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In the digital age, fashion is represented and consumed as a different experience through the production of moving image. Although fashion film is not completely new, within the last decade it has risen to a popular form of advertising and representation by twenty first century brands. However, the exact definition of a fashion film within the genre, is loosely defined. It is unlikely that film will completely take over fashion photography as the dominant form of advertising, but in recent years fashion film has been used widely to represent new collections, sometimes replacing the catwalk.

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The two different views on what makes a fashion film, that I will be focusing on, are ‘Thoughts on Fashion Film’ by Nick Knight, the founder and curator of ShowStudio, and the views of Diane Pernet, founder and curator of ‘A Shaded View On Fashion’, ‘Fashion & Film: The Cross Pollination Between’. Nick Knight and Diane Pernet are pioneers within fashion film, who both curate their own fashion film websites and both have separate views on what makes a fashion film. 

Throughout, I will be discussing and analysing, categorising the fashion film into 3 different categories: Narrative films, Conceptual films, and Collection/Catwalk films. I will be presenting my own views on each type of film, and why a fashion brand would choose that specific category. I will also be discussing the different audiences addressed for each category, the advertising functions and the roles that the clothes play within the films, and the distinguishing features between a successful and unsuccessful fashion film. 

it pioneered the concept of a fashion magazine-as-website
that from the outset programmatically tested the aspects of “electronic
logic” such as time, duration, movement, sound, and participation
through interactivity and dialogue.
Marketa Uhlirova (2013) 100 Years of the Fashion Film: Frameworks and
Histories, Fashion Theory, 17:2, 137-157

Chapter One: The Fashion Film

In the current age of fashion film, there is very few literature on the subject, but discussion on fashion film is growing through online platforms such as ShowStudio, A Shaded View Of Fashion, Dazed Digital and Nowness. Most of what is said is based on opinion rather than fact, so at what point does a factual definition ….?

In the new digital age where we are living in technologies prime, it is inevitably going to change the way that we view fashion, and also the way that brands choose to advertise. 
People spend most of their days looking at screens whether iphones, tablets or computers, with fewer people reading fashion magazines than before. This gives brands the perfect opportunity to advertise clothes in motion, as Nick Knight said ‘when a fashion designer creates a garment, he or she always creates that garment to be seen in movement’ (Nick Knight, 2011: online). Designers now have the perfect opportunity to show the clothes how they are meant to be worn, to give the viewer a clearer look at the garment, the fabric, the weight, the movement. 

One of the leading platforms for fashion film is ShowStudio, founded and curated by Nick Knight in 1990. Knight has the intention of engaging viewers with an intimate portrait of the fashion industry, with live streams showing the start to end of a fashion shoot, interviews from top people within the industry, and panels where pioneers discuss fashion collections, often live. Knight created ShowStudio ‘on the belief that showing the entire creative process – from conception to completion – is beneficial for the artist, the audience and the art itself’ (Nick Knight, 2009: online). 
Since the beginning of ShowStudio, it has now grown to be the most well known site for fashion film, and provides viewers with inspiration and the opportunity to learn. Filmmakers can also submit their own fashion films to ShowStudio, where all films are watched personally by Nick Knight, and if successful, uploaded onto the website. 
As well as ShowStudio and other established websites as mentioned earlier, Nowness, Dazed Digital and i-D Online, there are also fashion film festivals in major cities such as London, Milan, Berlin, New York and Paris. With a variety of options for viewing fashion films, creating them and also submitting and showcasing them, fashion film is growing rapidly and filmmakers have a clearer idea on the different types of fashion films available. 

 
Looking at fashion films as a whole, there are many different ways that a brand uses film to promote the clothes. For example, high street brands such as Missguided and Topshop, create films that are almost documenting a photo shoot of their ready to wear collection. Models can be seen smiling into the camera, laughing with friends, and having fun wearing them, often in a studio. These type of fashion films have no obvious concept or hugely artistic vision, and instead are just an extra to the campaign or lookbook that the brand is shooting. So it could be argued that these are just behind the scene/documentary films, not a fashion film. 

