Top 10 Fashion Films of the Season

LONDON, United Kingdom — According to network technology and services company Cisco, the number of people who watch web videos will surpass 1 billion by the end of 2010. By 2014, web video alone will account for 57 percent of all consumer internet traffic. Already, more than 2 billion videos are played each day on YouTube alone. With staggering statistics like these, it’s no surprise that fashion brands, both large and small, are investing in online video content, while agencies that represent commercial artists are urging their fashion photographers to reposition themselves as image-makers who can direct short films.

But what makes a good fashion film? And are these the same primary concerns that go into a good fashion photograph? While these questions have been circulating since SHOWstudio’s early experiments in moving image, this season, as the medium of fashion film matures, we saw the debate condense around two distinct points of view.

Some industry figures say that creating a successful fashion film is very different to creating a fashion photograph and underscore the primary importance of elements like narrative and acting. “What makes a good fashion film is exactly what makes any good film: direction, lighting, acting, script, sound,” said Diane Pernet, influential fashion blogger and founder of A Shaded View on Fashion Film. “These are elements that go beyond a static photo shoot,” she continued.

Ms. Pernet’s emphasis on the fundamentals of filmmaking was echoed by Alistair Allan, Digital Director at Dazed Group: “Anything near or over two minutes needs to have some form of narrative to keep the viewer engaged. The pace of editing is also important, as is the correct use of cinematography technique, which sadly a lot photographers don’t understand or sympathise with.”

Others think that great fashion films are driven by exactly the same concerns as great fashion photographs where the visual or stylistic story comes first. “I don’t think there are any rules when it comes to communicating a feeling, but for me, a fashion film is always led by the fashion — the lines, the colours,” said pioneering fashion filmmaker Ruth Hogben, who frequently collaborates with Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio. “Rather than film, it’s better to think about fashion: what makes a good fashion communication? It’s exactly the same as a photograph,” she emphasised.

Over the last two fashion cycles, we’ve brought you our seasonal ranking of the Top 10 Fashion Films. This season, the Top 10 includes powerful narrative films, like Karl Lagerfeld’s “Remember Now” for Chanel, as well as stunning films driven primarily by a stylistic story, like Ruth Hogben’s latest film for Gareth Pugh. We’ve also included “Act da Fool,” Harmony Korine’s controversial piece for Proenza Schouler, a piece that, we think, manages to place equal importance on narrative and visual storytelling. As you sit back and enjoy the films, let us know which approach you think works best.

(RSS and Email subscribers, click here to view the films).

1. Gareth Pugh S/S 2011 by Ruth Hogben

Starring a future-forward, silver-haired Kristen McMenamy, Ruth Hogben’s 11-minute geometric epic for Gareth Pugh captivated hundreds of editors, buyers and other industry insiders at Paris Fashion Week, where it was projected at giant scale in the Palais Omnisports in Bercy. Since then, it’s been beamed across the world via SHOWstudio and video sharing sites Vimeo and YouTube, entrancing thousands more. Directed by Ruth Hogben and conceived in collaboration with a close-knit team that included artist Matthew Stone, stylist Katie Shillingford and set designer Simon Costin, this is a film that puts fashion first, exploring Mr. Pugh’s S/S 2011 collection with laser-like focus. But the film also demonstrates with great effect how a designer can leverage abstract, visually-centered storytelling to perfectly communicate a collection and articulate a broader brand vision in one powerful communication.

2. Proenza Schouler “Act da Fool” by Harmony Korine

Proenza Schouler gave Harmony Korine, writer of “Kids” and director of disturbing features like “Gummo” and “Julien Donkey-Boy,” carte blanche to create this controversial film about teenage angst, resulting in what is possibly the most controversial fashion film released since the movement began a few years back. Shot in Nashville, Tennessee (where Korine lives) the film follows a group of African-American girls in as they drink, smoke, write graffiti and skulk around a schoolyard in Proenza Schouler’s Fall 2010 collection. “It’s about girls who sleep in abandoned cars and set things on fire,” said Korine. “It’s about the great things in life. The stars in the sky and lots of malt liquor.” While the film has attracted both severe criticism and praise provoking a raging debate and discussion online we rate it highly because it feels like an authentic piece of cultural content and perfectly integrates both narrative and visual storytelling by threading a poetic and mesmerising voiceover through a series of beautifully composed “moving stills.”

