When I’m being asked to explain what a fashion film is, one of the most common confusions people have is the difference with straight-up fashion commercials. They wonder, is the fashion film actually just a covered-up advertisement that is only made in order to stimulate the sales of fashion consumer goods? What exactly is it that distinguishes the fashion film from more traditional audiovisual publicities?
Let’s take the example of this fashion film for Ted Baker, which is clearly a parody on uber-fake and unrealistic television commercials, including shiny white teeth, an abusively frequent number of commercial breaks and flawless instagram-like imagery of typical sceneries that have already been photographed way too many times before (ehm, what’s the tower of Pisa doing there?). Everything is sleek from the moment our presenter starts walking along the seashore, with the boulevard functioning as a catwalk on which various fashionable figures exhibit their casual fabulousness, until that perfectly ‘lucky’ moment in which we happen to capture the engagement of a couple in a 6-star restaurant.
By mocking the overly explicit commercial messages of traditional advertising, this fashion film for Ted Baker wishes to rise above the same old worn-out tv commercials that we’re all so sick of. Ironically, this ridiculing only works here because of an over the top focus on cinematographic style. No matter when you decide to pause the film, the image will always look stunning. With the fashion film mainly being looked at online, this is a necessity, as the viewer can and will pause or decide to quit the video at any moment he or she wants. Unlike with traditional advertisement on television, the viewer/user is now in charge.
Even though the fashion film is always connected to the commercial fashion industry, since it could not exist without it, this doesn’t exclude the idea of using fashion in film as a means of artistic expression for the filmmaker. In fact, because the fashion film isn’t formatted like traditional commercials are, there is more creative freedom for the ideas of the director. Indeed, the fashion film is clearly different from fashion commercials in the way it wants to distance itself from explicit advertorial messages that are just repeating each other. One way to do this is by exaggerating and ridiculing fashion commercials’ obviousness, like Ted Baker. Another way is by completely eliminating any products of the brand the film is trying to promote, as is the case in a fashion film for Ray-Ban A fashion film without fashion?
What is most important is that the fashion film has to be desirable to watch as a means on its own, just like one would want to see any other film, unlike commercials which are likely to be avoided as much as possible. Instead, the aim of the fashion film is to create a more authentic experience than conventional advertising. The fashion film has become a product to be consumed in itself, not only the consumer goods the film implicitly tries to promote. As a result, the fashion film isn’t solely distributed by publicity agencies as something that is opposed to us, but instead it is spread by the consumers (of the fashion film, not necessarily of the clothing or accessories in it) themselves through the use of social media or blogs, which is why the fashion film is capable of circulating autonomously from the commercial fashion business, too.