The fashion of Jean-Luc Godard: Examining the French New Wave director’s influence on style

Jean Luc Godard Breathless
Photography courtesy of TIFF Reference Library

Look back at Jean Luc-Godard’s style setting moments »

It’s no secret that the French have an enviable way with style. Effortless chic is basically in their DNA (think #iwokeuplikethis, circa always), and nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the 1960s films of Jean-Luc Godard. The French-Swiss filmmaker best known for pioneering the French New Wave changed the way films were made by taking a Brechtian approach to storytelling, alienating and distancing the spectators from his often unlikable characters. “A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order,” he famously said.

Beyond influencing award-winning filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Godard’s ultra-stylized movies have had a huge impact on the fashion world, inspiring the collections of everyone from Anna Sui to Rodarte and Band of Outsiders. In fact, Godard’s muse and wife of four years was Danish model Anna Karina (so named by none other than Coco Chanel) who embodied ’60s style on the cover of Elle and in high-profile ads for Palmolive. Brigitte Bardot’s voluminous bedroom hair in Contempt and Jean Seberg’s pixie cut in Breathless are regular runway references that make it easy to spot how Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence found their signature ’dos.

For the next few weeks, TIFF will be shining a retrospective light on the influential director with Godard Forever: Part One (Jan. 23 to Feb. 13, tiff.net). To celebrate, we’re taking a look back at some of his most influential fashion moments.

Spanning his “Golden Age,” the retrospective showcases 17 of his feature films and 11 shorts from 1954 to 1967, including fashion favourites Breathless, Contempt and Vivre sa vie. We’ll be the ones at the back taking notes.