Cruella De Vil: Fashion Icon or PR Professional?

Disney’s newest film, “Cruella,” became available for free on Disney+ after being a Premier Access title for about four months. I was very skeptical about Emma Stone’s performance as the infamous Cruella De Vil, but I decided to watch the film anyways. Little did I know that I would be captivated by the portrayal of Cruella’s origin story. Contrary to what the average viewer may think, the events leading up to what makes Cruella, well, Cruella, has almost everything to do with public relations and nothing to do with her iconic fashion pieces.  

To provide some context: Estella spends the beginning of the film poor and dreaming about working under the famous fashion designer, the Baroness, as she always had a passion for designing and making clothing. However, the Baroness’ character can be compared to the cutthroat character of Miranda Priestly in ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ Estella eventually finds herself working for the Baroness, but quickly realizes that it was not at all what she had hoped for. It was her who led Estella to fully embrace her alter-ego, Cruella. To seek revenge, she climbs her way to the top of headlines as the Baroness strongly values having the spotlight in the media. The way in which Cruella sought her revenge and overall rise to fame can be directly attributed to her various PR stunts throughout the film. 

Cruella’s first legendary stunt in the film as the Cruella De Vil was at a ravishing party hosted by the Baroness. In order to prevent anyone possibly outshining the Baroness at her own function, she enforces a strict dress code. Cruella attends the party to code, but quickly breaks it. After shattering hundreds of champagne glasses to ensure all eyes were on her, she completely transforms her dress in the blink of an eye- by setting fire to it. This stunt captured the attention of one journalist at the party and by the next day, she was on the front page. 

Unbeknownst to Cruella, this journalist was a childhood friend of hers. She used this connection to stay relevant, as she was only Estella, another ordinary person. Her next stunt involved her falling out of a garbage truck at a red carpet event wearing an intricate dress and simply driving away seconds later as the Baroness stood and watched. Another involved Cruella climbing on top of the Baroness’ car with a dress cloaking every inch, only leaving a hole big enough for the Baroness to embarrassingly peer out of. This captured even more media attention, and she was now making headlines consistently as the Cruella De Vil. The final stunt that solidified her character was when she interrupted the Baroness’ runway show to debut her latest piece: a punk rock, Dalmatian-print ensemble, a mere week after the Baroness’ beloved pack of Dalmatians went missing. 

Disney’s “Cruella” unquestionably features eye-catching fashion ensembles, but it does a great job of accrediting Cruella’s rise to fame to her revolutionary clothing designs and the magic of public relations. She created a public image for herself as her alter-ego, Cruella De Vil, that was bold, yet favorable. She coordinated her every public move as Cruella De Vil in order to have complete control of her public image. She also used her only journalistic connection to her fullest potential. It was only after she was making headlines that she finally received the proper recognition for her work as a fashion designer. 

—Kassandra Lalli, Account Associate

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