The Drama of Haute Couture Is Explored In 'The Collection' On Amazon

Picture shows: Scene from Episode 1 of The Collection
Picture shows: Scene from Episode 1 of 'The Collection'

In the battle of subscription services, The Collection might just prove to be Amazon’s trump card. The new, fashion based drama from Amazon Prime focuses the spotlight on post-war Paris, and within this state of flux tells the story of Paul Sabine, a couture designer tasked with revitalising a war-torn France.
The show is built around dualities and juxtapositions: the beauty of couture vs the aftermath of the war; the glamor of fashion vs the dark secrets at the heart of the Sabine family. With a cast that includes Mamie Gummer, Frances de la Tour, Richard Coyle and Tom Riley, The Collection stitches together talent and ambition on and off the screen. Ahead of its UK release, we caught up with creator and writer Oliver Goldstick (Ugly Betty, Pretty Little Liars) to talk about the pull of Paris, Christian Dior’s New Look and why this period drama will speak to modern audiences.

How did The Collection happen?

Kate Croft approached me when I was doing Ugly Betty, and we had had a relationship for years, talking about several projects. Ironically I did a fashion centric show after I did Ugly Betty called Lipstick Jungle, and I had already done research for Ugly Betty, to at least be truthful about that world. I didn’t come from that world, my background is theatre. When Kate approached me I said “you’re teasing me, don’t do this to me, because I would love to do a show about this world, but everyone wants it to be satire.” People look at this world as vain and elitist; it’s for other people. People look at this world, and it’s too easily dismissed. With those two shows that I worked on, I had met with fashion designers and learnt a lot about [fashion] – and understood that this is an art, it’s an art form.

The Collection

Why did you want to set the series at this time?

Helen Sabine (MAMIE GUMMER) and Yvette Sabine (FRANCES DE LA TOUR) in The Collection

Against this backdrop, the idea of the New Look, that Dior’s New Look, it’s hard to even fathom that this was juxtaposed, that it all took place at this time. There was also a ferment of other great art and philosophy all happening after the war. We’re talking about a very vital period. I said to Kate “I’d love to be the American who walked in in 1947, and even walking into the New Look, Dior’s show. What that must have felt like when the doors closed, and what it must have felt like when they walked back up the street.” That stark contrast I thought was fascinating. So we talked about that at length, and then I came back with this core family that I felt was a great platform for a series.

Why Paris, and not the Saville Row, London story instead?

At the beginning, the book that Kate gave me was a companion book to an exhibition at the V&A: The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947–1957. I lived in England as a student for a year and a half, I felt much more sympatico with the people in being able to write that. But then the more reading I did, I called her and said, “it cannot be London.” Paris was blemished in a different way from that war, they were tainted. Paris, because of the capitulation – there was a resistance but there was also a collaboration – this country desperately needed to reinvent itself, and what a great metaphor to use fashion for. You always hear ‘oh fashion, it’s a metaphor for re-invention, for transformation,’ it is. But here you have a setting where there is a truly a need and a longing to get out of that period and leave those five years behind. To re-capture what was glorious about France and French culture. Fashion is the history of longing, to be something else and to me, it just had to be set in Paris.

Nina (JENNA THIAM) in The Collection

What was the hardest thing about re-creating Paris in Swansea?

Um, the food! No, I would say the limited locations. The typography was difficult. We also shot for at least three months in winter. We shot a couple of things, a farmhouse, a cottage. We had the gorgeous location of Atlantic college outside of Cardiff, which doubled as a convent and a church. And we ended up building about a street and a half, not quite two streets [and] every prop on the set was pulled from flea markets in Paris. When you walk into Claude’s flat – I couldn’t get over it because on the first day – you know the match boxes? Alison Dominitz had brought cartloads of things back so when you walk into his flat there wasn’t an anachronistic element. So I mean, the hardest thing about recreating Paris in Swansea is that you were up against climate in the winter, and there wasn’t a lot of architecture that was similar, so we did interiors and saved the exteriors for when we went to Paris.

Where did you look for costume and style inspiration?

Everyone believes that Christian Dior invented The New Look and I’m sorry to say Jacques Fath and Balmain were doing it before Christian Dior. Mr Dior was the Ralph Lauren of his time, an incredible marketing genius. He also had the capital that no-one else had, he had the wealthiest man in France backing him and growing his enterprise. And also he was at a different stage in his career, which I thought was interesting. But he wasn’t the only inspiration, we basically looked at Jacques Fath, Charles James and Christian Dior. It felt like Paul Sabine should be a composite and an amalgam of all three. And, as the series moved on it felt important to me to introduce the Balenciaga of it all, which is really Claude.

What do you think, will he be doing a ready to wear line?

Only if you get us a second order! Of course, that’s the evolution and what’s so exciting about the show is that you get to do a new collection every year, and you can jump a couple of years – we talked about that too – so absolutely.

Marianne (IRENE JACOB) in The Collection

The Collection seems to be about ways of seeing – so I wanted to look at the role of Billy Novak. How did his fictional use of lens change or influence how you told the story?

I’ll be completely honest with you, when I first approached Kate I thought it would be very much Billy’s show, because I’m an American. As the evolution of the show happened, and you start to inhabit the characters you realise that this is an ensemble piece. But what I love about the idea is that he hadn’t served in the war. Like Richard Avedon and several others, he went with a romantic vision of Paris; it was untainted, not filtered through having been there. He went there with fresh eyes, and I said to Kate that I loved the idea of an unsentimental education of someone who recognises that he collects secrets not clothes. I loved the idea of a really talented young man who was using his camera to take notes. And also, as Americans we just don’t have the same self censorship as a culture. We just come in and say ‘why can’t you do this? Why can’t we?’ That’s a very American. He’s a very attractive character to Paul Sabine because he can look at a kid like this and say ‘”wow, his moxy, his lack of self censorship, that’s a bold move, that’s exactly what I need”. He becomes a new member of the family, and a vital member.

What is it about The Collection that will speak to modern audiences?

People are always fascinated by period pieces. Because we can talk about things that are happening today in a veiled way, see our current events through the prism of the past. When you get to witness things through the prism of the past. I think we’re living in an age of uncertainty right now. There are a lot of elements in post war paris that echo and reverberate today. We’re still living in an age of uncertainty, and people are desperate to cling on to hope and return to the innocence of what we all remember. And the clothes of The New Look, of this atelier, are callbacks to the Belle Epoque for people wanting nostalgia and romance.

The Collection starts on Amazon Prime Video from the 2nd September

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article