The new Focus Features film Mrs. Harris goes to Paris , in Italian cinemas from November 17 with Universal Pictures.
The enchanting story of a common British housekeeper whose dream of owning a Christian Dior evening dress will lead her to an extraordinary adventure in Paris.
The film, directed by Anthony Fabian , stars Lesley Manville , also starring Isabelle Huppert , Lambert Wilson , Alba Baptista , Lucas Bravo , Ellen Thomas and Jason Isaacs .
Fashion, fashion, style: call it what you want, follow it or do without it, but be honest and think about how much it actually affects people’s lives. And not only of Hollywood stars, but also the dreams of ordinary people, reflected by the divas of the big screen.
Cinema feeds fashion, fashion is perpetuated through the iconicity of its protagonists: it is a relationship that has been going on for decades and has also been explored in many films, which have often become famous.
Mrs. Harris goes to Paris… to conquer her dream
The impact that fashion has on people can be very powerful, and not always positive. The Devil Wears Prada (2006), the famous film by David Frankel with Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci, insists a lot on the conventions and facades that sometimes hide behind this world and the way it is told, at beyond wonder and style. Another film critical in its own way with the world of fashion, but in an absolutely satirical and funny way, is Zoolander (2001) with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in the role of two vain supermodels and Will Ferrell in those of a ruthless stylist ready for anything. . The ruthlessness of the fashion world, in all its (sometimes) icy beauty, is also represented in The Neon Demon(2016) by Nicolas Winding Refn.
What remains, however, is the grandeur of this world and the iconicity. All (or almost) the greatest designers have had at least one biopic about their life: think for example of Coco Chanel , with Chanel Solitaire (1981), Coco Before Chanel (2009), Coco Chanel (2008) and Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009). But also Saint Laurent and Yves Saint Laurent (both from 2014), House of Gucci (2021), Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008), A Single Man (2009, about Tom Ford).
And, of course, there are also films that tell (almost) equally extraordinary lives of fictional designers: for example The Dressmaker (2015) with Kate Winslet, The Hidden Thread (2017) with Daniel Day-Lewis, Prêt-à-Porter (1994) ) with Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, and why not, Cruella (2021) with Emma Stone, a reinterpretation / origin story of the legendary villain of La Carica dei 101.
But cinema has also told the dreams of fashion relating to ordinary people: a dream which perhaps starts from a photo in a magazine or from something seen in a window, as in the classic Breakfast at Tiffany ‘s (1961), with Audey Hepburn. Or those of stories like Personal Shopper (2016),I Love Shopping (2009) or even Sex and the City (serials and films). Or, precisely, like that of Mrs. Harris.
What is Mrs Harris going to Paris specifically about ? In London that just got through World War II, Ada Harris (Oscar-nominated actress Lesley Manville) makes a living by cleaning apartments. She has led a lonely life since her beloved husband Eddie passed away during the conflict, but she’s not the type to mourn over her misfortunes or complain about her difficult living conditions. However, when pragmatic Ada notices an adorable Christian Dior dress hanging in a wealthy client’s bedroom, she is surprised to have an overwhelming rush of desire. Owning something so ethereal, so beautiful, a true work of art, can truly change a person’s life.
With a few extra chores and saving as much as possible, up to trying her luck on the horses, Ada can finally afford to pay for a Dior dress. She greets her closest friends, Vi (Ellen Thomas) and Archie (Jason Isaacs), and leaves for Paris to visit the prestigious fashion house and make her dreams come true. Since her arrival, Ada encounters a series of surprising events, not least the encounter with the hostile Madame Colbert (the interpreter nominated for the Academy Award® Isabelle Huppert), who conceives only a common woman of the people may wear a high fashion dress. Despite whatever obstacles arise, Ada rejects the idea of leaving Paris without her dress. Her unwavering confidence fascinates the accounting idealist who works at Dior, André (Lucas Bravo), the kind model Natasha (Alba Baptista) and the aristocratic Marquis of Chassagne (Lambert Wilson), the most coveted bachelor of Paris. Ada will soon begin to realize that the choice to change her life will also impact those of the people around her. She could even help ensure the survival of the fashion house itself.
With the film adaptation of the novel written by Paul Gallico in 1958, Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, director and author Anthony Fabian stages a modern and positive tale about the will to realize one’s dreams, the value of friendship and on the importance of staying true to yourself.
Fashion is everything: but how to recreate Dior?
” Fashion is everything to me ” are the famous words written by Christian Dior in his memoirs.
Iconic designer, who died at the age of 52 of a fatal heart attack during a holiday in Italy in October 1957, was the person who redefined the concept of high fashion in the last ten years of his professional career. His first collection, launched on February 12, 1947 at 30 Avenue de Montaigne, featured what would become his most iconic piece, the Bar jacket. ivory combined with a black Corolle skirt.
The result was extraordinary and the most famous women in the world flocked to the atelier to be able to wear what was called the New Look, with these long skirts closed at the waist. At the time it was used to say that Dior had dressed all the people who mattered: Princess Margaret, Eva Perón, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and many others.
To create the costumes for Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, the filmmakers needed one of the most well-known professionals such as three-time Academy Award winner Jenny Beavan ( Cruella – Cruella , Mad Max: Fury Road , Camera Con Vista – A Room with a View). Beavan arrived on the project, also thanks to the work done with actress Lesley Manville for the mini-series set in the 1800s, Cranford; Furthermore, Beavan and Arrighi have already worked together on six previous films.
The time was perfect. Beavan had just finished work on the complex Disney production Cruella – Cruella, (for which she won her third Academy Award) herself set in the world of fashion.
I always knew that this film would be any costume designer’s dream, so I felt in a position to be able to aim high in the selection. Jenny Beavan is undoubtedly one of the best British costume designers. Her attention to detail is astounding. She works very instinctively and has a unique approach to color management. I always thought that Emma Thompson’s character, the Baroness, in Cruella – Cruella was undoubtedly influenced by Dior, and mocking fate led me to Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. I felt a great interest in Dior, I read a lot, I studied her life and her extraordinary relationship with models. There are hours and hours of videos on the fashion shows on Youtube, wonderful material in which these young girls tell what it means to work in fashion in those years.
Beavan was able to work directly with the fashion house, having access to the historical archives, which contain among the numerous finds, original sketches and diaries, as models for clothes.
It was fascinating, to say the least. They brought out wonderful information, filling me with stimuli, knowing that we spoke the same language.
recalls Beavan, speaking of his experience in the archives. Jenny Beavan was fundamental: she made sure that the clothes were produced in a rigorous and authentic way, in full respect of the originals.
Adds producer Xavier Marchand:
He worked wonderfully. Thanks to Dior’s loans of jewelry, hats and shoes, we were able to replicate the style in full.