The dA-Zed guide to fashion film

CGI technology to augmented realities: our 26-letter guide to today's fashion film pioneers

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Challenging the norms of traditional advertising techniques and moving fashion shoots, designers have embraced film as an art form and have moved away from perfume-bottle-monologues and the use of mundane product placement. Bridging the gap between reality and fantasy: the creative's use of tech, their collaborations and their futuristic approach to video have created a powerful intersection between feature film, documentary and fashion. You only have to look at Bart Hess’s shaving of a man’s body, Wes Anderson’s capturing of Prada’s “mirth and delight” or Kenzo’s Amazonian jungle to know that fashion is moving fast forward; and, in honour of last week’s launch of Dazed Vision, we’ve put together a 26-letter guide celebrating the best of the past, present and future in fashion film.

A IS FOR AUGMENTED REALITY

Cassette Playa experimented with augmented reality for her AW10 presentation, to “make real life more virtual,” designer Carri Mundane explained. Not only was it the first brand to do so in a clothing context, but it resulted in a mixture of fashion and pure fantasy. Models stood in front of a web camera which replaced their image with an amalgamation of an avatar. Mundane told us it was about the boundaries of real and fantasy and “when they cross over”.

B IS FOR BART HESS 

Using low-tech effects to create otherworldly videos, Bart Hess is no stranger to morphing one’s body into something unrecognisable – some might say repulsive – by using materials such as latex, slime and foil. Inspired by various cultures, as well as futurist painters and their use of rhythm and colour, Hess told us, “I like to play with the emotion of feeling a bit awkward. Your mind starts working really fast and you behave in a certain way. I try not to reference back to any other periods in time in, say, fashion. It’s about referencing the future – we’re not there yet so we have to come up with our own stories.”

C is for CGI

Offline fashion hackers Proenza Shouler borrowed from the same innovative technology skill-set that they instill in their collections for their futuristic film ‘Desert Tide’. Directed by Kate McCollough with animation by Tikaf Viper, the clip sees computer generated models from the online community ‘Second Life’ wearing key pieces from the AW12 collection, dancing – even levitating – in unison as a purple dolphin dives around them. Sound weird? It is. But it shows that the industry can manipulate the techniques that are usually reserved for video games and feature films – ultimately bridging a new relationship between cinema, tech and fashion.

D IS FOR DIRECTED BY WOMEN

Miuccia Prada is notorious for supporting women in the arts, so it came as no surprise when she commissioned ‘Womens Tales,’ a series of short films created to represent Miu Miu’s connection with femininity, using female directors of varying backgrounds. The most recent was titled Le Donne Delle Vucciria and starred Lubna Azabal. The story unfolds in a puppet-makers studio soon filled with music wafting from the market-square of Vucciria, Palermo below, where women dressed in the AW13 signature polkadot prints and metallic booties dance to the crescendo.

E IS FOR EARLY EXPERIMENTAL FILMS

Fashion film has come a long way since its beginnings thanks to pioneers like photographer Erwin Blumenfeld whose experimental film Beauty in Motion, shot between 1958 and 1964, was originally deemed too groundbreaking for the public. Blumenfeld’s use of hybrid techniques such as photomontage, solarization and colour slides pioneered the way for modern photography, stepping away from the traditional techniques and stiff images of those before him. Marie Schuller of fashion film website SHOWstudio recognises people like Blumenfeld were “setting the path for the medium that we now understand as fashion film.” Other experimental pioneers such as Vivienne Westwood and Ossie Clark will feature in the upcoming fashion film workshop Dressing the Screen, sponsored by the British Film Council and curated by Kathryn Ferguson, in Moscow next year.

F IS FOR FLORA BY CHRIS CUNNINGHAM

In a field of flowers tinged by sunset, Abbey Lee Kershaw creates a powerful image of ethereal movement. Directed by video extremist Chris Cunningham, the video is a world away from his previous work which includes music videos for Aphex Twin, Placebo and Portishead. Cunningham’s rebellious nature is starkly contrasted in his film for Flora, which reincarnates the silk scarf worn by Princess Grace of Monaco into a modern, feminine icon. For a man who is more likely to evoke the inner devil in Grace Jones than Mother Nature, by Cunningham’s standards, we’d say this film is fairly shocking.

G IS FOR GIFS

The unlikely pairing of dubstep music and dinosaurs wearing garments from Petrou/Man culminated in Reed & Rader to create ‘Dubstep Dinosaurs’. Their passion for creating new realities is a GIF-tastic collision of the tangible and the digital. An augmented world where fashion editorials exist solely on the internet. The duo explained, “As young teenagers, we created websites (Angelfire, Geocities) devoted to our current obsession (from Michael Jordan to Star Wars). During this time we started to use animated GIFs as well, which many years later would become a start to our career.”

