NEW YORK, United States — “Are we failing to fulfil the potential of fashion film?” asked Quynh Mai’s Op-Ed for BoF earlier this year, citing misallocated budgets, uncompelling content, poor distribution strategies and established power structures that favour still photographers. Indeed, it’s fair to say that, while seasonal fashion shorts have become an essential part of the marketing toolbox for megabrands and emerging labels alike, far too many of these films are unimaginative ‘behind the scenes’ affairs, piggybacked on expensive stills shoots, that ultimately fail to engage sizable audiences.
But anyone starting to doubt the potential of short fashion films distributed online need only look at the results of this season’s Dior video, “Secret Garden – Versailles,” shot at the Château de Versailles by image-making maestros Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. When YouTube viewership figures for the film’s 60-second and 3-minute versions are added together, the video has clocked over 23 million views, a staggering number that could make it the most popular fashion film ever, surpassing last season’s CGI epic “L’Odyssée de Cartier,” which currently has almost 16 million views.
It wasn’t only well-funded epics that struck a chord this season, however. Amongst the current crop of fashion films, a number of breakthrough videos employed inexpensive but compelling visual concepts and, in some cases, heavy doses of humour and quirk, as was the case with DIS magazine’s hilarious film for Kenzo Menswear and Alex Turvey’s fabulously eccentric film for Anna Dello Russo’s H&M accessories collaboration, “Fashion Shower.”
Now without further ado, sit back 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. Dior – “Secret Garden – Versailles” by Inez & Vinoodh
The pairing of one of France’s most iconic fashion houses with the country’s grandest château laid the foundations for a winning fashion film. Shot inside the Galeries des Glaces and on the grand, manicured parklands of the Palace of Versailles and propelled by Depeche Mode’s classic track ‘Enjoy the Silence,’ Dior’s “Secret Garden – Versailles,” starring Daria Strokus, Melissa Stasiuk and Xiao Wen Ju, was nothing short of awe-inspiring. “There are no words for how amazing this was. It had me speechless just staring at my screen after it was over,” commented a YouTube user. Equally amazing are the record-breaking number of views the film has earned.
2. Kenzo Mens F/W 2012 – “Watermarked” by DIS
DIS magazine’s film for Kenzo menswear, directed by Marco Roso, is a hilarious 2-minute window into an innocuous, “watermarked,” stock photography world of group hugs, Colgate smiles and uplifting elevator music. Deviating sharply from the arty, oh-so-serious fashion film mould with a much needed jolt of comedy, the video — which features models posing as office workers; reading the newspaper, drinking coffee, shaking hands and waving — can also be read as something of a commentary on the generic nature of most fashion films.
3. Anna Dello Russo for H&M – Fashion Shower
This season, Vogue Japan editor-at-large Anna Dello Russo’s film to promote her H&M accessories collaboration got everybody talking. Featuring Dello Russo, “the guardian of fashion,” dressed in a very shiny and short black dress which showed off her yoga legs, outlining a set of “fashion lessons” in Italian-accented English and admonishing viewers to take a “fashion shower,” the video is part fabulousness, part comedy, part scandal. A recent commenter on YouTube asked: “I’d like to know what Anna Wintour thinks about this.” Quite. But since it’s launch, the film has clocked almost half a million views on H&M’s YouTube channel and sparked a number of tribute and parody videos. Meanwhile, “I need a fashion shower” became the expression of the season.
4. Pretty, Paid, Proenza
“Pretty, Paid, Proenza,” originally made for Love magazine by artist Jeanette Hayes and photo agent Jen Brill, is a digital-age mashup that collides handheld video shot at Proenza Schouler’s new boutique on New York’s Madison Avenue with rough samples from cartoons and video games to a soundtrack featuring “Pretty N Paid” by Katie Got Bandz, bringing a distinctly raw, “Downtown” vibe to brand’s new Uptown store. Interestingly, the cut-and-paste digital aesthetic anticipates designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection (shown two weeks after the video’s release) which features digital photoprints and takes inspiration from microblogging platform Tumblr.
5. T by Alexander Wang Fall 2012 feat. Azealia Banks
For the second season in a row, the campaign film for T by Alexander Wang doubled as a promo clip for a fast-charging, of-the-moment artist’s new song, a smart strategy for attracting an audience. Last season, it was South African rap-rave crew Die Antwoord and their new single ‘Fatty Boom Boom.’ This season, Wang teamed up with Harlem rapper Azealia Banks to pre-release her new song Van Vogue. The result is a fast-paced romp with lots of hair whipping.
6. I Love Chanel by Sølve Sundsbø
Sølve Sundsbø’s video for Chanel’s Rouge Allure lipstick is a beautiful 21st century tribute to Erwin Blumenfeld’s iconic January 1950 Vogue cover, in which the photographer, working in a pre-Photoshop era, used lighting effects to erase features of model Jean Patchett’s face, leaving only an eye, the mouth and a beauty spot visible. Set to Goldfrapp’s ‘Strict Machine,’ the 1-minute homage stars the surreal, crimson-painted lips of model Barbara Palvin and ends with a voiceover quoting Coco Chanel herself: “If you are sad, if you are heartbroken, make yourself up, dress up, add more lipstick, and attack. Men hate women who weep.”
7. Prada Fall 2012 by Steven Meisel
Working with Steven Meisel, Prada has been making some of the best digital films in the industry and this season was no exception. In a room with deep purple walls and red and white carpeting, Vanessa Axente, Magdalena Frackowiak, Madison Headrick, Elza Luijendijk, Iselin Steiro, and Anne Vyalitsina are “virtual princesses poised for combat” in Prada’s graphic Autumn/Winter prints as a surreal game of chess turns into a dramatic face off, set to a hypnotic soundtrack by music and sound design consultancy Golden Hum.
Directed by David Sims, the Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 2012 film is a trippy otherworldly explosion of early 90s rave psychedelia, featuring Finnish model Suvi Kopenen wearing space-age, science-fiction visors from Sarah Burton’s fungi-inspired collection. Need we say more?
9. Jodhpur Jackie – Saloni
“Jodhpur Jackie,” a feast of colour shot for Saloni Lodha’s London-based label by Ellen von Unwerth, reimagines Jackie Kennedy’s 1962 visit to the Indian state of Rajasthan. Though things start off prim and proper, Lodha’s Jackie is soon dancing, charming snakes, wearing face paint and smoking opium. In one scene, she takes tea with Lodha herself (who wears a blue sari).
10. Martine Rose
Directed by Paul Gore and commissioned by fashion film website Test to coincide with the inaugural London Collections: Men, held earlier this year, this film for London-based menswear designer Martine Rose is a paired back affair featuring a dancer in a hoodie and MA-1 bomber jacket seamlessly transitioning from ballet to breakdancing to kickboxing and back again.