Panel Discussion: Fashion and Film in Phantom Thread

Packed panel for Phantom Thread Discussion

Janurary 29th marked the Phantom Thread – Fashion and Film discussion panel, hosted through a collaboration between the Coral Gables Art Cinema and Books & Books, moderated by Nat Chediak, the Director of Programming of the Coral Gables Art Cinema, and featuring special guest Christian Garcia, one of the last true bespoke tailors. Much like the Monsters in the Shape of Water discussion that was hosted earlier this month, the panel was packed, with many guests standing to join in on the conversation on the latest Paul Thomas Anderson film, Phantom Thread (2017). Throughout our discussion, our panel covered topics such as some of the interesting conditions that brought the film to fruition, the themes of the movie, as well as the real-world fashion industry and the experiences Christian Garcia has had throughout his fashion career.

In regards to the movie, we discussed how the film was born of a harsh fever, and how the actors lived in the house that served as the primary setting of Phantom Thread. Garcia remarked that the setting of the elegant home and its atmosphere as the hub of the work of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) was familiar to him, having come from a family that worked in the fashion industry. Having watched the film twice, Garcia told us how the film made him both very sad, and somewhat more confused on his second watch. Through his first viewing, Garcia, as well as the attendees of the panel, noted how the character of Alma (Vicky Krieps) was an angelic figure in Woodcock’s life. Woodcock, in the eyes of the panel, was an embodiment of the artist that “suffers all the time” from trying to pursue perfection, and whose tumultuous life was one he needed saving from. Half-jokingly, the panel agreed that Alma reflected a mixture of the two types of angels that exist – the merciful and the exterminator. However, keeping these ideas in mind from his first viewing, Garcia noted that in watching the film a second time, and trying to catch on to the psychological themes of the movie, it served to muddy up the overall meaning slightly for him.

On the topic of the fashion industry, Garcia only begrudgingly accepted his label as a bespoke tailor during the panel, stating that the term itself has lost its original meaning. According to Garcia, “bespoke” has changed from the title given to a custom tailor who made all their pieces in-house, and “never let it out of their sights” until it left their store, to being a descriptor given to anything from a Frappuccino at Starbucks™ to the clothing made in a factory located in another country, far from where the supposed designer could ever even lay a finger on it themselves. Christian also remarked that the idea of what’s truly couture in fashion can never really be deciphered. Garcia also threw away the idea that “the clothes wear the man”, stating that when fashion is done right, the clothes and the person are seen as one unit, rather than two unified entities.

You can read our full review on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread here.

You can watch the saved video stream of the Phantom Thread panel here.


 George Ibarra is a Senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a minor in Sociology, along with Certificates in Exile Studies and Film Studies.

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