NEW YORK, United States — What makes a successful fashion film? Is it a strong visual concept? Content that can be quickly parsed? A savvy distribution strategy? Humour? Provocation? A famous model or a catchy soundtrack? Creating compelling fashion videos has always been more art than science. But as we set about compiling our ranking of this season’s best films, we saw some interesting commonalities.
While Cartier’s 3-minute CGI epic “L’Odyssée de Cartier” — which has appeared on network television and earned 14 million views on YouTube in just over a month — is a clear exception, the average length of the most successful films has dropped noticeably from just a few seasons ago. Indeed, several of this season’s top picks, including films from Lanvin, Prada, ASOS, Alexander Wang and Balenciaga, are better attuned to the short attention spans of today’s internet users and last no more than 1.5 minutes, a length that could shrink further in seasons to come.
Unlike the Cartier film, many of the season’s best videos also avoid cost-intensive cinematic grandeur in favour of the unconventional techniques and quirky aesthetics that seem to resonate most online.
Some of this season’s most popular films also offer audiences early access to emerging music. Alexander Wang’s short and sharp fashion film for T by Alexander Wang doubles as a music video featuring South African rap-rave crew Die Antwoord and their new single ‘Fatty Boom Boom,’ while Steven Meisel’s video for Lanvin features ‘Cookieman,’ the first single from 18-year-old, Bronx-born Maxine Ashley’s forthcoming debut album.
Indeed, a closer study of the Lanvin video reveals a number of winning attributes at work: 60 seconds or less in length, a quirky and humourous animation technique, exclusive new music, and a touch of provocation in the form of a hedonistic and decadent dinner party, full of slithering snakes.
But as LVMH-owned Spanish luxury goods firm Loewe learned this season, ill-conceived provocation can come with consequences. The brand’s ORO Collection 2012 film — which some suspect was calculated to provoke a certain degree of reaction with its naïve “rich kid” sensibility — set off a powerful viral wave that drove over 730,000 views on YouTube. Eventually, thousands of young Spanish people joined the conversation about the video, which became a nationally trending topic on Twitter and sparked parody videos, hundreds of blog posts and national newspaper articles. The video has a share of negative YouTube ratings that currently hovers around 94 percent — higher than Rebecca Black’s infamous “Friday” video — creating a serious reputation crisis for the brand.
So, when it comes to fashion film, many brands are still learning what works and what doesn’t. Of course, the nature of viral media means that success is not always easy to predict. But consistent winners are emerging. Prada and Lanvin have come away with BoF’s first and second ranked online fashion films for the second season in a row. Both films were made by Steven Meisel, whose film for Balenciaga is also on our list. Who said photographers couldn’t translate their skills to this exciting new medium?
Now sit back, turn up the volume, and enjoy our selection of The Top 10 Fashion Films of the Season. And don’t forget to let us know which ones you like best.
1. Prada, S/S 2012 Campaign by Steven Meisel
This season’s Prada film, shot by Steven Meisel, presents a 1950s Americana fantasy, featuring Natasha Poly, Guinevere van Seenus, Elise Crombez, Ymre Stiekema, Katryn Kruger, and Meghan Collison slinking around an old-school gas station, which, according to the brand, “is cast as a central symbol in this post-modern crossroads of new horizons and economic fulfillment, a stage set where fashion, fantasy and the promise of new discoveries collide.” The slow-motion shots are merchandising dream that beautifully show off the details of Mrs. Prada’s collection. But perhaps the most clever element is the retro car radio that tunes into music from Duck and Cover, Tobacco and Tom Recchion, Sleigh Bells, and Ariel Pink, introducing each girl with her own soundtrack.
2. Lanvin S/S 2012 Campaign by Steven Meisel
“The idea was angel and a little bit of hell… because this is, I think, the world we are living in,” said Alber Elbaz of his spring collection for Lanvin. That explains the snakes and forbidden fruit in this season’s campaign film, lensed by Steven Meisel, which depicts a decadent dinner party in stuttering, stop and start animation, set to an energetic hip-hop soundtrack by 18-year-old YouTube phenomenon Maxine Ashley.
