Fashion Films: Shallow as the Industry Itself?

The Breakthrough of Funny Fashion Films

If you ever speak to a writer, director, producer or simply a creator of moving pictures they will tell you that the visuals may initially be what draw audiences in, but a captivating story is what keeps them watching. When I started thinking about fashion films and their history I began wondering how this visual culture handles the art of storytelling through film. Due to the fashion industry being deeply rooted in print media they are used to portraying a lifestyle, and thus a story, without aid from dialogue or movement. Therefore when utilizing the advantages of film these stories must be able to be fully explored. But is that what is actually occurring?

Short films created specifically for the purpose of promoting a certain product, or fashion house in general, is actually not a new concept. The history of fashion films date back to the 1950’s, says Penny Martin, professor of fashion imagery at the London College of Fashion. However, due to the accessibility of distributing this work to potentially millions of viewers through online avenues such as YouTube, the creation and investment into these films has reached a new level in recent years.

The large majority of fashion films produced in the last ten years follow a fairly consistent formula. They have striking visuals, dramatic music and a narrative that you have to dig pretty deep to deconstruct (if there is anything to dig for at all). Here is a short film produced for Dior that fits into this category nicely.

Although their upscale target market may be intrigued by these types of fashion films and watch a few, after you have seen one or two it is almost as if you have seen them all.

Take a look at this film created for Kenzo’s pre-fall 2012 line. While it is much more abstract and creative in its execution, it continues to be a pretty face, dressed in pretty clothes, and with a visually interesting background – in this instance mostly graphics created in post. Again the film lacks a significant story, which would ultimately draw more viewers in.

For Alexander Wang’s new spring 2013 line he stepped away from the cliché and took a major risk with this hilarious video that is hard to turn off. Not only is this video more accessible to the average fashion follower, it brings attention to his brand from all viewers who are looking for something interesting and funny to get lost in. While not all of those viewers may be able to afford Wang’s garments in his new line, as they say in the industry all publicity is good publicity.

In the same vein, this video produced for Lavin shies away from taking itself too seriously. The start of the video looks like a moving campaign with bone thin models meticulously staged and glaring blandly into the lens of the camera. When suddenly an incoming Skype call pops up on the screen and we begin to hear from Alber Albaz, a designer for Lavin. In his adorable accent he provides personal commentary on the campaign. Needless to say it’s quite funny and quirky, and not at all expected.

I think these last two fashion films are a testament to the times. With a million and one things distracting us from our daily lives, if you want viewers attention you need to work for it. Fashion films have been growing and finding their place in consumers lives more and more, but I am happy to see those brands which are stepping away from the norm and finding new ways to intrigue audiences with captivating stories.

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