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Aya Bambi for Alexander Wang AW15 campaign
Aya Bambi for Alexander Wang AW15 campaignvia youtube.com

The best fashion films of 2015

Poetic clips exploring black culture, a blood-soaked tribute to Britain and male genitalia draped in smoked salmon – here are the ten greatest fashion films of the year

Although the runways remain the primary vehicle for designers to showcase their work, fashion films are more important than ever before. Moving images provide more scope for brands and designers to create an immersive aesthetic which summarises their identity, and also to tell the stories which inspired the collection.

This narrative style is favoured by brands such as Kenzo, who enlisted cult icon Gregg Araki for a short campaign film, or Grace Wales Bonner, a young designer garnering critical acclaim for the sartorial exploration of her own heritage. Elsewhere, emerging designers such as Eckhaus Latta are using the medium in a more experimental way, interspersing found clips from nature documentaries with NSFW clips of a naked man, his penis covered only by a few strategically-placed strips of smoked salmon.

There are also glossier, more conventional fashion films – who could forget Rihanna’s starring role as the new face of Dior? – but the variety explored in this list shows that designers are tapping the medium to express themselves in a more innovative way than ever before. In no particular order, here are the ten fashion films that continue to stick in our mind as the year draws to a close.

GUCCI’S CRUISE 2016 CAMPAIGN FILM, BY GLEN LUCHFORD

There are few greater success stories from 2015 than that of Alessandro Michele, the man who stepped into the creative director role as Gucci with only five days to create his debut collection (AW15 menswear). The collection that ensued was one of this year’s finest, ushering in a new aesthetic era for the Italian house. Michele’s aesthetic was then further cemented in this short fashion film, directed by Glen Luchford as an accompaniment to the house’s Cruise SS16 collection. Set in an ornate Italian villa, the film is populated by swirling models dressed in metallic lamé and sweatshirts printed with tapestry florals, providing the perfect visual encapsulation of Gucci’s modern makeover. 

GARETH PUGH AW15 SHOW FILM, BY RUTH HOGBEN

Something special was anticipated from the minute that Gareth Pugh he would return to London for his AW15 collection after seven years in Paris. However, few were expecting the audiovisual feast that Pugh presented in lieu of a traditional runway show, which took the form of a short fashion film created in collaboration with Ruth Hogben. The film was conceived as a love letter to Great Britain – projected onto the walls of Pugh’s show space were images of models crouched on the ground, smearing themselves in blood-red paint in the shape of Saint George’s Cross as roaring flames licked around bodies in the background. Referencing the sinister past of Victorian Britain, the film juxtaposed violent and at times ritualistic imagery alongside a message of national pride, resulting in one of the year’s most impressive fashion moments. 

CHRISTIAN DIOR’S ‘SECRET GARDEN’ CAMPAIGN FILM, BY STEVEN KLEIN FEAT. RIHANNA

Despite having already established strong fashion credentials with her Puma collaboration and an upcoming design debut at New York Fashion Week, this year Rihanna went one step further by becoming Dior’s first black campaign star. Shot by Steven Klein against the opulent backdrop of Versailles, the star appears in a series of short films which show the singer looking incredible in a variety of looks including a heavily-embellished crystal dress and blood-red chiffon complete with plunging neckline. 

MIU MIU’S ‘SUBJECTIVE REALITY’ SHORT FILM, BY GORDON VON STEINER

There are few names more respected in the fashion industry than that of Miuccia Prada, widely-respected for her intellectual and often conceptual approach toward fashion. This mentality was also applied to the Miu Miu AW15 campaign, shot by Steven Meisel with an accompanying video by Gordon von Steiner. For this campaign, Prada intended to reject conventional notions of fashion photography. Instead of utilising formal technique and composition, the intention was to shoot a series of Miu Miu-clad models (including Dazed cover girl Mia Goth) in everyday scenarios. The result is this charming two-minute clip, in which we see models strolling past graffiti-strewn walls, rejecting the advances of amorous cab drivers and even stopping for a bite to eat at the local burger van.

