeks, actually. But I quickly understood that when women lack the same opportunities and rights as men, in all aspects of life, they are bound to be undervalued and underrepresented in creative fields. That thought never left my mind.
"So, I started to do some research on the 'glass runway' — well, the glass ceiling that touches all industries — and started brainstorming an idea of a series of short documentary showcasing some of the incredible women of the industry. And Maria Grazia Chiuri’s appointment in July reinforced my desire to talk about these women."
In terms of how you selected the women you wanted to interview, what prepared you to make those decisions? And what made someone the right subject?
"I really wanted to show a wide range of talents in the series; I didn’t want to focus only on designers or photographers because there are certain photographers and designers who are usually much more seen than, for example, a hair stylist or a chief curator. There are many inspiring jobs in the industry that we don’t frequently have the chance to discover.
"Then, I chose women who inspire me. They all have something special. Isabel Marant, for example, stayed 18 years at an independent label, which is exceptional in the industry nowadays. She’s also one of the few brands who have women CEOs. Then, Pamela Golbin was the youngest chief curator ever appointed in France. Robin Givhan, who is one of the most talented journalists of her generation, is also the only journalist who ever received a Pulitzer Prize in criticism for a fashion article.
"There is also Leandra Medine, who understood the need of her readers and transformed a personal blog Man Repeller into a media platform and the voice of a generation in just a few years. Amanda de Cadenet, who founded the media company #Girlgaze and is a talented journalist and photographer, fighting to close the gender gap in both industries by creating visibility and jobs for girls behind the lens.
"Toni Garrn, an incredible model who's been working with Plan International, her foundation to make education more accessible to girls who need it the most, for years. Bethann Hardison just transformed the entire industry to make it a better, more diversified one (even if there’s still more to be done), just like Clémentine Desseaux with the All Woman Project."
"Also, you have Christelle Kocher, who not only attended one of the most prestigious fashion schools, Central Saint Martins, but works as artistic director of Lemarié, one of Chanel’s Métier des Arts houses and also has her independent label Koché, which is offering a new view on fashion. She’s part of this new generation who’s building bridges between people through fashion. They are all inspiring in their own way and I believe that their stories can be empowering for many people."
In an industry that predominantly caters to women yet is lead mostly by men (designers and the financial sectors of the industry), how important is fashion content that is created by women, for women, and starring women?
"Well, it’s in everyone’s best interests. For the creative part, the more diverse the people working within the industry are, the more inspired from different people, places, cultures and the more relevant and creative the industry will be. If not everyone is part of the conversation, the only result is that we will be lacking creativity and inspiration.
"It’s certainly in a fashion company’s best interests to promote more women, considering the numbers have proved that women in corporate leadership positions generate an average of 25 percent higher returns than their male counterparts. Also, I don’t think it’s normal to see that in 2014, 85% of students enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology were female (and those numbers have been about the same for years), but still, for spring 2017, of the 371 designers helming the 313 brands that Business of Fashion surveyed across the four fashion weeks, only 40.2% were female.
"It’s not normal that women are undervalued and underrepresented in different fields of the fashion industry. If we don’t show diversity in fashion, what’s the point? You don’t create new worlds by giving the the same limits as the old ones."