3. ASOS Revive by Zaiba Jabbar
Zaiba Jabbar’s film for Asos Revive’s sporty 16-piece capsule collection designed by London-based Ebru Ercon, former head of design at Adidas by Stella McCartney, perfectly captures the late 80s to early 90s rave revival that’s in the air. “The film was definitely inspired by music videos, most notably Inner City’s 1988 Big Fun,” Ercon told Susie Bubble, on whose blog the video was first premiered.
4. T by Alexander Wang, Spring 2012 video feat. Die Antwoord
The spring campaign video for Alexander Wang’s basics line, T by Alexander Wang, is a fast-paced, high adrenaline affair featuring raw South African rave-rappers Die Antwoord, who also sat front row at Wang’s show in February. Doubling as a promo clip for the single “Fatty Boom Boom” from the group’s new album, Ten$ion, the video has also appeared on MTV’s “120 Minutes.”
5. L’Odyssée de Cartier
Created by Marcel, an agency that’s part of Publicis Groupe, Cartier’s blinged out CGI epic “L’Odyssée de Cartier” commemorates the brand’s 165th anniversary with a 3.5-minute cinematic journey starring the company’s iconic panther. Two-years in the making, the film traces the history of the house, from European jeweler to international luxury brand, making lavishly rendered stops in important emerging markets Russia, India and China. Debuted on social media to coincide with a sparkling premiere at the start of Paris Fashion Week, the film was also shown on network television and in movie theatres.
6. Victoria, Victoria Beckham by Quentin Jones
For Victoria Beckham’s more affordable line, Victoria, Cambridge philosophy graduate turned illustrator and filmmaker Quentin Jones created a wonderfully quirky and imaginative video with a playful cut-and-paste aesthetic. The film is both fun and chic in the same breath. But perhaps most interesting of all is the video’s prominent use of cats. Beckham’s collection features lots of cat prints — some with names like “Victoria Cat” and “Cutey Cat” — but the decision to play up cats in the film strikes us as a particularly web-savvy move, given that cats are practically the unofficial mascot of the internet and the subject of countless memes.
7. Balenciaga Pre-Fall 2012-13 by Steven Meisel
Created by a lineup of fashion all-stars including Steven Meisel, Marie-Amélie Sauvé and Ronnie Cooke Newhouse, Balenciaga’s film for Pre-Fall 2012-2013 really lets the clothes do the talking. Depicting 80s-styled models walking down a pair of symmetrical concrete staircases, lit with neon tubes in blue, yellow and red, the video has a simple concept. But immaculate styling, tight editing and a well-selected soundtrack make this a very effective film.
8. Vidéo exclusive d’Emmanuelle Alt
Designed to drive buzz around the relaunch of the French Vogue website, editor-in-chief Emmanuelle Alt teamed up with French television personality Mademoiselle Agnès and top models Karmen Pedaru, Anja Rubik, Jasmine Tookes and Kendra Spears for a frame-for-frame high fashion remake of WHAM!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” video. The resulting film is 100 percent pure fun and has earned over 370,000 views on YouTube.
9. EDUN Beautiful Rebels by Ryan McGinley
Premiered on Nowness, Ryan McGinley’s short for Bono and Ali Hewson’s ethical fashion label Edun is an almost spiritual visual poem populated by butterflies which fly from the hands, pants and mouths of models, seeming to symbolise the new beginning for which the brand strives. The fact that the video, part of Edun’s debut advertising campaign, features the kind of models and natural themes that also recur in McGinley’s person work lends it an added feeling of authenticity.
10. The Ever Changing Face of Beauty by Sølve Sundsbø
Created by Sølve Sundsbø for W magazine’s March issue, this ethereal film features models Lara Stone and David Agbodji walking towards each other, their bodies split into four sections as their torsos, heads, legs and feet transform into animals, trees and magic spirits. Set to a haunting, textured soundtrack, the film appeared on eighteen-meter-high screens as part of a spectacular video installation during New York Fashion Week and exists in interactive form on a dedicated iPad app.