The story of the 1973 Palace of Versailles fashion show that put American designers and black models on the map is the subject of The Battle Of Versailles, an HBO Films movie co-written and directed by Selma helmer Ava DuVernay. She is co-writing the project, now in development, with Michael Starrbury (The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister And Pete). It is based on the 2015 book The Battle Of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled Into The Spotlight And Made History by fashion journalist Robin Givhan.
The movie will chronicle the November 28, 1973 fashion show that took place at the Palace of Versailles. A fundraiser for the restoration of King Louis XIV’s palace, it pitted the top five French designers (Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior) against five then-unknown Americans (Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston, Stephen Burrows and Anne Klein, who brought along her then-assistant Donna Karan) in front of an audience of the world’s social elite. By the end of the night, American fashion would be born, racial barriers broken, and the industry would be left forever transformed.
The French designers kicked off the evening with a big-budget, two-hour extravaganza featuring elaborate set pieces and a live orchestra playing classical music. The Americans followed with a 35-minute show to a pre-recorded Al Green soundtrack, backed by a simple line drawing of the Eiffel Towel. Against all odds, the Americans emerged victorious, hailed for the energy of their presentation, with a lot of the credit going to the fearless 30 models, 10 of whom, in a groundbreaking move, were African American.
The event was also chronicled in Deborah Riley Draper’s 2012 feature documentary Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution.
DuVernay is executive producing the HBO Films project with Karen Glass and Angela Mancuso. Givhan serves as a consultant.
DuVernay recently was tapped to direct A Wrinkle In Time for Disney. In TV, she is writing, directing and executive producing the upcoming OWN drama series Queen Sugar, which she co-created with Oprah Winfrey. DuVernay is repped by CAA and attorneys Nina Shaw and Gordon Bobb at Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano.
Starrbury co-created the upcoming Comedy Central series The Legends Of Chamberlain Heights and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for writing The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister And Pete, which premiered at Sundance and was released by Lionsgate. He is currently rewriting the action comedy Ed Terrestrial for Disney and Andrew Adamson, and last fall preemptively sold his feature spec Ares to Paramount. Starrbury is repped by CAA, Circle of Confusion, and attorney Rob Szymanski.