3. Chanel: Remember Now by Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld’s “Remember Now” for Chanel is a great example of a successful fashion film that’s driven primarily by narrative. Pascal Greggory stars as a veteran playboy who encounters a young and glittering group of friends played by a high-wattage cast including Elisa Sednaoui, Baptiste Giabiconi, Heidi Mount, Abbey Lee and others. We think the film nicely complements Mr. Lagerfeld’s nostalgic, Riviera-inspired 2011 cruise collection and tells a powerful brand story that perfectly captures the gilded and care-free hedonism of summer in Saint-Tropez. Mr. Lagerfeld’s cameo appearance is fun. But our favourite part is the brief intro sequence where Leigh Lezark plays Coco Chanel.

4. Iris by Barnaby Roper

Barnaby Roper’s techno-robotic “Iris,” starring Iris Strubegger, is a stunning visual experiment that dissects a range of fall looks from Stella McCartney, Miu Miu, Givenchy, Céline and Proenza Schouler. We love the way Roper — who has directed music videos for bands like Razorlight, Snowpatrol and Moby, alongside his work for fashion magazines — hypnotizes the viewer with his surgically precise editing technique. “It’s the rhythm of the edit that’s the key to the film, the key to all films,” said Roper in an interview with Nowness, where the film first appeared.

5. H&M Designer Collaboration Teasers (series)

H&M developed a brilliant short video teaser campaign to get consumers excited for the launch of their annual designer collaboration. Featuring stereotypical designer types like a man in a skinny dark suit and a woman in an extreme blouse and chunky jewelry, the series of black-and-white videos engaged viewers in a collective guessing game on the identity of the yet unannounced designer, dropping a sequence of clues specifically designed to lead fashion-savvy viewers one way, then another. Discussion raged on YouTube, spilled onto Twitter and sparked countless posts in the fashion blogosphere that named Carolina Herrera and Thomas Maier of Bottega Veneta among suspected collaborators, before the identity of the real designer was revealed to be Alber Elbaz of Lanvin. Overall, we thought this was a fun and highly effective use of the short video format that was intelligently conceived to generate positive conversation across the social web. Bravo.

5. Holly Fulton by Quentin Jones

“Holly Fulton” by London-based illustrator, animator and director Quentin Jones is a riot of flash bulbs, humming birds, lions and Manhattan skyscrapers that brought a great big smile to our faces, and recalled the signature aesthetic of one of London’s rising design talents. Commissioned by British Vogue art director Jaime Perlman for her experimental fashion platform TEST, we think the film is a perfect complement to Fulton’s bold and graphic, 60s meets Art Deco collection.

7. Burberry Acoustic (Series)

Debuting three days before the brand’s menswear show last June, the “Burberry Acoustic” series cleverly highlights the brand’s longstanding connection to British rock bands with a collection of nicely styled music videos that populate the brand’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. The short films feature Burberry product, integrate with in-store happenings and function as a kind of digital support platform for emerging British music talent. Plus, the music selection is great.

8. Chronology by Luca Guadagnino for NOWNESS

NOWNESS commissioned Luca Guadagnino, director of “I Am Love,” to create this abstract, surrealist film featuring a stunning Mariacarla Boscono in tightly edited highlights from the fall 2010 collections of luxury fashion etailer Net-a-Porter, styled by Cathy Edwards. In a characteristically sharp move from Net-a-Porter, famous for their shopable weekly web magazine and accompanying iPad app, the video content leads consumers directly to commerce opportunities. When the film launched, all the looks seen on Boscono — including fashion from Christopher Kane, Chloé, Miu Miu, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Sigerson Morrison and Azzedine Alaïa — were available for instant purchase.