H IS FOR HARMONY KORINE

“When I was a kid I only ever wanted to do one thing, and I never wanted to be told what to do,” says Harmony Korine, writer of the 90s cult-classic Kids, which was directed by Larry Clark. The film documents the rebellious lives of a group of New York teenagers as they enter a world of unprotected sex, substance abuse and  AIDS. His first collaboration with Proenza Schouler titled ‘Act da Fool’ stays true to his fascination with youth and underground subcultures. Shadowing a Tennesse girl and her gang of fools’, the contrast between Proenza Schouler’s AW10 it-pieces and the dark narrative played out on the streets is harrowing, “Fuck this town,” says the girl. As the short concludes leaving its audience rubbed raw, you could be forgiven for forgetting that it’s about fashion at all.

I IS FOR IN THE RED BY RUTH HOGBEN

Eliza Cummings plays the ‘scarlet woman’ in this Dazed Digital original, directed by ongoing Dazed collaborator Ruth Hogben and styled by AnOther Magazine’s fashion director, Katie Shillingford. The film is filled with flamenco, movement and of course, lots of red. Hogben explores the relationship between strength and sensuality and treads the fine line between fashion and dance. Hogben told us her thoughts on fashion film for the December issue, “The term ‘fashion film’ makes it feel small, but when I think about film as a whole the choices are endless. As a medium, it’s just such a rich, deep, strong way of communicating a woman and a designer’s thoughts. There’s so much to discover and so much to do.”

J IS FOR JUNGLE

Kenzo’s Electric Jungle was art-directed by Mat Maitland and featured animation from Natalie Stuyk. Created for their Resort 2013 campaign, Maitland’s surreal animal prints come from his fascination with looking back, in particular to the 80s and 90s. At times the bright, multi-layered patterns take on an M.C Escher-type visual that act as a backdrop for the model strolling through the animation, taking the viewer on a visual journey as she goes.

K IS FOR KATHRYN FERGUSON

In 2009 Dazed Digital collaborated with Kathryn Ferguson and Lady Gaga in order to create a kaleidoscopic film that showcased some of Britain’s most progressive designers. Styled by then-Creative Director at Dazed & Confused, Nicola Formichetti, pieces from David Koma, Charlie le Mindu, Dr Noki NHS, Jaiden RVA James, Fred Butler, Pam Hogg and Petra Storres adorn Gaga’s body as she moves to a piano ballad written exclusively for the film. The power-house of Gaga showing support for our home-grown talent results in a positive film that shows the strength and influence of the UK fashion industry today.

L IS FOR LAUNCH OF DAZED VISIONARIES

Last week we launched Dazed Visionaries, an original, ground-breaking video series featuring the best short films each week – made exclusively for Dazed Digital or picked from the rarely-seen archives of the Visionaries themselves. December cover star James Franco kicked off the series with three exclusive films, showcasing his diverse talent as a director. Expect to see upcoming Visionaries Bart Hess, Kim Jones and Björk premiering exclusive films soon - we suggest you stay tuned.

M IS FOR MOBSCENE

One of the great mysteries of today is whether or not Alexander Wang actually gave away a bunch of his clothes for free. While the question may never be answered, Wang has provided us with a short film of himself hosting a sample sale, announcing to a select group of fans that the next room contains rails of free clothes, resulting in an inevitable riot. Underneath the surface, all is not as simple as it seems. The film warps the fashion film norm as Wang fuels the fire of consumer culture, the same culture that he himself is very much a king of.

N IS FOR NO. 5

One of the first examples of a Hollywood director teaming up with a fashion house came in the form of Chanel’s No.5 film, directed by Baz Luhrmann – of blockbusters such as The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge – and starring actress Nicole Kidman. The film went on to become the world’s most expensive commercial and paved the way for fashion’s larger presence in the industry.

O IS FOR ON SKYPE 

Alber Elbaz is the star of his SS10 film for Lanvin. Fusing technology, fashion and humour, Elbaz – unable to attend the shoot – Skypes his team on the set of their womenswear story, shot by Steven Meisel. As he views the footage – commenting ‘It’s very chic’ and ‘Love. Love. Love. J’adore’ – the ever-endearing creative director slowly slumps into the standard Skype pose, finishing by giving the collection a big thumbs up. “Parfait”: Alber, we couldn’t agree more.

P IS FOR PIERRE DEBUSSCHERE

Long time Dazed collaborator Pierre Debusschere directed October cover star Lindsey Wixson for the accompanying short film You Make Me Feel Hyper-Real. Styled by Robbie Spencer, the surreal, dream-like clip features mind-altering effects, Disney masks and multiple eyeballs. Debusschere discussed his thoughts on fashion film for the December issue saying, “We should leave spaces open for people to decide what they want to see or not by experimenting with different formats and narrative ideas. Maybe we’ll fail at some points along the way, but ultimately it will push the medium forward.”

