Desula tells the story of the women of Desulo, a small village in Sardinia, who are one of the few who still wear traditional costume dress in everyday life.
Now, I’m aware that there’s a difference between costume and fashion, as costume is generally about fashion of the past or a type of dress that has remained the same over a significant period of time, whilst fashion is about the now (and the future). However, I’d argue that Desula is still very much a fashion film since the costumes of the Desulo women are actually very recurrent in fashion today. Just take a look at these images I just plucked from the fast fashion chain zara.com (please note that I don’t mean to promote Zara in any way):
Contemporary trends are overloaded with references to traditional and ethnic cultures, and so there seems to be some kind of nostalgic feeling towards “ancient traditions” and craftsmanship. But what is so intriguing about this fashion film is this idea of having one special piece of clothing that has become unique precisely through the experiences of the living body inside, the individual’s memories attached to the garment, the emotions that can be traced back in the flaws of the garment, the changes of the fabric as it is lived through.
Since it is such a fundamental contrast to the way we consume clothing nowadays, their story and tradition has again become something fascinating through this film, and it evokes the desire to bond with a special piece of clothing, to infuse grounding meaning in those objects we live our lives in, and to express who we are through the livedness of our clothing, or because we customized it. The film promotes this idea that fashion becomes meaningful when it is deeply engaged with our emotional lives over a significant period of time. This accounts for a high degree of attachment to the clothing, which is exactly what is needed for a more durable fashion system.
Desula also is very much a nostalgic film towards the past, and goes back to this idea of dress as an expression of self, but in a much more literal way since the clothes only become what they are through the fact that they have been lived and worked by the women that have worn them all their lives. It is thus not at all about the expression of self as something that needs to be attracted from the outside through the purchasing of a great variety of clothes and association with different brandnames, but about the self that expresses itself from the inside out through the clothes, that is the user marks, the memories and the emotions that will (trans)form the clothes over time.
In short, Desula inhabits and re-fashions what is a radically revolutionary mentality towards clothes and fashion in our contemporary society. It is capable of promoting a different thinking about the consumption of fashion through the use of cinematic language. But most importantly, it reconnects the so-called “ethnical trends” that have been going on in contemporary fashion to their origins, and shows that it is fundamentally in contrast with the fast fashion system it is now being produced in…