There are also fashion films created using famous directors, with a clear narrative separate to that of the narrative of the clothes, often using famous actors instead of models, with dialogue. These type of fashion films are created by luxury brands, such as Prada or Dior. But if the narrative of the fashion film is different to the clothes, and the viewer is attracted to the story and the director and the actors and the aesthetic, is this really classed as a fashion film? 

Another type of fashion film is the conceptual or experimental film, where the narrative is based on the production or post production of the film, more of an artistic expression, where the clothes are not necessarily seen in their prime, but a focus on the style of film making. 

Lastly, the catwalk or collection fashion film, where the fashion film replaces or coincides with the designers collection. This is a fashion film where the narrative is the clothes, the film shows the inspiration behind the collection, shows the brands aesthetic, and supports the designer in showcasing it exactly how they want to. There has been an increasing amount of designers using fashion films at fashion week shows, for example, Gareth Pugh collaborated with filmmaker, Ruth Hogben to showcase his SS16 collection. (see fig. 1) The benefits of creating a fashion film instead of or as well as a show, are that a fashion film lives on. At a show, only a select number of viewers can see the clothes and experience them in movement, whereas with a fashion film, the film can be uploaded online, and advertised through social media. This also allows a wider audience to view the collection, and helps to show the inspiration behind the film in a more creative way. 

In Pugh’s film, the narrative is based solely around the collection and garments within the film. There is no outside narrative that takes focus off the garments, and even the models have their faces covered. With the loss of identity the clothes really stand out and the viewers are drawn towards the garments. 
Backstage at his show, Pugh said ‘For me Soho’s a little bit like Disneyland or a fairground, it’s about fantasy or escapism, you can go there and be somebody else’ (Allwood et al., 2015 : online)
Being ‘somebody else’ is emphasised through the models faces being covered, you can be unrecognisable and yourself in Soho. 

Within the film there is a pole dancer in a shimmering body suit, the models face is covered and becomes more of an object than a human. The performers throughout the film are dancing and shining as they walk, showing the glamorous side to Soho. As the viewer is taken through Soho, florescent neon lights are seen through a point of view camera, which then walks past a performer wearing fur that looks as though she is waiting for somebody. By taking away the face of the models, the viewer thinks about who these people are in every day life, they question the job this person would have before turning into a glamorous performer. 

Pugh’s collection is inspired by the heart of Soho and the seedy glamour. The film invites the viewer into an intimate world to feel the inspiration behind the collection and in terms of advertising function, promotes the designer for what the designer is. By showing a fashion film to viewers that otherwise may never see the collection other than through lookbook shots, creates more fans of the brand. People feel as though they are part of that world and can have a better idea of what the brand represents. 

Through the rise of technology, fashion film has evolved since the late 1990s, even though it had been around since the beginning of cinema, the first ‘fashion films’ were created by Erwin Blumenfeld and Guy Bourdin. Most of the fashion films created then used techniques similar to those used in experimental and avant-garde film, mostly within the films created by artists such as Jonas Mekas, who was a pioneer in experimental film. If the narrative behind a film is controlled by the use of experimental filming and post production, then it could be argued that the film has no narrative but is instead an art film showing technique. 

There are two type of experimental fashion film, the digital side to experimental film making and the analogue side. The digital being heavily post production based through softwares such as photoshop, premiere. However many filmmakers use digital technology to recreate older techniques onto their films. Through apps such as ‘Glitché’ and ‘VHS Cam’, the user can very easily create older camera looks, strobe effects, scan effects and burnt effects onto their films. This could also be categorised as digital art. However, the original analogue method is still used by a lot of filmmakers, such as Tyrone and Mark Lebon, who use techniques such as burning, scratching and painting negatives, and often use raw sounds with no soundtrack.  When the viewer watches a conceptual/experimental film, most of the focus is on the effects created more than the clothes, Nick Knight once said ‘great fashion makes a great fashion film’, however, if there is little focus on the fashion, it could be argued that this isn’t a fashion film. 