Q IS FOR QUENTIN JONES

Artist Quentin Jones becomes the focus of her film Paint Test No.1. Using her own body as the canvas, she gradually covers herself with thick black paint. The film meshes footage with Jones’ signature illustration, resulting in a stunning visual example of self-expression.

R IS FOR REINCARNATION OF KATE MOSS

As the last model in Alexander McQueen’s AW06 show disappeared from the runway, it appeared the show was over. But as the room darkened an image of floating blue fabric unravelled into an apparition of Kate Moss, floating amongst the layers until eventually spinning into a puff of blue smoke and vanishing. The moment was masterminded by McQueen and video maker Baillie Walsh. An early form of the hologram, the effect is actually known as ‘Pepper’s Ghost,’ where a film is projected onto glass or mirrors, a technique used in the early days of film. The technological feat is now one of the most iconic images and moments in fashion show history.

S IS FOR SLEEPING MODELS

SHOWstudio has revolutionised the world of fashion and live broadcasting, beginning in 2001 when they broadcast their first live-stream, featuring nine sleeping models dressed in various pieces from the SS02 collections. Due to the relatively under-explored area at the time – as well as the fact that the internet as we know it now was still in its relative infancy – only one pixelated image per minute could be streamed. Marie Schuller said “for the first time a mass audience could see fashion displayed in motion, getting them closer to the intentions of the designer, who naturally doesn’t imagine their designs limited to one angle in one frame frozen within the pages of one magazine.”

Fanni and Kate Elson in Sleep, 2001
Fanni and Kate Elson in Sleep, 2001 Film by Nick Knight

T IS FOR TO THREE DAYS

In 2010, Gareth Pugh took up residency in SHOWstudio’s LiveStudio to create a couture gown in three days, with the process being broadcast live to a global audience. The edited 10-minute film charts the moment that Pugh lays the fabric on the cutting table, to his finished dress. The action is played out against the fragmented musical soundtrack he listens to, punctuated with typical questions such as, “We are gonna have enough fabric, aren’t we?” Pugh asks his assistant. The film is an insightful, rarely shared, behind-the-scenes look at just how painstaking and lengthy the process of making a single couture garment can be.

U IS FOR (I KNOW) U WANT ME

Moving as far away from a typical fashion film as possible, Lanvin’s AW12 video campaign consisted of Raquel Zimmerman, Karen Elson and two male models dancing to Pitbull’s ‘I Know You Want Me,’ throw in a cameo dance from Alber Elbaz himself and call it a huge success. The video soon went viral and proved that fashion film doesn’t have to take itself too seriously to be successful.

V IS FOR VIVA VENA

Another film opting for the less serious attitude was Viva Vena’s Fashion Film, featuring Lizzy Caplan and directed by Matthew Frost. The satire ticks just about every box of archetypes, as Caplan dances with flowing ribbons, talks about her blog and plays guitar, whispering “Sometimes I think to myself in French.” Essentially the brand is mocking their own customer base, but the results are far too funny to be considered insulting.

W IS FOR WES ANDERSON

Other Hollywood directors to delve into the world of fashion film were Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola. Their first short Candy L’Eau featuring Blue is the Warmest Colour actress Léa Seydoux as Candy, who gets herself stuck between the admiration of two boys. "We primarily wanted to tell a story," Anderson and Coppola explain. "People are interested in characters and situations, so we wanted to first capture the spirit of the perfume, and the spirit of Candy’s personality.”  The short keeps the quality film-style that has come to be expected from the directors, while perfectly incorporating the point of it all – to advertise Prada’s Candy L’Eau eau de toilette.

X IS FOR #XCCENTRIC

The late Leigh Bowery was one-of-a-kind, a pioneer who pre-empted the idea of creating a character out of  yourself and using that to perform for and entertain others. Whether in films such as Hail The New Puritan, on-stage giving birth to his wife, or in performance exhibitions such as locking himself behind a one-way mirror at the Anthony d'Offay galerie for a week, Bowery is one of the most influential artists and fashion icons of our time.

Y IS FOR (TO DIE BY) YOUR SIDE

To celebrate Olympia Le-Tan’s ‘storybook’ clutches, Spike Jonze teamed up with the brand to create a stop-animation short film, titled To Die By Your Side. Shot in the famous Parisian bookshop Shakespeare & Company and featuring the characters of Le-Tan’s clutches, the film is a clever interpretation of the season’s it-bag.

Z IS FOR ZOMBIES

Death never looked so good. The corpses of Jeff Bark's zombie housewives spring to life in a '50s reawakening soundtracked by the languid sounds of The Beach Boys. Styled by fashion director Robbie Spencer, the Stepford wives' steely gaze is just an affront. Underneath it all, they're just like us – they hoover, spritz and go on picnic lunches. Bark told us his thoughts on fashion film for the December issue saying, “I would like to see directors being able to make short films that just happen to have fashion in them, so they can evolve into filmmakers with a style they can develop.”

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