Short Sighted: What is Fashion Film?

What is Fashion Film?

Director Matthew Frost’s satirical take on the fashion ‘art’ film…highlighting the stale cliched format campaign films often take. 

Fashion films aren’t new, fashion houses have been using film as a secondary vehicle to showcase their work for years. The quality of fashion films out there varies, some are little more than a poorly crafted music video and others are well formed, satirical takes on the form and though it is still unusual, some are well crafted narrative stories, whose stars (who often have a Hollywood pedigree) ‘just happen to be’ impeccably dressed.

Fashion films seems to be an increasingly important method brands are using to create a more immersive advertising aesthetic and solidify their brand identity. 2015 saw a number of impressive examples of this:

Gregg Araki, a prominent figure in the american New Queer cinema movement’s collaboration with brand, Kenzo impressively managed to incorporate a narrative into its A/W 2015 campaign . Araki’s 6 minute film explores a number of themes including sexuality and religion using the short form. The backing of the fashion houses allows filmmakers to tell stories that may otherwise not have been told, the only compromise is the costumes, which arguably enhance the story anyway.

Matthew Frost (the director of the satirical fashion video above) in conversation with Vogue said that ‘There are more and new ways to communicate online for brands and magazines, so it’s a good opportunity for filmmakers to use that space…It’s invigorating because you’re not in a comfort zone.’ The general consensus seems to be that fashion films are an important medium because it allows for innovation, audiences have less of an expectation when it comes to what a film should be. So many fashion filmmakers then go on to make narrative features, which no doubt build upon the experimentation of their fashion shorts.Fashion films are, in essence, adverts attempting to pick up on the hype of successful narrative shorts.

In an interview with FFFMilano (Film Festival Milano) Editor, Nick Gilberg said I think fashion films are opening up new ways of expressing feelings through performance, and they are a great space for people to experiment, which I’m sure influences cinema.’ The films are often created in the style of abstract art films, relying heavily on music and pop culture. I struggle with the fact these fashion moving pictures are being placed in the same category as documentary or fictional short films, with strong narrative archs and character development. Certain circles and festivals such as the Berlin Fashion Film Festival and La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival are celebrating the format that epitomize the porous boundaries between advertisement and short film.


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