Director of fashion documentary Versailles '73 on the runway show that changed history

Versailles '73 director, Deborah Riley Draper.
What brought you to make this film? What is your personal connection to fashion, or this story in particular?

I wanted to make the documentary because, once I learned the story of Versailles '73, I actually thought, wow. These are some of my favorite things: It's Paris; it's New York; it's groundbreaking fashion, the breaking of color barriers -- it's innovation. Anything that's remotely connected to Halston, I'm all in [laughs]. I'm fascinated by Halston as an American businessman and as a figure in our history, and the role he played in the '70s. He created looks that made women powerful in the way that they dressed -- so self-assured.

Someone referred to the story as the "Tuskegee Airmen" story of fashion; for the first time you had American designers using a collective of black models. I thought, wow, what unintended consequences this actual event brought about.

It was the first time the French had a "sponsored" event; we take that for granted now. Everything is sponsored; there's a brand connected to everything. That was new to them forty years ago, and so groundbreaking.

You also had Americans who used music and sexual movement. In America, it wouldn't have been anything, but at Versailles, they used Barry White and Al Green and disco. It was like, what is this disco thing you're doing?

The walks, the dancing and the movement of the models in this show -- it makes sense. Kind of like, how could this fashion show in this time not be set to artists like Barry White and Al Green?

It was the movement of the '70s. It's what was playing at Studio 54. The American designers brought the music they had with them, and didn't think twice about how groundbreaking it was. It's just what they were listening to at that moment.

The film is very much a bridge for this part of contemporary couture history; now, there are Fashion Weeks all over the globe that are very similar in presentation. Your film shows that at one point, American and European presentation was drastically different.

When you talked to the French, someone like Laurent, they realized that the stuffiness in the '70s they had brought from the '40s and '50s was not like the youthful revolution happening in the streets. They weren't wearing the gloves and the chiffons and all the layers. They wanted to do something different with their presentation of fashion and keep up with the music. Not that the quality needed to change, but the design.

Location Info


Sie FilmCenter

2510 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Film

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