Tomorrow sees the arrival of ASVOFF 5, the latest edition of the now globally acclaimed international Fashion Film Festival, taking place at - the pulsing cultural heart of cutting edge contemporary art - Paris' iconic Centre Pompidou. Founded by, A Shaded View on Fashion blogger and industry aficionado, Diane Pernet back in 2008, when the concept of fashion film existed solely for mega brands, as another appendage to their already sprawling global presence, and where only the daring and cutting edge would dare to tread un-commissioned.
Now, in a world that feels increasingly like a scene from Minority Report, consumed by digital media - with platforms like SHOWstudio and Dazed Digital producing dynamic, live and even interactive content, available to an almost limitless audience - it’s a world that’s very different to when it started out that short time ago. Now entering its 5th season, as she takes her seat among her proficient panel of leading voices from the worlds of Fashion and Film - from film critic and writer Emanuel Levy and journalist Tim Blanks, to extreme and iconic artist Orlan – we caught up with Diane to find out what to expect from this year’s entries and what’s changed now they’ve made the upgrade from struggling independent project to a beacon of innovation.
Dazed Digital: Now that the medium has been a bit more established has your mission or intention changed in any way?
Diane Pernet: Yes and no. Of course I sense that as the medium evolves, my mission naturally evolves with it but it's still pretty early to be giving myself a new remit. Even though we're living super fast-paced lives, and even though fashion film often exists in the context of the rapid-fire digital world, it'll be a gradual process. Fashion and film have long been connected and interdependent in many ways so, consequently, fashion film will certainly help both of these industries to evolve into an even closer and more fascinating relationship in the very near future.
DD: Can you see directors embracing fashion as a pivotal part of their craft in the same way as designers are doing so with film?
Diane Pernet: Certainly, there are many directors that embrace fashion films in one way or another; We already have some successful examples that could become launch pads for directors to develop a body of work - Lucrecia Martel’s Muta for Miu Miu or Roman Polanski’s Therapy for Prada. Personally, I really like the merging of the two, when real film directors interact with fashion designers to see how a director’s vision applies to fashion. But some other brilliant examples of fashion film don't involve conventional film directors, for instance, I love the photographer turned director Alex Prager and the way she approaches it and the way a fine artist like Erwin Olaf shoots a fashion film.
DD: You've mentioned part of your aim was to bridge the gap that exists between fashion and film; do you feel like this is happening successfully or that the medium is becoming a separate entity in itself?
Diane Pernet: Both, actually. The primary aim of the festival was to provide a platform for the new genre to be nurtured and cultivated. Fostering relationships and collaboration between the fashion and film industries was always going to occur as a natural consequence of the successful emergence of fashion film as a distinct genre. So, how I see it is that, so long as I'm doing my job for fashion film, then the rest will fall into place over time.
DD: I noticed this last season the weight the BFC has been placing on the importance of embracing film, what do you think is the reason behind such a focus?
Diane Pernet: If you think about it, the fashion film phenomenon has opened the door for small and medium sized fashion brands to make video ads for the very first time. In the past only the giant fashion brands had enough budget to make video ads. But now, fashion film can be accessed, without any additional cost to the brand, from their own websites, through social media sites or video channels on the internet meaning brands only need to pay for the production of the film, not advertising space itself. Even the production costs for fashion film can be a lot less expensive than traditional TV fashion ads in the past. Why? Because the spirit of 'fashion film' is typically one where there the consumer expects brands to push the boundaries a bit more and to not necessarily be quite so precious about things.
DD: What I found interesting was the clear distinction that was made in telling young designers and new brands to approach filmmakers over photographers, echoing what I've heard you mention a lot about a fashion film being more than simply a moving fashion shoot - what is most important in making that distinction?
Diane Pernet: As far as I'm concerned, the fashion film has to fulfill the same criteria as any other film and that is not the case when it is a fashion shoot in motion or a look book being filmed. Most important is to have the film take us somewhere we’ve never been and to develop a unique aesthetic. And to do this while putting fashion in the role of the protagonist, rather than just as a prop… not just take beautiful, well styled, well lit images [and] a film should evoke powerful emotions. I think it becomes pretty obvious why working with a real film director can often yield better results than photographers or artists. But of course, having said that, not all talented film directors have a knack for fashion films; and most certainly at the other end of the spectrum, many photographers and artists are absolutely brilliant makers of fashion film. Fashion film is a hybrid genre in many ways so there's no way to predict what kind of filmmaker is going to be good at it.
DD: With the instant nature of blogging as well as innovation in live streaming and platforms like SHOWstudio, where do you see the place of film alongside more immediate and digital media?
Diane Pernet: In today's media culture, a format such as fashion film, which is more spontaneous and less scripted, can be very attractive to consumers when they are exposed to the brand in an online environment. As for the team of filmmakers and other creative people who make the film, the benefits are pretty obvious. Brands increasingly feel compelled to up their marketing budgets [meaning] fashion film offers more people more work. Often [the] supplement is too small but it is still an increase even if it is too modest. It's a step in the right direction, though.
DD: I've heard you speak a lot about fashion films one day taking the place of shows, yet you still frequent an impressive number each season; what is it that you still get out of the experience of a live fashion show?
Diane Pernet: I like the way Rick Owens put it: something like the gathering of a tribe. When the show is innovative, like a Rick Owens show, it is a truly transporting event. The truth, however, is that not very many fashion shows take us anywhere we’ve never been before. I think there are more interesting ways to present a collection than a classic catwalk but I do not believe that catwalks are going to suddenly disappear. Fashion film in the format we know it today mostly complements and adds to the runway experience, it doesn't replace it.
DD: With such an inclusive open submission - allowing anyone from major, established industry experts to unknowns and amateurs - and therefore a hugely varied set of budgets, etc. how does the panel judge each submission?
Diane Pernet: Individually, I think we all react to films by how they touch us on some personal level. Inevitably, each and every year I find myself wavering over whether I should separate the commissioned films from the non-commissioned. But ultimately, I don’t think a budget determines the merit of a film even if it can have its advantages. A good film is a good film. It’s much like good style. Someone without much money can put herself together well with great personal style. Sometimes younger people with less experience and therefore less attachment to the conventions can make more compelling work because of that fact. Besides, where would you draw the line? It's far too much of a grey area.
DD: What are you hoping to see from someone who is comparably less experienced?
Diane Pernet: I'm looking for a window into their world. I remember five or six years ago, I received a film from a young Japanese girl who shot the film on her laptop. She hadn't edited it so it was quite raw but what her film did have was fantastic energy and a gripping quality about it. For everyone, but perhaps for young people especially, I think it's often best to just make something personal. It is the same advice I would give to a young designer putting together their first collection, to find their own handwriting.
DD: As a combination of what you regularly refer to as your two passions, what are you personally looking forward to seeing most?
Diane Pernet: I’m quite excited about the entire program, to be honest, but if I have to shine a light on one particular moment: I can't wait for the moment when William Klein sits on the stage with Rossy de Palma, Catherine Baba and his old friend Dominque Issermann to introduce the iconic and what I consider to be the first fashion film - Who are you Polly Magoo?
Text by Joseph Delaney
Images courtesy ASVOFF