The Most Influential French New Wave Films in Fashion

In an industry like fashion which is always looking for the next new look, we've noticed there's at least one source of inspiration that gets revisited by designers time and time again--the French New Wave. Echoes of the film movement from the late 1950s and 60s are felt far beyond the reach of filmmaking, and fashion draws from its catalog of films endlessly. Most recently, Jason Wu cited the New Wave (or Nouvelle Vague) as inspiration for his spring collection for Target. He told the Today Show that he was inspired by the "mischievious" and "nonchalant" attitude of the films, and we think his descriptors hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, the reference was lost on Ann Curry, who said she had never heard of New Wave until now. Well, consider this your tutorial, Curry! The French New Wave is well-known for its bold style and experimental filming techniques, both visual and narrative. The movement was influenced by the Hollywood auteurs of the time (John Ford, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock) and Italian Neorealism, a film movement concerned with the plight of the working class. This realist approach to storytelling didn't have much concern with fashion proper, and as a result many films from the French New Wave were the basic styles of the time. So what is the difference between being inspired by the films compared to being inspired by 60s fashion, and why are designers so crazy about it in the first place? As one can gather from Wu's descriptions, it has a lot to do with intangibles. The influence from the New Wave on fashion arguably has as much to do with an overall attitude--the je ne sais quoi of the icons of the era--as it does with any of the actual clothes worn in the films. Jean Seberg's New York Herald Tribune shirt and cropped slim black pants in Breathless (1960) weren't groudbreaking, yet the look is still one of the most recognizable in film history. It's not about what was worn in the films, but who wore it and how.
By Dana Kruspe , |

In an industry like fashion which is always looking for the next new look, we've noticed there's at least one source of inspiration that gets revisited by designers time and time again--the French New Wave. Echoes of the film movement from the late 1950s and 60s are felt far beyond the reach of filmmaking, and fashion draws from its catalog of films endlessly. Most recently, Jason Wu cited the New Wave (or Nouvelle Vague) as inspiration for his spring collection for Target. He told the Today Show that he was inspired by the "mischievious" and "nonchalant" attitude of the films, and we think his descriptors hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, the reference was lost on Ann Curry, who said she had never heard of New Wave until now. Well, consider this your tutorial, Curry!

The French New Wave is well-known for its bold style and experimental filming techniques, both visual and narrative. The movement was influenced by the Hollywood auteurs of the time (John Ford, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock) and Italian Neorealism, a film movement concerned with the plight of the working class. This realist approach to storytelling didn't have much concern with fashion proper, and as a result many films from the French New Wave were the basic styles of the time. So what is the difference between being inspired by the films compared to being inspired by 60s fashion, and why are designers so crazy about it in the first place? As one can gather from Wu's descriptions, it has a lot to do with intangibles. The influence from the New Wave on fashion arguably has as much to do with an overall attitude--the je ne sais quoi of the icons of the era--as it does with any of the actual clothes worn in the films. Jean Seberg's New York Herald Tribune shirt and cropped slim black pants in Breathless (1960) weren't groudbreaking, yet the look is still one of the most recognizable in film history. It's not about what was worn in the films, but who wore it and how.

Political, sexually charged and sometimes violent, the influence of the controversial French New Wave has endured for over 50 years, and we know fashion will continue looking to it for guidance. And in light of Jason Wu's recent inspiration, we're taking a look at some of fashion's most referenced French New Wave films and their leading ladies.

We hope you're paying attention, Ann Curry.

Anna Karina was the postergirl of the French New Wave (and married to Jean Luc Godard, natch), and as much as her films are used for reference, what really endures is the quality of her presence onscreen. Marco Zanini, creative director of Rochas, uses her frequently as a reference in his collections, and cites Vivre sa vie (1962) as one of his favorite films. In the film, Karina (Nana) leaves her family to become an actress only to fall into a life of prostitution, and (spoiler ahead) in typical New Wave fatalism, she is faced with a sad and abrupt end. We think designers might dig the dark, tragic romance of it all.

François Truffaut's Jules et Jim (1962) is a tale of the classic ménage à trois. Jules, Jim, and Catherine are followed through 20 years of friendship and romance, and while the film is not in a contemporary setting like other New Wave films (taking place in the early 20th century), it is still considered by many the quintessential film of the movement. We imagine Catherine's whimsical and unpredictable character, played by Jeanne Moreau, would be the perfect muse. The Rodarte sisters, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, list Jules et Jim as one of their all time favorites.

The blond hair, those cat eyes, the relentless seduction and of course, how do we put this... dat ass (the posterior was a huge part of the film, believe us). On the other end of the French New Wave gamine spectrum, we have Brigitte Bardot in Godard's Contempt (1963). Oozing with sexuality, style, and, well, contempt, Bardot's look from the film is almost the perfect fashion reference point. Case in point, Lara Stone's icy blond looks have been played up to resemble Bardot ad nauseum, though it is an inspired comparison. And good luck sporting teased blond hair and a headband without getting a few comparisons to Brigitte.

