The New Netflix Documentary Taking You Inside the World of Chanel

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Backstage by Benoit Peverelli (32)
Chanel S/S18 Haute CouturePhotography by Benoit Peverelli, Courtesy of Chanel

We speak with 7 Days Out director Andrew Rossi, who was offered exclusive access to Karl Lagerfeld and his ateliers

Fashion documentaries can often tread a precarious line between fly-on-the-wall sensationalism and serious investigation. This is a balancing act that filmmaker Andrew Rossi has down to a fine art, having previously followed the likes of Anna Wintour and André Leon Talley for The First Monday in May and The Gospel According to André respectively – both of which treat fashion with sensitivity and respect. Now, Rossi returns with a new Netflix documentary series titled 7 Days Out (out December 21), each episode exploring the frenzied week of behind-the-scenes preparation before a live cultural event takes place.

One of these spectacular occasions is Chanel’s spring/summer 2018 haute couture show, which was staged in January this year. Over the duration of 45 minutes, Rossi offers an exclusive look inside the world of Karl Lagerfeld and his ateliers, with cameo appearances from those closest to him (including Chanel consultant and muse Lady Amanda Harlech and Virginie Viard, who has been Lagerfeld’s right-hand woman since 1987). Here, the director tells AnOther all about his experience filming in Paris. 

On the influence of The First Monday in May...
“I learned a lot when tracking Andrew Bolton for The First Monday in May, curator of The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His sensitivity towards how fashion can communicate so much about society and culture was instrumental in the way I try to think about fashion too; not just as a visual and aesthetic medium but also one that has a lot of narratives built into it. And so, when I was at Chanel filming the preparation for the haute couture show, I think a lot of that was informing some of the choices we made on who and what to follow. And certainly, being able to follow Karl Lagerfeld was an amazing experience. I had interviewed him for The First Monday in May, so having a little bit of background knowledge was helpful. When we interviewed him for 7 Days Out it was in Coco Chanel’s apartment. It was wonderful to see Chanel’s legacy and how Karl has really reinvented the brand for today.”

On working with Chanel at such short notice...
“This was really the biggest challenge because typically I have several months – if not more than a year – to develop trust with the subjects in my films. In this case, we landed on the ground right in the middle of the people at Chanel dealing with the challenges and anxieties of preparing for their big event. I would say for me, it was just about having empathy towards this and their mission. My goal was to understand intellectually and emotionally what they were trying to accomplish and then to kind of sit back and observe. Then, at an appropriate moment, interject with a question or somehow tease out what they’re thinking about. It’s almost like a form of therapy in a way and it becomes a nice outlet for the person, so long as we’re not on top of them too much.”

On interviewing Lady Amanda Harlech...
“We filmed with Amanda Harlech the second day we were in Paris. It was one of the most moving interviews I did in the entire process with Chanel because she really captured the optimism and the goals of the haute couture collection. She conveyed it with such emotion and insight that it really just elevated the entire frame we went through over the next few days. Amanda truly understands Karl’s process and she has this kind of intuitive connection with him. Also, Virginie Viard was fantastic to track, but she was a little bit more consumed by all the pressures and wasn’t able to talk with us as much.”

On filming the ateliers...
“We closely filmed four of the premiere ateliers: Olivia, Cécile, Jacqueline and Josette. Cécile talked about how she always wanted to be involved in show business. She grew up wanting to be Cyd Charisse. I think she really crystallises the idea of the aesthetic challenge of creating garments at the highest level, the spectacle of putting them into a show and transmitting the vision that Karl has for a collection from the Grand Palais to the Instagram accounts and Twitter feeds of so many people around the world. I think she had this unique insight and it was all based on her dreams of wanting to be on stage as a young girl.”

On watching masters at work...
“When I’m in the presence of Karl I’m in the presence of a great master and a historic cultural figure. So, it’s a little bit intimidating! But, on the other hand, he’s very open, he’s very funny and he is gracious with everyone on set. There’s a sense that you don’t want to waste his time and that’s okay. Filming creative masters... That’s the way it goes. It’s a sort of dance between me, them and the camera. I think that my approach to documentary film is not sensationalist; it is hopefully narratively thrilling but also intellectually layered. I’m just as interested in the spectacle as I am the nitty gritty of choices made in the fabrics and all of the aesthetic questions about how the collection comes to life. I think there are things to celebrate in this process and a show like 7 Days Out offers an opportunity to do that.”

7 Days Out debuts December 21, 2018 on Netflix.