Fashion and Art Colliding on Film?


Written by Kate Kelsall
05 Monday 05th March 2012

Lithe fabrics and dramatic cuts benefit from the visual boost of a moving body; woman landed enough to afford such finery can envisage how garments will react in the throws of 24 frame-per-second everyday life.

Film also affords the possibility of better packaging a brand and its ethos, above simply showcasing any singular product. Without muddying the issue with questions of artistic ownership, it seems indisputable that fashion film, if done properly, sells stuff damn well.

 Check out Surface to Air’s SS2012 teaser ‘Lazy Jeanne’ – I know I want in on that balmy summer afternoon aesthetic.

Another given perk of fashion film is its claim to accessibility. Only proper fashionistas are up for putting in the hours to watch catwalk shows, and glossy magazines of Vogue’s ilk cost a small fortune. The argument is that videos can go viral and with the internet as a home, haute couture can be enjoyed by all, even us mere mortals who will never get to wear it.

In theory fashion film is simply an extension of the amalgamation of all art forms. Tom Ford with his directing debut A Single Man was the first fashion designer to delve into movie business. For me, the film felt somewhat rigid and flat – perhaps what you would expect from a man used to manipulating fabric and models and not dialogue, narratives and three-dimensionality - but it received great critical acclaim. Fashion film is also greatly indebted to the music video. Both are short and sweet set pieces encapsulating a mood, emotion or aesthetic and can be great springboards, launching the career of filmmakers into feature lengths.

All very well, if it wasn’t for the medium’s awkward position broaching the ever intermingled territories of art and advertising. For better or worse, fashion film aspires to be more than just blatant commercialism, and why shouldn’t it, when fashion photographers enjoy enough prestige to warrant retrospectives in premium gallery space.

Much of this attitude can be attributed to the support of mantilla'd fashion blogger extraordinaire Diane Pernot, her site A Shaded View of Fashion Film and the annual festival/competition it endorses.  

Aiming to foster innovation and dynamism in the field is no bad thing, and to be fair this season has produced a wealth of material to suggest that the medium can be both fun and provocative. Pulling out two very different examples - performance artists Maya Berstrom and Igor Dewe’s films are playful and energetic whereas Gareth Pugh’s campaign video made by Ruth Hogben, elucidates the dark underbelly of the brand to visually compelling effect.

However the industry’s idea of art can span all manner of evils. Corelleo Marrero made the below film for denim wear brand Thvm complete with the tag each idea, we could imagine, are synaptic mental explosions mimicking the hued gaseous kaleidoscope of deep space”. To start with, that is not proper English, and the film illustrates how imaginative endeavour in fashionable hands can often spill over into the most vacuous and wanky of art substitutes.

The crux of the matter seems to lie with who holds creative control over the project. Models don’t necessarily make for riveting actresses and the same goes for fashion designer’s attempts to direct.

In a film collaboration between AnOther Magazine and Craig McDean, Marion Cotillard rocks fabric in flux with aplomb that a size zero model used to ‘the walk’ would be incapable of even attempting. When Soffia Coppola was given free rein over the film for Marni’s capsule collection at H&M, the results were unsurprisingly accomplished. 

Like the music video then, fashion films have the potential to be four minute visual feasts bringing life to a key concept which the brand wishes to promote. At its best when it is light hearted, the danger perhaps comes when people start taking it too seriously.

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