To put this into perspective, you could compare experimental fashion film to still life photography. To create a good still life photograph, it takes more than simply placing a few objects in front of a camera to have any kind of impact on the viewer. The photographer must look beyond all visual elements, and consider the textures, feelings, materials and shapes, of the objects and the atmosphere surrounding them. ‘Things are never purely what they seem, but always bearers of meaning that extend beyond their objective reality’ (Seelig and Stahel, 2005, pp. 174), meaning that the objects do not have to be perfect or good to look at, but that they can be whatever you make them. They could be damaged or brand new, dead or alive, expensive or cheap, practical or unpractical, it is the photographers job to show these objects ‘beyond their objective reality.’ This is the same when creating a successful fashion film, garments should be shown beyond what they are simply made to do, the viewer needs a deeper understanding of the garments, to see the full potential through movement. It is the filmmakers job to create an atmosphere and evoke emotion through the film. A successful fashion film should have a well developed concept behind it, to ensure that the viewer is experiencing the feelings and power and emotion that the garments were intended to stimulate. The concept behind the fashion film should coincide with the garments within the film. 

Short fashion films, where there is a separate narrative to the one that the garments hold, could be argued are not fashion films. Diane Pernet says ‘the fact someone’s moving in front of the camera does not mean it is a fashion film’ (Fashion Forward Dubai, 2015: online), meaning that anybody could film somebody moving in garments, but if there is no concept coinciding with the garments, it is not a fashion film. This could be applied to short narrative ‘fashion’ films, where the narrative is separate from the clothes, usually with a famous director and actors. 

For example, Wes Anderson’s christmas fashion film for H. (see fig. 2) If the fashion film holds a narrative outside of that held by the clothes, it could be argued that it is an advert or a short film. If a persona or feeling is showed to the viewer, that is admirable to imitate, the film is more successful in selling clothes. However, this could again mean that the film is an advert and the viewer is thinking more about being like the person wearing the clothes, for example if it was a celebrity they liked, and less about what the clothes were actually made for. 

This H film is a seasonal campaign for christmas, and not a film based on the inspiration behind a collection. With famous film director Wes Anderson directing the film, who is best known for his straight up angles and muted colour palettes, this film focuses more on the aesthetic of Wes Anderson than the garments within the film. Because of this, the viewer could view this as more of a feature film, or a trailer to a bigger picture. The viewer considers the stories behind each character, what were they doing before this? Where are they travelling to? What are their christmas plans? 

What drives the film is not the garments or H’s collection, but instead a narrative completely outside of this. It is a more commercialised way of creating a fashion film, as the intention of the film is to exploit society’s consumerist tendencies. You could argue that this is the intention of every fashion film, as well as being the intention of the whole industry as a business, to sell clothes and and to show consumers how the clothes look in movement, the response of the fabric within movement, and how they can be worn. Within the H film, the actors are wearing the clothes how most customers will be wearing H’s garments in every day life. There is less of a need for H&M to decide to make a collection film based solely on the clothes, than there is for a brand like Gareth Pugh. H&M are more likely to gain the attention of customers by using a famous director, who most people recognise the aesthetics of, and by using a narrative that evokes emotion and makes the viewer get into the christmas spirit. The viewer sees themselves in this type of fashion film, compared to the collection fashion film where the viewer sees the brand and the aesthetic behind it. 

Although each style of fashion film is successful for different reasons, and brands have their own choices for deciding which fashion film to create, collection and experimental fashion films seem to be more successful fashion films. This is because they present the inspiration behind collections, there is more of a focus on the clothes, and there is more movement of the garments usually within these films. 
Looking at short fashion films with a narrative such as the Wes Anderson film, and comparing it to a short feature film, there are very few differences. Both types of film have the same elements, such as, a clear start, middle and end, a strong narrative separate to the clothes, actors that read from scripts and clear characters. If Wes Anderson had created the same H&M film, but without the use of H&M branding, and perhaps another stylist without all of the clothes being from H&M, no one would consider this to be a fashion film, but instead a short film. Therefore this does not make the fashion film overly successful in terms of showing the fashion, but instead, it is successful in selling the clothes and getting customers to H&M, meaning this is a successful advert. 

However, when looking at films where the costumes are designed entirely by one designer, does this mean that a full feature length film could be considered a fashion film? 
For example, in the film American Gigolo, Giorgio Armani designed all of the suits worn in the film by actor Richard Gere, but if this is not considered a fashion film, then surely the Wes Anderson H&M film can also not be considered a fashion film. There is an unclear area of where to draw the line between the differences of these films when it comes to fashion. When the narrative is within the film and characters and not based on the garments shape, colour, texture and patterns, in my opinion, it should not be considered a fashion film. 

