LONDON, United Kingdom — What makes a good fashion film? We posed this question to Diane Pernet, the founder of fashion film festival A Shaded View on Fashion Film, just a few weeks ago. “For me, the criteria of what’s a good film and what’s a good fashion film are really quite the same, except that [with the latter] fashion has to be the protagonist,” she told BoF. “Just because someone is moving in front of the camera doesn’t make it a film. A film has a story.”
Several fashion brands seem to have reached a similar conclusion. If last season’s top 10 fashion films were dominated by quirky, visually-driven shorts, this season has seen the unmistakable rise of narrative storytelling. By employing actual filmmakers — for example, Stuart Blumberg, the writer of 2010′s The Kids Are Alright, and Luca Guadagnino, who directed 2010′s I Am Love — brands have been able to craft the kinds of narratives that successfully engage viewers for longer than a few minutes. And whereas fashion films of the past often focused more squarely on communicating the clothes, this season’s winning films were more about telling stories that communicate a brand’s essential values.
Another major trend that emerged this season was the rise of educational fashion videos — often snappy and animated — which brands like Dior and Chanel, in particular, have debuted to enthusiastic reception. Aimed in no small part at audiences in emerging markets, these films — often employing devices like voiceover and subtitles — usually present a lesson on a brand’s history, key products and aesthetic codes in a way that blends entertainment value with informational messaging. Importantly, this kind of content also lasts longer than a season, contributing to a brand’s digital archive.
Now, without further ado, sit back and enjoy BoF’s Top 10 Fashion Films of the Season. And don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments below.
1. “This Must Be the Only Fantasy” by Todd Cole for Rodarte
This season, the Mulleavy sisters recruited photographer and director Todd Cole to create a fantastical short film, starring Sidney Williams, Guinevere van Seenus and Elijah Wood. Using magical wardrobe changes, fairy godmothers and would-be alien abductors, the story perfectly communicates that unique combination of suburban banality and eerie fantasy that has long been a hallmark of the Rodarte brand. Thus far, the film has attracted almost 400,000 views on YouTube alone, impressive results that were no doubt driven by a clever distribution strategy involving The Creators Project, a partnership between Vice Media and Intel, which has a YouTube channel with over 350,000 subscribers.
2. “She Said, She Said” by Stuart Blumberg for Co Collections
This smart and sexy film comes courtesy of Co Collections, a Los Angeles-based womenswear brand launched in 2011 by producer Stephanie Danan, whose parents were fashion designers, and screenwriter Justin Kern, who started his career as a model. Their credentials may explain how the fledgling brand has so effortlessly and expertly blended fashion and film. The film is directed by Stuart Blumberg, who wrote the 2010 Academy Award-nominated drama The Kids Are Alright, and stars Marisa Tomei and Elodie Bouchez, who play a lesbian couple in the midst of their divorce mediation session. The ensuing division of their possessions is punctuated by cheeky humour and sleek attire.
3. “Crush” by Rachel Antonoff Spring 2014
The New York-based designer Rachel Antonoff launched her label back in 2009, but has already demonstrated a savvy approach towards fashion film, having collaborated with Girls writer and actor Lena Dunham on a fashion film last season. This time around, inspired by the real love story between her parents that blossomed in 1972, Antonoff weaves a funny and tender tale on the nervous anticipation of young love. “Crush” is a convincing and thoroughly entertaining watch.
4. “Walking Stories” by Luca Guadagnino for Salvatore Ferragamo
In its most ambitious fashion film venture yet, Salvatore Ferragamo teamed up with Italian director Luca Guadagnino and actress Kaya Scodelario to produce a full-blown, 8-part romantic comedy. The films are set in major cities around the world: the brand’s base in Florence; Los Angeles, where it has dressed Hollywood starlets since the 1920s; and finally Shanghai, where the brand celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2008. The series debuted earlier this month, with new films rolled out twice a week. Thus far, the strategy appears to be working and has significantly bolstered views on the brand’s YouTube channel. Some episodes have attracted over 100,000 views, a major improvement on the few hundred views that the brand’s previous video content was earning.
5. T by Alexander Wang Fall 2013 by Darren Stein
Another season, another offbeat and hilarious film from T by Alexander Wang, the designer’s casual diffusion range, this one directed by Darren Stein. In July, fans of the brand were invited to attend an “undisclosed one-time-only event” in New York City. They were greeted by a pre-recorded video message from Wang himself indicating that the assembled fans were about to have access to a warehouse full of pieces from the brand, all available for the taking — for free. What follows is a combination of raw footage and re-enactments of the frenzied giveaway, with slow-motion action shots and (what we think must be) staged brawls over merchandise. Reminiscent of the dramatic security camera footage of consumers fighting each other to get their hands on discounted flat-screen TVs at “Black Friday” sales in the US, the film was also said to be inspired by the final scene of Jawbreaker, the 1999 dark comedy also directed by Darren Stein, in which a prom queen is pelted with objects by angry classmates.
6. “Mademoiselle” by Chanel
This stunningly animated educational short is part of “Inside Chanel,” a series of engaging and informative films on the history of the brand that seems to be targeting fans from emerging markets. The soothing voice of the narrator tells how Coco Chanel became “Mademoiselle” and explains how her various lovers and collaborators helped to inspire the brand’s iconic elements: black, tweed jackets, costume jewellery and Chanel No. 5. The series appears to have resonated extremely well with viewers; at time of writing, this particular clip had been watched over 629,000 times on the brand’s YouTube channel, while the previous chapter in the series — about Chanel’s humble beginnings and transformation — has over 6 million views.
7. “Rouge Dior – 60 Years of Attitude” by Dior
An educational, but spirited pop art-driven photo and film montage that both entertains and informs, “Rouge Dior” examines the history and values behind the French brand’s most recognisable lipstick. Through lively narration, illustrations, and colour accents, the film effectively adds historical context to the product story and links the colour red — symbolising power — to Christian Dior. It also emphasizes feminine power, as shown by the brand’s style ambassadors over the years, from Grace Kelly of Monaco to actress Natalie Portman, as examples of the “perfect combination of spirit and beauty.”
8. “The Future of Flesh” by Luke Gilford for Document Journal
Narrated by celebrated actress Jane Fonda, this short film is a startling cinematic production set in a sterile, Gattaca-like future world of plastic people. An elderly woman is calmly wheeled into her new home and introduced to a new reality full of surgically-enhanced models dressed head-to-toe in Prada’s Autumn/Winter 2013 collection. Unsettling and creepy, the film is another example of how narration, however alien, can give fashion films the context they often need to be truly captivating.
9. “Bamboo Confidential” by Gucci
A tried-and-tested mystery story featuring a beautiful woman and a handsome pursuer helped Gucci’s latest film, directed by Remi Paringaux, attract over 790,000 views on its YouTube channel. Despite the blatant product shots of Gucci’s Shopper and Lady Lock handbags, the film, which takes place at The Savoy hotel in London, is a chic and sleek production. Retro styling, props and typography also help to lend the minute-long short a sense of intrigue, as does the soundtrack, “Bad Vibrations” by The Black Angels.
10. Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter Accessories by Quentin Jones
Noted illustrator and filmmaker Quentin Jones, who has made films for Victoria Beckham and i-D magazine, once again brings her fun and quirky touch into play with a minute-long introduction to Louis Vuitton’s current season accessories. With her characteristic verve and artistry, Jones employs stop motion techniques and graphic, cut-out collages to bring to life the brand’s scarves, shades — and even its logo — proving that there is still appeal in bite-sized, snappy shorts.