Fashion and costume design are two distinct disciplines, yet their worlds constantly collide. Think of the lone Technicolor scene in a black and white film to showcase Adrian’s spectacular fashions in The Women (1939), or Audrey Hepburn’s transcendent relationship with Hubert de Givenchy onscreen and off. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, studio designers often dressed stars in films and on the red carpet – after all, who knew their bodies better than their costume designer – and copies of popular costumes sold in department stores and pattern books. More recently, collaborations between couture houses and costume designers have been trumpeted on the pages of Vogue, such as Prada’s partnership with Catherine Martin to create the dazzling party frocks for Baz Lurman’s The Great Gatsby in 2013.
So, it comes as no surprise that fashion darling and chameleon actress Tilda Swinton wore a breathtaking Chanel gown in her role as a ruthless CEO in Okja, Netflix's touching and imaginative animal rights film from Korean Director Bong Joon-Ho. The ensemble, a modern take on traditional Korean hanbok, and its adolescent doppelganger (more on that later) are currently on display in our Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition. Costume Designer Catherine George dressed the Western cast of the film; her designs reflect the movie's themes of class, industrialization, and cultural appropriation.
Swinton’s character Lucy Mirando wears the stunning pale pink garment during a parade scene to honor the winner of a competition – a pig from Korea. George, Swinton, and Joon-Ho knew Mirando would want her wardrobe to make a bold impression at the event, and that she would not take cultural sensitivities into consideration. The three eventually found an unlikely source of inspiration in business mogul Richard Branson. George explains, “When he has a big event in a certain country, he’ll dress up in the clothes of that country. It’s sort of funny, quite comical, some of the looks he wears. So we were like, of course we should be looking at a typical Korean dress!” George describes how the decision to have Mirando wear hanbok lead to the collaboration with Chanel:
“While researching modern hanbok styles, I was looking for a pink color to stay within the theme of the parade, and I came across an image from 2016 Chanel Resort collection. Coincidentally Tilda had actually been to the runway show in Seoul, and remembered seeing the dress. It ticked all the right boxes and the director liked the idea of Lucy wearing Chanel.”
Tilda Swinton and Karl Lagerfeld attend the Chanel Resort 2016 presentation in Seoul, South Korea. Image via HollywoodReporter.com: AP Images
Model Ji Hye Park in the Chanel Resort 2016 runway show. Image via Vogue.com: Yannis Vlamos / Indigitalimages.com