Juliette Binoche Is Peeling Back Coco Chanel’s Controversial Layers In ‘The New Look’

Turns out, it’s not all black and white.
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When most people hear the name Coco Chanel, they instantly think of the iconic fashion designer who revolutionised women’s fashion in the 20th century.

But for Juliette Binoche, the actress tasked with bringing Chanel to the small screen in Apple TV+’s The New Look, she saw something different, something deeper; an orphaned little girl who hid her traumas behind a duty to simplify fashion.

“Her being practical brought a lot of freedom in women’s behaviour. She wanted to be comfortable and at the same time elegant. Why? Probably because she wanted to hide that little girl that had nothing, that was not educated,” Binoche tells marie claire Australia.

“Elegance brought a nonchalant kind of behaviour and gave her a superior rank, which was a way to hide the poor little girl,” she explains.

It’s clear when speaking to the French actress that she was the perfect casting choice – speaking with a level of intimacy and deep understanding of her character and the real-life Coco.

Image: Apple TV+

Juliette Binoche’s Research For Coco Chanel

Tasking herself with a duty to understand as much as she could about Chanel, Binoche went beyond the scripts and books and instead spoke with people who actually knew the designer and who worked with her.

“Lilou Marquand was her assistant for 27 years, and I actually happened to know her before so I felt it was my duty to try to understand as much as I could,” she says.

“The decisions she was making during the war were related to my understanding of her childhood and my understanding of the relationship she had with Boy Capel was very important. And the fact that he died in a car accident was such a blow in her life.

“It was an event that she could never really recover from because it was so painful. While I was researching her life, I understood that she probably limited herself afterwards because she didn’t want to get involved in the same way because life was so hurtful.”

Arthur Capel, otherwise known as Boy Capel, was considered the great love of Chanel’s life before he died in 1919 in a car accident. She had known tragedy long before that, however, as at the tender age of 11 she was abandoned by her father in an orphanage after the loss of her mother.

It’s understanding the context of Chanel and knowing her past traumas that Binoche hopes viewers will see past her unfavourable actions – which we’ll see play out in The New Look – and understand why she did the things that she did.

Image: Apple TV+/Getty

“I’m coming with layers where you can feel there’s a vulnerability that is there with her. She’s not only this strong woman with a big will. There’s a little girl in her. And I hope it shows in the film and people will feel her.”

What Is ‘The New Look’ About?

Set against the World War II Nazi occupation of Paris, The New Look is a poignant, haunted series that goes beyond Coco Chanel and her influence in fashion but explores the rise of Christian Dior as he introduces a new look for women.

The interwoven saga follows other household names too, like Pierre Balmain, Cristóbal Balenciaga and more, during the 1940s in Paris as they undertake the challenge of leading the world back to life after the horrors of the war.

The New Look also features an entirely English dialogue – even though it was filmed and set in Paris – but Binoche says it was very much intentional.

“It was not really written in that way… especially the dialogue for Chanel, because she had a very specific way of speaking and she was a very quick speaker because she educated herself and her energy was very special,” she says.

Although, she adds, “the first times it felt a little weird, especially working with French actors,” she laughs, “but after a while, I didn’t think of it that much. It’s an international TV show and English is the international language.”

Image: Apple TV+

The fashion in the series is also very specific, Binoche notes. Led by costume designer Karen Muller Serreau, the team recreated every item of clothing from that period of time, but there was still room left for Juliette to have her input.

“Karen really chose the black and white, and as we were going we were searching together, but mainly she made the decisions and just what we did together. But what she really left me space for was to choose the jewels.”

“We were playing a little bit like girls and thinking ‘which jewel we were going to put today’ and ideas of it,” she explains. “And usually because of sound, you don’t put jewels in films because it makes noise and sound engineers get very nervous.

“But on this one, I had to have all the jewels,” she laughs, “it was pleasurable, I have to say.”

And, should there be another season, Juliette hopes we’ll get to see more of Chanel and a few authentic designs, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Where To Watch ‘The New Look’ In Australia

The 10-episode drama debuts with the first three episodes on February 14 on Apple TV+, followed by one episode every Wednesday through April 3. Subscribe here with a 7-day free trial to tune in.

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