BACKSTAGE AT GOSHA RUBCHINSKIY AW15, BY JULIAN KLINCEWICZ

If cementing a signature aesthetic is essential to success, it seems that Moscow-born designer Gosha Rubchinskiy is on the right track. Based heavily around youth subcultures, everything from casting choices to styling become essential, coming together to form one of the most definitive and distinctive aesthetics in recent memory. Rubchinskiy’s AW15 collection was emblematic of the designer’s house codes – baggy bleached jeans were tucked into sport socks and tied with what appeared to be shoelaces, whereas the masculine connotations of a purple tracksuit were subverted when teamed with a cropped fur coat. Filmmaker Julian Klincewicz was backstage to capture the process, creating a cinematic portrayal of one of Russia’s most exciting exports.

KENZO’S ‘HERE NOW’ SHORT FILM, BY GREGG ARAKI

Directed by cult film icon Gregg Araki, Kenzo’s AW15 campaign is more of a film in its own right than an advertising tool. Set in bars and diners and touching upon themes including sex, sexuality and religion, the clip heavily references Araki’s Nowhere, the first title in his 90s Teen Apocalypse trilogy. Of course, the main difference from the original is that this clip features actors styled head-to-toe in Kenzo’s AW15 collection – think colour-splash camo jackets, rainbow fur collars and bejewelled peacock-print minis. 

ALEXANDER WANG AW15 CAMPAIGN FILM, FEAT AYABAMBI

Having vogued for Hussein Chalayan as part of AnOther’s MOVEment project and appeared in the “Bitch I’m Madonna” video, Japanese dance duo AyaBambi had already built a credible fashion portfolio before being chosen as the face of Alexander Wang’s AW15 campaign. The collaboration came about in a chance encounter which saw the girls meet Wang at one of Madonna’s parties in Paris – the result is this dynamic fashion video, depicting the dancers moving perfectly in-sync whilstdressed head-to-toe in designs from the AW15 collection.

EBONICS: GRACE WALES BONNER AT V&A’S FASHION IN MOTION BY LUKE CLAYTON THOMPSON

Entitled “Ebonics”, Grace Wales Bonner’s stint at the V&A as part of the Fashion In Motion initiative provided a way for the designer to delve into her own heritage by exploring black culture and identity. These breathtaking visuals are the result – shot by Luke Clayton Thompson for Central Saint Martins student magazine 1 Granary, the short film depicts various black models covered in glitter and saturated by coloured lighting, all of whom stand against a backdrop of cornfields. In stark contrast to their surroundings, they are dressed opulently – one has his head covered in a 20s-style diamond headpiece, his neck weighed down by a gigantic crystal necklace, whereas others wear ruched velvet jackets complete with jewelled trim. They stand together in solidarity and slowly raise their clenched fists toward the roof – a symbolic yet beautiful visual that remains one of the year’s most poignant.

ECKHAUS LATTA AW15 CAMPAIGN FILM, BY ALEXA KAROLINSKI

Emerging as part of an unconventional new wave of New York talent, Eckhaus Latta have quickly established a reputation for their non-conformist approach to fashion. Preferring to cast friends and muses as models and often staging intimate musical “happenings” as opposed to traditional runway shows, it should come as no surprise that the house was responsible for one of AW15’s most provocative campaign videos. Alternating between shots of lingering cockroaches and male genitalia draped in seafood, “Roach” features casts fellow creatives Moses Gauntlett Cheng and David Moses in a clip which adopts a refreshingly experimental approach to fashion film.

No fashion list would truly be complete without mention of the industry’s most charismatic faces, Karl Lagerfeld. A creative polymath well-versed in the arts of design, photography and cinema, King Karl can always be counted on to deliver pure excess. He succeeds once again with this short film, starring Kristen Stewart and Geraldine Chaplin, premiered to coincide with Chanel’s 2015 Métiers d'Arts presentation. The clip goes behind the scenes of a fictional biopic, one which is based on the life and times of Coco herself. We chart her eventful life through a few key moments – a poignant reminder that the heritage of the brand and its entrenchment in fashion history make it just as essential today as it was in the early 20th Century. It is Chaplin, playing the role of an older Coco, whose lines in the film sum up this iconography perfectly – “Chanel, it’s not la mode. Chanel, it’s style. It’s style above everything.”