Finally, Jean Seberg--matriarch of breton stripes (they just never go out of style)--is the seminal lead in Breathless (1960), a crime romance and another film by Jean-Luc Godard. In June 2010, when the film was restored and re-released for the 50th anniversary, the film-savvy sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy (they're big New Wave fans, can you tell?) of Rodarte designed a small collection of t-shirts inspired by the film. And let's not forget that Seberg's closely-cropped hair has a place in the pixie-cut pantheon with Mia Farrow from Rosemary's Baby.

Loading ...
Join the Conversation

Fashion’s Most Influential Twitterers

As fashion month fast approaches, it's a good time to get your Twitter organized accordingly. Over fashion month, Twitter has increasingly become the best place to get fashion news and updates about shows in real time. And more generally, it's one of our preferred methods for checking in on our favorite fashion folk and getting news fast. So we decided to put together a top ten list of the fashion folk who have Twitter down pat. We like making lists. This list is, of course, subjective, but we looked at the number of followers, the frequency with which they tweet, and how much their feeds reflect their personality.

The Movies Inspiring Fashion Now

The relationship between fashion and film is a bit incestuous. Fashion on the red carpet is always (always) a hot topic, actors are not only starring in campaigns (has anyone seen Edward Norton for Prada yet?) but walking down the runways--and then, of course, there's the fashion that actually appears in films. So we are less than shocked when designers are inspired by Hollywood (or vice versa). To wit, the roaring 20s were paraded down more than a few catwalks during the spring 2012 shows, and even a few pre-fall outings, proving that this inspirational era was not just an isolated incident. While this may disappoint some critics, the style remains, and it does raise the question--did the releases (looming or otherwise) of period pieces like W.E. and The Great Gatsby inspire this turn towards the flapper, or would designers have found themselves inspired by the decade anyway? To be honest, the question hardly seems the point considering how fashion and film are practically bed buddies. The jazz age isn't the only recent evidence of this symbiotic relationship. Consider The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, or even My Week With Marilyn. Or just let us. With the Oscars upon us tonight, we thought it was a good time to look back and the films inspiring fashion now.

We Salute the French Rebels in Fashion

It's Bastille Day, the French national holiday fêting that one time a bunch of French citizens said "Non, merci!" to monarchy by storming the Bastille. In honor of the holiday, we're paying tribute to our French fashion brethren who have captured that spirit of rebellion in their own lives.

Fashionista Flashcards: Everything You Need to Know About Today's Top Fashion Photographers

In the world of fashion there is a small yet consistent collection of photographers who get the majority of work for major publications and brands. In fact, many of them seem to have quite the monopoly on the fashion world. Legends like Richard Avedon and Irving Penn continued to work prolifically up until the time they passed away, and that seems to be what is so great about being behind the camera instead of in front of it. Top photographers are given the chance to work for years in an industry where most figures are in one day and out the next. But how do we differentiate one top photographer from another? We'll show you what to look for from visual style, what publications they regularly appear in, as well as recent ongoing collaborations with brands and models of some of the top working fashion photographers of today. Click through to get started!

Meet the New Wave of Style Starlets

Dolce & Gabbana announced today that Felicity Jones would be the new face of Dolce & Gabbana cosmetics. This left many wondering, who the hell is Felicity Jones? The gorgeous British actress stars in upcoming indie romance flick Like Crazy and has already wowed us numerous times with her perfect red carpet choices. But she is only one of what we believe to be a new wave of stylish starlets. These well-heeled ladies are burgeoning it-actresses, with roles that have only recently begun to catapult them and their outfits into the spotlight. From a Madonna protégée to a Snow White to an Olsen, click through for the 10 new faces you'll soon be seeing on all the best dressed lists.

The Most Popular Fashion Magazine Headline Buzzwords of 2011

We love covers. OK, that is perhaps the most obvious statement of the new year, but it's true. What's not to love? You know the old adage "don't judge a book by its cover?" Well, magazines are a bit different. A magazine only has a few seconds to catch your attention on a newsstand and compel you to pick it up. It's a pretty tough gig, to tell you the truth. And while the cover photo (usually a celebrity) is the big draw, it's hard to miss the headlines--those strings of text selling the inside on the outside with those teasing buzzwords (some more obnoxious than others) enticing you to buy. To the left you'll see a collage of the words appearing most on some North America's most popular fashion, beauty and liftestyle magazines. It's likely a catalog of words that you'll recognize from just about any cover. Not only are the words on repeat, but the same formulas are in play all the time, one buzzword being substituted for another. There are subtle variations between publications, however, and thank goodness for that, but what separates one publication from another? We'll take a look at how some of these magazines grab your attention by finding out their most popular key words from 2011.