We’ve been able to see films of fashion shows for a long time, but these can be, frankly, rather boring, and you have to be a pretty hardcore fashion obsessive to maintain your interest all the way through them. As interesting as the clothing can be, fashion shows are repetitive and lack dynamism. The lines they present can often look like they are most at home in the humourless bubble of the show itself.
Designers seem to be picking up on this. Tom Ford, referencing overexposure and a loss of freshness in fashion, showed the Spring/Summer 2011 collection of his new womenwear line to a very small group, and held back the photographs and video until New Year’s Day. The result is a video with more energy than usual, and a buzz around the collection that will hopefully remain until spring actually arrives.
Another variety of fashion film recently on the rise are those shot at photo shoots. In one, animated snakes twine around Kate Moss while she poses for a Balmain advertisement.
It can be difficult to see the relationship between fashion and the body that ought to be inherent in clothing when models make their careers by having as little body as possible, being too young to look like they have a past, and being replaced too quickly to have much of a future. Further, models’ homogenous stomp down the runway doesn’t always do justice to the garments. Considering how little personality is projected on runways, it isn’t surprising that runway shows lack theatricality. As a result, they also lack a sense that the women who will wear new styles into the world live lives that live up to the ambition and craft that goes into the clothes. This can suck all the charisma out of an outfit.
There is an antidote to be found in Nick Knight’s work – the most interesting fashion films are often either posted on or inspired by his website, Showstudio. Launched in 2000, Showstudio has shown everything from live streams of fashion shows and one-off performances to carefully curated moving portraits and high-concept art films, like those Gareth Pugh has been releasing to coincide with his collections.
Last December, Knight and stylist Alister Mackie produced a riveting set of videos for a project called Dynamic Blooms. Their use of contemporary dance and unexpected editing demonstrates the contrasts in volume and movement of the dresses, and create an exhiliarting sense of breathlessness.
Sometimes these films have more to do with the inspiration behind the clothing than the end product. The new designer for Thierry Mugler – Nicola Formichetti – released a film last week to coincide with his menswear show. The video, which comes with a new Lady Gaga song, is mostly about one of Formichetti's muses, Rick Genest aka Zombie Boy, peeling off a shining black plastic skin to reveal his skeletal tattoos underneath.
All of this points towards some exciting new developments. The movement of film is more appropriate for clothes, which people experience as part of their movements and others', after all. Seeing how a garment moves gives it credibility, because it celebrates the quality of the relationship between fabric and cut. This in turn encourages a respect for craftsmanship. And even though almost no one can afford to buy these pieces, you don’t have to be rich to appreciate it when artistry cuts through cynicism to create something new.
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