If #selfie was one of the most popular buzzwords of 2014, #fashionfilm couldn’t have been far, not for the luxury industry in any case. In this post-fashion photography era, advertising fashion products in the digital age, while improving audience loyalty, undoubtedly involves using the moving image and creating engaging narratives.
Indeed, from amateur fashion videos to highly sophisticated big-budget productions with Hollywood directors, animation, special effects and high quality soundtracks, the fashion industry has been investing in promotional films in an effort to respond to users’ insatiable need for entertainment, pleasure and reward.
Until recently, the genre was loosely defined as a short promotional clip, in which the filmmaker puts his/her talent and skill at the service of the fashion designer, to express the spirit of a particular brand or collection and included a multitude of products of unequal quality, style, form and format. In this past year however, the industry seems to have made an effort to specify the medium by presenting films in several subgenres.
Chanel has been experimenting with the format for some time with ‘edutainment’ videos that combine information about the history of the Maison with animation, traditional luxurious commercials with famous filmmakers like Baz Luhrmann who directed both Chanel No5 clips with Nicole Kidman and more recently Gisele Bündchen, as well as short films directed by Karl Lagerfeld with narratives inspired by Gabrielle Chanel’s life and ideas such as ‘Reincarnation’ (2014) starring Cara Delevingne, Pharrell Williams and Geraldine Chaplin.
Furthermore, the Jack & Jones ‘Made From Cool’ campaign directed by advertiser Martin Werner & Co starring well-known actor Christopher Walken, uses a dramatic Hollywood setting to humorously promote a fashion brand. Set in an austere and impressive loft-like artist studio with large bay windows that reveal a Gotham-inspired city, the dark ‘Victorian’ setting and the actor’s serious disquieting attitude, add a sense of mystery to the film, while building upon Walken’s role as businessman Max Shrek in Tim Burton’s 1992 film, Batman Returns. Walken plays an eccentric tailor who uses supernatural powers to make the brand’s garments. Each of the five ads is dedicated to a different tailoring process from patternmaking to button-making, knitting, etc.
Miuccia Prada has also been following the trend, while acting as a ‘patron of the arts’ by sponsoring a series of ‘Women’s Tales’ or fashion films directed by female filmmakers like the Miranda July’s ‘Somebody’ (2014), which tackles the issue of loneliness in the digital age. In the film, Somebody is an app that allows the characters to communicate their private messages via strangers. The actual app was also created along with the film, thus adding to the avant garde spirit.
As a typical fashion magazine that features interviews and celebrity news, Vogue made a series of short films, each featuring famous actresses (and cover girls) like Cate Blanchett and Jessica Chastain. In ‘Scripted Content’ (2013) director Matthew Frost uses Chastain’s star persona as she plays herself sitting on a bench while being observed by a fan who silently comments on her by sending text messages to a friend, which appear on screen.
All in all, the close collaboration between the fashion and film industries is hardly a new phenomenon, as Hollywood invented product placement and promoted new styles in the 1920’s. However, although fashion film as we know it today is still a very young field, it has been rapidly gaining ground as numerous cities around the world, like Paris, London, Berlin, New York and La Jolla in San Diego, to name a few, now have their own fashion film festival, all sponsored by the fashion industry, which believes it to be a prominent marketing tool of the future.