In terms of selling clothes, it can be argued that short films are more successful than collection and experimental films. This is because they speak to a wider audience, viewers watching short films will be fans of not only the brand, but also possibly the director and actors within the film. Often high street brands will also advertise these over TV adverts, reaching even more viewers. It is also bigger brands with bigger budgets that create this style of film. The film is then advertised all over the brands social media and reaches more people. Whereas, those that view collection films or experimental films, are people that have a genuine interest in fashion and the brands or artists creating the films. Viewers that watch short films created by H&M may not have a strong interest in fashion, but will still enjoy the film and clothes. Whereas brands such as Gareth Pugh, will have a lot of viewers that are huge fans of the brand, even if they aren’t customers due to the expense of garments. There are also art students and fans of artists that will watch films created by certain artists they look up to, or people that keep up to date with fashion weeks will also view these films that replace the catwalks. 

The viewers of short films are captivated by the style and characters within the film, viewers often aspire to be like the character shown, drawn to his or her clothes and lifestyle. These type of films such as the H Wes Anderson film, make the viewer want to be in that situation, and want to be associated with the brand. The reason for H to use a director such as Wes Anderson and his narratives, is not because the clothes were inspired by Anderson, but because the brand wants to be associated with Wes Anderson. Although there is no correlation between the two, H are essentially borrowing Wes Anderson’s aesthetic, to look more cultured, and so the viewers think that H&M must be a ‘cool’ brand because they work with Wes Anderson. 

This is also proven when looking at films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, actress Audrey Hepburn wore a little black dress designed by Givenchy, and this is now an iconic piece of clothing that everybody knows about. Even people that haven’t seen the film recognise the little black dress Audrey wore, and even though most people can’t afford a little black Givenchy dress, consumers will still go out and purchase a little black dress from a cheaper brand, when the inspiration was taken from Audrey Hepburn. So, although short films are really successful in selling clothes and advertising, in terms of fashion film, collection films are a lot more successful in showing the beauty of the collection and how the garment moves, feels and looks without the viewer ever having seen it in real life. 

Experimental Film

Nick Knight, who curated ShowStudio in 1990, one of the leading platforms for fashion films, is well known for creating films that are heavily edited through post production. 

It was made ‘on the belief that showing the entire creative process – from conception to completion – is beneficial for the artist, the audience and the art itself’ (Nick Knight, 2009:online). 

ShowStudio is a huge source of inspiration for fashion filmmakers and artists, experimenting with new ways of working from film to 3D scanning.
Knight pushes his work to extremes to create innovative work, and is ‘identifying movement, time, rhythm, and metamorphosis as some of the vital features of the recent Fashion Film’ (Marketa Uhlirova, 2013: Journal). Meaning that Marketa says Nick Knight is creating fashion films that are successful due to the way he is creating them, by taking notice to movement, time and rhythm. Whereas short films with no focus on the movement of clothes are not fashion films, because movement and consideration for the garments is vital. 

INSERT FILM PHOTO FIG 3

The film I am analysing is ‘The Elegant Universe’ by Nick Knight and Lady Amanda Harlech (see fig. 3.). This fashion film explores the mathematics of beauty, with model and physics scholar Alexia Wight. Within the film, Knight celebrates the precision of couture pieces for V Magazine. Celebrating the science and skills behind SS14’s greatest haute couture pieces, Knight works with 3D imaging specialist Kev Stenning to add to the scientific tone and also uses texture maps from the computers representation of the garments. 

By capturing what the computer saw, alongside what the photographer saw, creates an interesting juxtaposition. ‘When I look at the couture I see certain things that are useful or beautiful to me, just like when the computer captures the couture it also sees something that’s useful to it, but that view is totally different.’ (Knight Unknown:online) Throughout the film Alexia Wight narrates over the film talking about the universe, physics and different dimensions. This goes with the idea of using different technology to show the different dimensions to the fashion within the film. The sensorial impact this has on the viewer is dreamlike, it looks raw and in the making but not realistic. It makes the viewer think about what’s going on and confuses them. 

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