How Fashion Orbits Wes Anderson’s Cinematic Universe

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Upon Wes Anderson’s latest silver screen release—The French Dispatch—all eyes flocked to the film’s only element rivaling ingenious writing… the clothes. Characters are dressed impeccably without fail in any Anderson flick, a guarantee as steadfast as the clever architecture to backdrop. Beginning with 1998’s Rushmore and later hits like The Grand Budapest Hotel, the Texas-born filmmaker enhances his niche aesthetic by calling on fashion’s most notable designers to clothe inventive visions.

Coupled with a mind-blowing cast of heartthrob Timothée Chalamet, Tilda Swinton, and many more, The French Dispatch was one of Anderson’s most detail-packed films to date. Lucky for us, that includes a treasure trove of pastel monochrome looks, quirky sweater vests, motorcycle helmets, and a cute execution of France’s most relentless cliché: berets. Behind the designs was the director’s all-time favorite collaborator: Italian costume maker, Milena Canonero.

A four-time Oscar winner, Canonero is somewhat of a holy grail for film fashion. In addition to her swoon-worthy work in Sofia Coppola‘s Marie Antoinette (2006), Canonero has racked quite the resumé of Anderson features. For The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014, Wes fused Canonero’s ingenue with his other favorite sidekick: Prada. The two worked together to bring Willem Dafoe‘s iconic motorcycle jacket and a lavish luggage set to life. Fendi even caught a feature for Tilda Swinton’s rouge look.

But the 2014 movie was not Prada and Canonero’s first crossover. Just a year prior, the Italian house co-created an 8-minute film with Anderson titled Castello Cavalcanti, a quirky comedy set in ’50s Italy.

Aside from some light branding and the inclusion of a Prada logo here and there, Castello Cavalcanti could certainly pass as just a mini-project of Anderson’s. Yet following its release, fans debated whether the piece was an advertisement or art, especially as it treaded on the heels of Anderson’s directing a Prada “Candy” perfume campaign alongside Roman Coppola.

In 2015, the pair solidified their strategic partnership at Fondazione Prada. Anderson designed Bar Luce, a café for time-traveling back to ’60s Milan or immersing within any of his films. Nearby, the famous Pasticceria Marchesi owned by Prada is speculated to be a real-life Wes Anderson bakery, complete with cakes identical to Mendl’s in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Both are hotspots for Milan tourists, Prada addicts, and loyal fans of the filmmaker alike.

Contrasting his gravitation to European fashion, another frequent costumer of Anderson’s is none other than Marc Jacobs himself. For both 2007 films: The Darjeeling Limited and its prequel, Hotel Chevalier, Jacobs designed colorful looks to be donned by Natalie Portman, Jason Schwartzman, and many more. While Anderson sketched preliminary inspiration, Marc tweaked and rendered his daydreams into reality.

The Darjeeling Limited was born during Jacobs’ Louis Vuitton creative direction era, so the house’s signature luggage obviously made a cameo with its very own role—the plot’s centerpiece (along with flannel suits). And aside from the films in which he designed, Jacobs told The Guardian in 2008 that he draws major artistic inspiration from Anderson’s most fashionable flick: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).

Starring a fur-clad and blunt-bobbed Gwenyth Paltrow in her infamous role as Margot Tenenbaum, the film went on to take over an entire runway season years post-release, illustrating just how powerful Anderson’s style curation was. Gucci, Miu Miu, and Lacoste (which was a clear homage to Wes, as Paltrow wore a Lacoste shirt dress in the film) are just a handful of labels whose collections have been influenced by The Royal Tenenbaums.

Karen Patch, a slightly under-the-radar costume designer, was responsible for bringing the Tenenbaums’ signature looks into existence, following her work on Anderson’s Rushmore of 1998. But if the suiting looked akin to Wes’ personal style… that’s because it was. The filmmaker enlisted the assistance of his quite unknown personal tailor of many years, Vahram Mateosian of Mr. Ned in New York City, a bare-bones shop on 5th Avenue and 20th Street. Wes Anderson is more or less exclusively dressed by Mr. Ned’s, having amassed over 25 suits when Mateosian spoke to the LA Times in 2007.

Clothing has interlocked with film ever since black and white pictures of the 1900s, yet no director in history has harnessed the art of style quite like Anderson. Fashion tells a nonverbal story to bridge individual characters with the sort of hazy era in each film, and subsequently illustrate the official Wes Anderson stamp. His attention to detail is unrivaled—even down to sock placement. A single persona’s look on a mannequin can represent an entire Anderson film, across the board. It’s that distinct.

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