As Festival Opens, Diane Pernet Discusses the State of Fashion Film

On the occasion of the sixth instalment of “A Shaded View on Fashion Film,” held at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, BoF brings you an exclusive look at designer Manish Arora’s latest fashion film, ‘Holi Holy,’ and sits down with the festival’s founder, Diane Pernet, to discuss the state of the medium.

PARIS, France — “We all wear clothes, we all go to movies. I want people outside of fashion to watch these films. You don’t have to be a fashion person to enjoy a good fashion film,” Diane Pernet, curator, journalist and one of the industry’s very first bloggers, told BoF as she prepared to kick off the sixth instalment of her annual festival of fashion film, “A Shaded View on Fashion Film” (ASVOFF), which takes over three theatres in the Centre Pompidou in Paris for 3 days, starting today.

The festival is Pernet’s brainchild and, over the years, has showcased films by Nick Knight, Jim Jarmusch, Ryan McGinley and Steven Meisel, alongside entries from underground filmmakers and global luxury brands. This year, ASVOFF will screen an eclectic mix of 103 films (selected from over 600 submissions from over 62 countries, including Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Jamaica, Argentina, Qatar, Norway, Iceland, Brazil and the UK) as well as a special segment devoted to fashion film from China, presented in collaboration with Modern Weekly, a widely-read Chinese lifestyle magazine.

But the festival takes place at an interesting and uncertain time in the (short) history of fashion film. Though Nick Knight’s early experiments in digital film generated significant excitement about the potential of the emerging medium and most major fashion brands now release seasonal videos to accompany their traditional advertising campaigns, it’s no secret that the results have been decidely uneven, leading commentators to ask whether fashion as an industry is failing to fulfill the potential of Internet video. Amongst the issues, observers often cite misallocated budgets, poor distribution strategies, on-set politics and, perhaps most critically, uncompelling content.

So what makes a good fashion film?

Some think that great fashion films are driven by exactly the same concerns as great fashion photographs where the visual or stylistic story comes first. But Pernet — who has been uniquely positioned to see the medium evolve from its earliest days — is clear that a successful fashion film needs a narrative. “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. Just because someone is moving in front of the camera, it doesn’t make it a film. A film has a story.”

One of the key problems with the genre, today, is that there aren’t enough actual filmmakers making fashion films, she continued. “Every photo agent forces their photographers to make a film and they’re not filmmakers. Some make the transition easily. People like Bruce Weber have been doing it for ten to fifteen years — and Ellen von Unwerth. But others don’t understand that just because somebody is moving, it doesn’t make it a film.

“What’s great today is that you have [real directors] like Wes Anderson, David Lynch and Roman Polanski doing wonderful fashion films, which is really upping the ante,” says Pernet, referring to recent films from Prada, Miu Miu and Dior. In fact, Pernet cites ‘A Therapy,’ the short film Polanski made for Prada (featuring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley) as “the perfect example of a successful fashion film, because it works on every level — and you feel the clothes.”

Even though the Italian luxury house doesn’t show its films at Pernet’s festival, she admits that “Prada and Miu Miu do the best films, they really do. Because they pick directors that are out of the box. They have great taste in directors, like when they picked an Argentinean documentary director [Lucrecia Martel] a couple of years ago for the [Miu Miu film] ‘Muta,'” which the brand described as “a mesmerising personal reflection on the transformative power of femininity.”

“I’m really happy when films touch on broader issues that affect everyone,” like the winner of last year’s ASVOFF, the humourous animated “Headpieces for Peace” by Jessica Mitrani, which deals with serious themes like social consciousness, fashion, politics and religion, continued Pernet. “It shows that a fashion film doesn’t have to be just about a pretty dress or beautiful clothes. It can go a bit further. Like Manish Arora’s film this year, it takes you somewhere and gives you something.”

Today, BoF is pleased to exclusively present Arora’s mystical ‘Holi Holy,’ directed by Bharat Sikka and featuring Bishi Bhattacharya, which manages to simultaneously conjure John Waters, Leigh Bowery and Mexican lucha libre in a wholly original colour-drenched story, set in the ancient city of Varanasi, India. We hope you enjoy the film and the festival.

For more information on “A Shaded View on Fashion Film” visit www.asvoff.com.