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Is Film the Future of Fashion?
Christian Allaire debates whether designers' fashion film fetish will last

Marion Cotillard in Dior’s fashion film ‘L.A.dy Dior’
The use of film in fashion has skyrocketed, with brands like Dior, Proenza Schouler and Mango all dabbling in the art of video production, casting heavyweights like Kate Moss and Marion Cotillard. The New York Fashion Film Festival is also accepting open submissions for the first time, and even Toronto has jumped on board with The Fashion Collective‘s bi-annual DIScONNECT fashion film festival. Here the collective pairs designers with local filmmakers to create high-style short films.

Toronto designer Amanda Lew Kee presented her Fall 2012 collection via fashion film this season:

Amanda Lew Kee’s Fall 2012 Fashion Film

“With fashion films on the rise, it was a no-brainer to combine the two formats of presentation. You either change before the masses or follow after the classes,” says Lew Kee to any publication that will listen.  “Technology is the future. The best part about this is that there are no limits as to how advanced we will evolve as human beings.”

Along with her brief film presentation, Lew Kee also displayed her collection on a rack after the show — a smart move given film’s limitation to truly showcase garments’ construction and craftsmanship. Still, despite the artsy film, many editors were left wanting more.  

Lew Kee isn’t the only Canadian designer to experiment with fashion films this season. Greta Constantine‘s Stephen Wong and Kirk Pickersgil will release a documentary short, From Sketch to Runway, later this month in partnership (read: sponsorship) with Stolichnaya Vodka. Although the design duo showcased their fall collection just last month at Toronto Fashion Week, the two thought a film presentation would add to their brand’s overall statement and mission.

“The film essentially documents the three weeks before the Greta Constantine fall 2012 runway show,” says Pickersgill.

“It enables us to communicate our brand through a different medium. We’re strong believers that Greta Constantine extends far beyond a dress you may see in Holt Renfrew or TNT,” says Wong. “We’re selling not simply a piece of clothing, but a lifestyle, even a philosophy.”

Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong of Greta Constantine. Photo by George Pimentel

So why the fashion film’s sudden rise? The answer is two-fold; on one hand, it’s another creative outlet for designers to share their aesthetic with the world. But a fashion film can also have a lot to do with sponsorship and financial help — another way to draw in some bank.

Lew Kee says that fashion films are more than a fancy cash grab used by designers to get in bed with sponsors. According to her, making a fashion film was actually more expensive than your traditional runway show, “There are a lot of hidden costs involved with a virtual production. The budget is relatively higher due to showing off site, without full sponsorship from the FDCC, as well as curating a skilled production team and other expenses.”

She isn’t the only one who thinks fashion films are more about artistic vision than blatant promotion, a claim I’m not entirely sold on yet. Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, president of publicity and promotions at Rock-it Promotions, believes designers aren’t doing films just for publicity purposes, but for the love of creating art in new, unexplored mediums.

”It’s another avenue for expression. Often we see musicians starting fashion lines, actors recording an album,” says Goldblatt-Sadowski. “It’s a natural progression for most artists to want to try their hand at another form of creative expression.” ……

But sometimes these ventures don’t pay off (just think of Ashanti acting or Lindsay Lohan singing). When you think about it, does a splashy film really do a well-executed collection justice? There’s something to be said about seeing clothes in person — something entirely lost in film. Not to mention that most fashion films turn out to be royal snoozefests (when it comes to film, directors shouldn’t just let the clothes speak for themselves. Do something, waif model!)

Kate Moss and Terry Richardson in Mango’s ‘The Great Escape’

The Greta designers agree that film is a new project for them, but would never forgo the traditional runway experience. “For us, there’s something sacred about the fashion show. The tension and the excitement that stirs through the room as the music starts, the lights go on, and the first model steps out — it’s one of the hallmarks of the fashion experience,” says Wong. “Especially important is the fact that a show is experienced firsthand, while a video is through someone else’s lens. It’s tough to compare.”……

But indeed films do have their advantages, dependant on how they’re used. “Technology allows for a manufactured product of calculation, a perfectionist’s weapon of choice,” says Lew Kee.

“By contrast you can envision a show coming down the runway a certain way, but it’ll never be the way originally planned,” adds Pickersgil.

It’s uncertain whether designers’ current film fetish will last, but if they hope to survive in this shiny digital age, it’s necessary to explore new mediums. In the words of Goldblatt-Sadowski, “if there is a dying need for additional self-expression, film on, baby, film on.”


Christian Allaire writes on style for Toronto Standard. Follow his tweets here: @chrisjallaire.

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