9. Nike Gyakusou (Dark Edit) by Jamie Morgan

Jamie Morgan created this evocative film to launch the first collaboration between Nike Sportswear and Jun Takahashi’s cult brand Undercover: the Nike x Undercover Gyakusou performance running collection. The slow-motion visual treatment and playful yet deliberate soundtrack brilliantly capture the surreal sense of pace, stamina and inner focus that lies at the heart of performance running. We think the rain and smoke looks amazing as well.

10. Black Light by Suzie Q & Leo Siboni

Commissioned by Diane Pernet in collaboration with Vogue Italia, Suzie Q and Leo Siboni’s Blacklight appeared at A Shaded View on Fashion Film in Milan last May as part of a special series of one-minute fashion films inspired by “light.” The film plays on codes of fantasy and sporadically immerses the viewer in a blacklit netherworld to dramatic and haunting visual effect.

Did we miss someone? Which fashion films captured your imagination this season? Let the BoF community know which films you liked most.

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  1. Why do people watch film? Why do people watch music videos? Why do people listen to music? Why do people read books? Why do people go to the theatre? What makes a great film? What makes a great music video? What makes great music? What makes a great book? What makes a great play or musical? An exceptional narrative. This is something that sorely lacks in the majority of multi-media material endorsing something from the fashion fraternity.

    moi from Didcot, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
  2. I luv coco’s designes,plz update me on every fashion week. Percee

    Percee from Norway
  3. I strongly feel that the fashion film is the new ‘frontier’ in fashion. Most of the top 10 were very interesting, but some were a bit too long and did not show the garments, which I feel is the main reason for shooting a fashion film. After watching these films, it has given me food for thought as I develop the fashion film for my upcoming resort line. – Aloha

  4. The Pugh film was flat and long winded. Relying on gimmicky editing tricks is no way to captivate a viewer for more than two seconds. It’s not that I care if the clothes can be seen or not but don’t bludgeon me with the same uninteresting imagery over and over.

    That’s the problem with fashion people: moths are too dazzled by light.

    Shin from Garden Grove, CA, United States
  5. God I hate fashion films… so so so so bad. …

    max from New York, NY, United States
  6. I actually quite liked the Pugh Film. In my opinion editing tricks can make a simple turn-around much more interesting. But for sure it was too long.

    inga from Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  7. The fabulous thing about fashion videos is the possibility to discover great new directorial talent that may otherwise go unnoticed. A sharp example is Montreal director Gab BT, who recently directed a short film for etailer Beautiful and sensuous.

  8. the best one here is HnM. I think if someone is going to do a fashion vid, its best to get in and out in under 5 minutes. So many of these vids really can’t hold my interest. But I have no problem watching an unedited fashion show. I think people expect more when they watch a video, a certain flash and cohesiveness with the brand. I think some designers are perhaps overwhelmed with the multitude of references they can use on film.

    Michele from Springfield, MA, United States
  9. i find Lagerfeld films particularly bad. Very naive ad senseless. is that really who they are aiming the film at? i think he should stick to design ad pay good script writers and directors do their jobs. It will probably be too painful for his ego but everybody will benefit in this way.

    anna from Vienna, Bundesland Wien, Austria
  10. I think the best fashion film is not even a fashion film. It’s lady gaga videos. She did more promotion for Alexander McQueen’s crazy shoes than any other person. Just see how many views Bad Romance had. Every single person I knew talked about those shoes.

    niche from Surrey, BC, Canada
  11. I think the last one is the best one…
    And the Proenza film is overrated. I do not hate it, but this kind of film seeks meaning too hard and depress people.

    Tianyuan Deng from Chicago, IL, United States