Opinion: Can fashion film stop our eyes rolling?

Bertie Brandes on the exciting but under explored medium redefining fashion

Exibit A - Boychild

What is it about the words fashion and film which, when combined, have often provoked me to involuntarily roll my eyes? I’m not normally a big eye-roller, and either word separately is fine, but the idea of fashion film I’ve come to harbour really only deserves a hair flick (everything deserves a hair flick) and the cold stare of indifference.

Unfortunately for the entire genre, even a mere mention can conjur up images of models endlessly jumping up and down to camera flashes, or running about manically in ballgowns flashing their teeth at lampposts. It’s not ok – hence the rolling. I’m not alone in my ambivalence, either. A photographer friend of mine recently upgraded to a phone which boasts a slow-motion video camera option, and pointed out how it would make the production of fashion film a whole lot easier because the majority of it is just something that should have been a still, made into a really slow video. You really shouldn’t be allowed to call something film because it’s an image that moves really slowly to a soundtrack. It’s boring. While the internet plays live host to global fashion weeks and designers curate impeccable websites, fashion film has been limping behind, dogged by a bad reputation which is, dare I say, rather grounded in truth.

“With Harmony Korine directing a fashion film, and Nick Knight directing Kanye’s most recent music video, fashion film is becoming interested in connecting with an audience wider that just people who are already interested in fashion.”

Maybe this disconnect with fashion film is partially down to it being quite difficult to define. I don’t buy into the idea that this genre is reserved solely for campaign videos or bloopers reels, but that seems to be all we’ve expected of it for a good long while. Tom Ford’s highly stylised A Single Man was not considered fashion film; the Diane Vreeland documentary was not considered fashion film. After those guys have collected up their awards and disappeared, all you’re really left with are videos trying to flog you expensive clothes. It’s no surprise that people weren’t entirely convinced by a medium that seems to lack integrity almost by definition, and that in turn means the rest of us haven’t shown it the love it needs to flourish. Well, it’s time to show the love. I’ve had enough of the cliché, fashion film has the ability to break away from its hackneyed stereotype and become a reputable genre, it just needs to be reminded what it exists for.

Fashion is supposed to inspire us; fashion film should be able to even more so. This genre needs exciting directors and artists to create work that is provocative, self-aware and new, and suddenly that seems to be happening. Harmony Korine’s hazy girl gang film for Proenza Schouler was empowering and affecting; Wes Anderson is writing love stories for Prada, the energy surrounding new work is palpable, all you have to do is click on to the numerous websites focussing almost entirely on its regeneration and feel your eyes staying completely still in your head. 

“We’re standing at the forefront of a medium which is about to completely redefine how we think about fashion.”

It’s not just the attention of reputable directors changing the face of fashion film either, the industry is adapting from the inside too, due in part I’m sure to the next generation of designers, stylists and directors having been raised on endless MTV videos. It turns out you really might have learned something from sitting by your TV desperately waiting for the Moulin Rouge video to come back online, not least that short film should be provocative, engaging and fun. From the brilliant Opening Ceremony X Kenzo stolen stock footage fashion film which took me straight back to watching hours of QVC on family holidays, to the Alexander Wang parody which was a triumph of self-ridicule. Yes, in essence these were still campaign videos, but they stand up as interesting and relevant at the same time.

With Harmony Korine directing a fashion film, and Nick Knight directing Kanye’s most recent music video, evidently fashion film is becoming a diverse and adaptable genre interested in connecting with an audience wider that just people who are already interested in fashion. Instead of forever waving it away, people are starting to realise just how much of an opportunity to draw new talent into this industry this new kind of viral fashion video really is.

“A fashion film can look wonderful and engage with cultural issues, it can be satirical, self-deprecating and intellectual without being pretentious or elitist.”

We all know there’s more to fashion than what shoes match what wallpaper, and how glossy you can get a models lips to look without inflicting 3rd degree burns from all the studio lights, and it’s time to share that knowledge. A fashion film can look wonderful and engage with cultural issues, it can be satirical, self-deprecating and intellectual without being pretentious or elitist. It can be fresh, exciting and fun without inviting mockery. Not only can it be all of these things, by now it really should be – and I have no doubt that it will. We’re standing at the forefront of a medium which is about to completely redefine how we think about fashion. Like I said, film is changing, fashion film is re-defining itself, and we have finally figured out it’s ok to expect more than three 17-year-old models free running through the Berlin metro in Oscar de La Renta. Oops, there go the eyes again.

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