A Brief History of Wes Anderson's Influence on the Runway
A Brief History of Wes Anderson's Influence on the Runway
- Words Brenden Gallagher
- Date July 25, 2017
Prep school chic meets children’s book whimsy: this pastel, monogrammed combination has been the hallmark of Wes Anderson’s style since Rushmore. In the twenty years since he burst on the filmmaking scene, Anderson’s elegantly twee production design and wardrobe have left as indelible a mark on American fashion as on American cinema. Not only has Anderson’s work influenced countless runway shows, but you can find his imprint from shopping malls to Etsy stores. J.Crew and H&M owe a debt to the auteur, and whether you want to call it “hipster,” “nerdcore,” or “geek chic,” you have to admit that Anderson did as much as anyone to shape millennial fashion sensibilities. If you walk into a Halloween party in any of America’s hippest neighborhoods, from Silverlake to Williamsburg, from the Mission District to Wicker Park, you’re guaranteed to find Margots and Richies and Sams and Suzys, complete with fur coats and coonskin caps. The dialogue between the fashion world and the world inside Anderson’s mind has been rich, fascinating, and a vital part of fashion in the twenty-first century. It shows no signs of stopping any time soon.
Anderson’s legendary wardrobe came to be thanks to collaborations with two brilliant costume designers: Karen Patch and Milena Canonero. Patch was Anderson’s costume designer on his earlier films, lending them their hip, preppy, indie wardrobe aesthetic (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums). Canonero is responsible for Anderson’s more whimsical, later period costume designs starting with The Life Aquatic and continuing through The Grand Budapest Hotel, which earned her a fourth Oscar.
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Over the years, both designers have revealed some of the clever methods that made Anderson’s costumes iconic. Patch told Elle that Anderson has one key rule: “Don’t shop for anything -- make everything.” This means that while some of the costumes look familiar, you can’t go buy the look off the rack. Patch agreed to this, but demanded in return that Anderson be available to her several nights a week during prep so she wouldn’t end up redoing pieces that she painstakingly created in her shop. To maintain high fashion bonafides, Patch would often request designers build some signature costumes off of her designs. Margot Tenenbaum’s iconic fur coat was built by Fendi by special request. Lacoste didn’t make Gwyneth Paltrow’s dresses for the film, but they sent fabric to Patch and ultimately approved her designs, which gave her license to place the iconic alligator on the unique pieces.
This interplay between original concepts and fashion world collaboration continued on Canonero’s watch. On Grand Budapest Hotel, she labored to keep the attire period accurate, but used a modern fabric and color palette. Swinton’s wardrobe in the film describes Anderson’s approach in microcosm: while the designs were inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt, Canonero turned to Fendi to make them a reality. Prada built Swinton’s luggage. If you want to play a challenging sartorial game, try to spot all of Fendi and Prada’s contributions throughout the film.
To the fashion world, Anderson’s designs are both familiar and exotic. They speak the language of haute couture, but they are also elusive. Thanks to all of these special collaborations, most of the pieces created for these films aren’t available to us mortals. That is, until designers take cues from him. It’s no surprise that numerous designers have found inspiration in Anderson’s films in attempts to bring his signature look to the masses.
In tracking Anderson’s influence on the fashion world, it's useful to look at Patch’s and Canonero’s work separately. Patch’s trustfund chic looks from Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums have shown up on the runway again and again in the fifteen years since Tenenbaums’ debut. You can see Richie’s style in Kate Spade’s retro-chic flight attendant line for Delta in 2003. Marc Jacobs cited Tenenbaums as the one film that most influences his work in 2008. A 2012 Prada show gave the audience, “Gwyneth-in-Royal Tenenbaums-vibes.” Orla Kiely’s Spring 2014 line was a mash-up of Tenenbaums, Rushmore, and Moonrise Kingdom looks. A recent athleisure line from Tory Burch conjured more memories of Richie Tenenbaum.
Perhaps the largest moment for Tenenbaum-chic to date came in 2015’s fall collections, when no fewer than six designers cited the film as an influence on their collections. Lacoste offered a combination of Richie and Chas in their menswear line. Gucci and Bally featured brown furs a la Margot Tenenbaum mixed with Moonrise Kingdom wholesomeness. Miu Miu’s dresses offered storybook chic straight out of Anderson’s playbook.
Anderson’s later period style is marked by Canonero’s tendency to combine high fashion with the rustic worker style of sailors, bellhops, and soldiers. From the beginning of Canonero and Anderson’s collaboration, they began drawing fashion world admirers. Even though Adidas and Louis Vuitton declined to recreate the shoes and luggage they commissioned for The Life Aquatic and Darjeeling Limited respectively, fans and smaller shops filled the void. You can still purchase Darjeeling inspired luggage from Very Troubled Child. Getting your hands on Zissou Adidas will be a bit more difficult outside of DIY one-offs. Adidas waited until this summer to release an official version of the shoe, and only produced one hundred pairs.
Not only has Prada worked on a number of Anderson’s films, but the designer commissioned Anderson and Canonero to make the short film “Castello Cavalcanti” in 2013. The film, a tribute to Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, again uses working class villagers and waitresses to display their chic wares. The odd perspective and storybook village setting readily identify the film as pure Anderson.
Shortly after the release of Grand Budapest Hotel, looks inspired by the film crept onto the runway. Anna Sui’s Fall 2014 line borrowed heavily from Swinton’s looks in the film. Gucci’s Fall 2015 collection under creative director Alessandro Michele featured buttons and epaulets that would look at home on a bellboy or a soldier.
Last holiday season saw Canonero and Patch’s styles explicitly combined and sold as mass market retail. While Anderson’s imprint has long been evident at shopping mall menswear stores like J.Crew and Topman, H&M made it official with a longform commercial that slotted H&M knitwear into Anderson’s world. Adrien Brody’s character looks like a former conductor of the Darjeeling Limited while an actress on the upper deck of the train is clearly doing her best Margot Tenenbaum impression. In combining the two eras of Anderson’s style into one mash-up, H&M’s campaign shows just how entrenched Anderson is in the fashion world. This kind of “greatest hits” approach shows that his influence on style now transcends his individual films.
It’s indisputable that there is a “Wes Anderson look” that has made its to way into all facets of the fashion world, from DIY to designer, from high-end runways to the department store sales rack. Even if Anderson’s future films take a step back from the fashion world (which seems highly unlikely), the “Wes Anderson look” isn’t likely to go away any time soon.