update deskAntisemitism

Apple+ drama on fashion guru Coco Chanel glosses over Nazi collaboration

The show compares the famous fashion designer with Christian Dior.

Coco Chanel, LA
Coco Chanel in Los Angeles, March 1931. Credit: University of California, Los Angeles; Library, Department of Special Collections; originally published in “The Los Angeles Times,” via Wikimedia Commons.

“The New Look,” a new TV program on the streaming service Apple+, explores World War II decisions made by founders of clothing lines that are worth billions today.

The show dramatizes the lives of Christian Dior and Coco Chanel—both French-born—the latter who is remembered for creating “the little black dress” and the perfume Chanel No. 5.

“A survivor and a pragmatist, she was prone to telling tall tales about her life, but this fact about her is irrefutable: She definitely collaborated with the Nazis,” film critic Caryn James wrote for the BBC. “She may also have helped the French Resistance. The woman so determined to control her image and legacy left a messy tangle behind.”

James describes the show’s approach to the subject as “putting, perhaps, the least-bad spin on it.” Chanel’s choices juxtapose with Dior, who James described as “steadfastly loyal to France.”

Biographies of Chanel differ in their interpretations of the fashion designer, according to James. Some accused her of antisemitism and believing in the Nazi cause, while another, Justine Picardie, said that “it’s too easy to say Chanel was a Nazi.”

The show reflects this ambiguity and mystery. Creator Todd Kessler said, “It’s not inspiring to write villains or heroes. What’s inspiring is to explore the grey, because that brings me closer to an understanding of the characters and the decisions they had to make.”

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