CINEMATIC – A LOOK AT THE VISUAL AESTHETIC OF FASHION FILM

 

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Alexander McQueen : Fall / Winter 2006 Combined Hologram and Set

FASHION FILM IS CERTAINLY one of the most significant developments in recent fashion direction, with designers and brands at all levels now integrating film into their marketing strategies. Its increasing significance can be viewed in commodity terms, but equally as an aesthetic in itself, so much so that global trend-forecasting agency WGSN cited Cinematic as one of its key macro trends for spring/summer 2013. Cinematic explores film’s increasing significance as a creative and commercial genre, and its emergence as a multifarious visual aesthetic.

Film is no longer something to be sought out. Instead it is easily accessible and digestible. Available on our smart phones, tablets and laptops, it is a significant part of our daily lives. Like it or not, we are the digital generation. Even the act of viewing through screens is now so habitual that it becomes our visual viewfinder – it becomes ‘the look’.

Cinematic ‘the look’, is a romanticized version of reality, but it is not analogous. It is conscious of the filters—a stylized reflection that acknowledges the camera’s stare. Its influence can be seen across creative mediums and right through to the product – from Chinese photographer Maleonn’s staged scenes, complete with theatre curtains, through to Instagram’s rose-tinted take on reality. With Cinematic, style is to be celebrated, which perhaps explains its longstanding and ever increasing link with fashion.

In the context of fashion, film is like a living mood board, one that brings a collection to life. Many seminal films are as renowned for their costume as they are for their plot. Take Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, or Diane Keaton wearing Ralph Lauren in Annie Hall, regarding which costume designer Camille Benda, whose work on feature films includes UK rave story Weekender and forthcoming period picture Cheerful Weather For A Wedding, points out, “the character-led costume and strong aesthetic influenced street fashion long after the film came out”.

Cinematic is a powerful, multi-sensory tool; ‘a frame in which the world is distilled; sharpened into a concentrated reality’. It encompasses aesthetics, lighting, colour, dialogue and sound – controlling so many of our senses with the potential to evoke intense emotional responses. Joseph Bennett, production designer of the MET’s recent Savage Beauty exhibition – a retrospective of designer Alexander McQueen’s work – says, “Film provides a time based sculptural framework that can help scene set. Visual clues and musical ciphers can all help direct the audience to those secret places. A film clip can tantalize and seduce a weary heart in a way that perhaps a still image can sometimes struggle with. It is perhaps one of the most controllable visual mediums to offer a complete narrative than any other.” Benda continues this idea by saying, that building a narrative “creates a sense of character for a garment. Hussein Chalayan’s work is an example of how the use of film can enhance a fashion collection, and communicate to an audience how important the feel of a collection is. (The audience) not only sees Chalayan’s designs on mannequins, but feels the designs, and through film, you feel the larger world that the clothing might belong to”.

The idea of ‘controlling and completing the narrative’ quantifies film’s increasing commercial clout. The fashion industry is one that seems to be embracing, perhaps even commandeering its use as a creative and marketing tool. Bennett says, “All art forms are more interwoven than they ever were, and with the digital ether enveloping us, one can’t escape the fact that any artist has to embrace all media and all weaponry to hand. Fashion is no different. Film is part of the arsenal”. The Business of Fashion recently reported the results from a survey conducted by the US Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), which stated that almost 70% of marketers questioned were planning an increased use of digital video advertising.

 

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Alexander McQueen Fall / Winter 2008 “The Girl Who Lived In A Tree “

 

Understanding and utilizing film’s commercial sway is to be embraced, but regarding it as purely a commodity, fashion film risks losing its integrity. Filming pretty girls in pretty clothes does not suffice, as it is concept and narrative that really packs a punch. Surely telling a better story will undoubtedly generate a wider audience.

It needn’t be traditional narrative that’s explored though, as evolution is what’s exciting here. The Beauty of a Second, a spliced together sequence of one-second movies, was luxury accessories label Mont Blanc’s digital SS/12 campaign. The company launched an open submission to the public to upload their one-second videos, and the shortlisted result was strangely evocative, which in turn pioneered a new aspect of cinematography and story.

With most people having access to a digital filming device, film has become a democratized art form. But it is from the idea that a different perspective, one from which the voyeur – and potential consumer, dictates the aesthetic, that things begin to become interesting. Could the layman’s view be the new view? Lucas Watson, Vice-President of Global Sales and Industry Marketing at YouTube seems to think so, as he says: This is ‘an opportunity for a new view – previously unseen views. You’ll see a revolution in terms of a new view [through amateur and co-created video].’ And so, as film becomes its latest guide, the aesthetic and the commercial are set to evolve further still.

Article by Elle Hankinson for The Untitled Magazine
Photos courtesy of Joseph Bennett 

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