If there’s one thing one should think is characteristic of fashion film, obviously, it is fashion. But what do we mean when we say fashion? Is it about a piece of clothing? An accessory? A style? An idea? A movement? A dream? What exactly is it that makes a film fashion? This is a question that is directly addressed by Danny Sangria’s ‘Speak the Truth’ series for Ray-Ban.
“All the crew and actors kept asking ‘where’s the product?’ I said, ‘there isn’t any’. Some brands just want to show their attitude to creativity.” (More)
One could argue that the fashion film can be traced back as far as the emergence of cinema. By identifying movement, time, rhythm, and metamorphosis as some of the vital features of the recent fashion film, Marketa Uhlirova has suggested some parallels between its aesthetics and that of some subgenera of early cinema. She describes this as the ‘Fashion Film effect.’ An example is the ever-changing shapes of Loïe Fuller’s dress in Serpentine Dance (1895).
“Cinema embraced costume as a device that can mesmerize and hypnotize the spectator, a dramatic and radiant entity with a potential for engendering multiple forms and optical effects.” – Uhlirova
This spectacular quality of film has also been called ‘cinema of attractions,’ which is about an impulse to make visible and to exhibit rather than to narrate.
In this case, it’s less about the actual dress than the fascinating effect of its metamorphosis captured on film, creating a certain ambience together with the hand-painted colors and, back then, maybe even live played piano music. It’s thus about the mesmerizing experience around the garment that is made possible through its captation on film.
With the overload of advertisement and product placement in our contemporary society, it’s something that has acquired a bad reputation and can scare people away. It’s smart for a brand to then rather create the illusion that nothing in particular is advertised in order to transcend their material commodities. Because what is even more important than a good product, is a good philosophy. Selling a certain idea or feeling comes before proposing products that are being attached to it. This filmic ambience is created through many aspects like the mise-en-scène, sound and cinematography, which together can create something in line with a certain idea of “fashion,” not uniquely the clothes themselves. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need film as a medium anymore.
Another public annoyance that goes hand in hand with the superficiality of the advertisement is the irrational hyped publicity around stardom and celebrity. Intelligently mocking people’s obsession with fame and parties on a Saturday night, Ray-Ban tries to capture the spirit of the media-savvy consumer by opting for a much more subtle technique of advertisement. Whilst of course still trying to sell something (the idea of a brand), the product is a film produced with much more creative input by the director and its team, resulting in a more diverse landscape of advertisement that is blurring the line between art and commerce, just like fashion itself.
Gunning, T. and A. Gaudrealt. ‘Early Cinema as a Challenge to Film History.’ The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded. Ed. W. Striven. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1986.
Uhlirova, Marketa. “The Fashion Film Effect.” Fashion Media. Ed. Djurdja Bartlett, Shaun Cole, and Agnès Rocamora. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.
Uhlirova, Marketa. “100 Years of the Fashion Film: Frameworks and Histories.” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture 17.2 (2013): 137–158.