HBO Taps Ava DuVernay to Direct Battle of Versailles Film

The documentary will chronicle the groundbreaking fashion spectacle

Deadline has reported today that Ava DuVernay, director of Middle of Nowhere [2012] and Selma [2014], and the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award, will direct the upcoming Battle of Versailles documentary for HBO Films. Based on Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan’s 2015 book, The Battle of Versailles: The The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History, the film will chronicle the groundbreaking and legendary 1973 fashion spectacle.

The trailblazing show pitted five Parisian designers (Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Christian Dior’s Marc Bohan) against five then little-known American designers (Halston, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Stephen Burrows, and Oscar de la Renta), at a time when French couturiers reigned supreme. The epic evening, which served as a fundraising effort to restore the Palace of Versailles, catapulted American sportswear onto the map and spotlighted African-American models when diversity was lacking on the runways (though unfortunately, it still kind of is). The American designers, who ultimately won the fashion battle, featured an unprecedented 10 black models out of 30, including icon Pat Cleveland.

At a time when the fashion industry is toying with the idea of axing extravagant runway spectacles and instating a see-now-buy-now strategy, revisiting such a monumental and pivotal moment in fashion history is more important than ever. And though one could argue that designers like Demna Gvasalia, Karl Lagerfeld, Jeremy Scott, and Thom Browne have pushed the boundaries to produce memorable fashion presentations that have a lingering effect, perhaps re-exploring a historical fashion face-off like this is what the broken industry needs: a reminder that a fashion show can have a transformative effect. It was, after all, known as the night that changed fashion forever. 

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