Wed, 25 Feb 2015 18:10:31 GMT
I’m all about new experiences, but on Monday morning I was rather nervous that perhaps I’d agreed to a ‘first’ too far. I was, you see, making my inaugural London Fashion Week appearance – well, I’d been invited to Somerset House to check out some fashion films. It turns out I needn’t have been so apprehensive. No one there gave a flying Tom Ford what I was wearing, they were there to watch some really cool films and play with some rather stylish virtual reality toys.
I had been invited along by Stephen Whelan, EP at White Lodge (Blink’s fashion film offshoot) and an old mucker of mine from my time at Shots. He was showing off a new project for River Island (and helpfully pointing out Henry Holland and Gareth Pugh, because I am, frankly, a noob). White Lodge had produced a film with directing collective Dvein which had then been transformed into a downloadable VR experience, with the help of the team at Happy Finish. Branded Google Cardboard viewers were available for the gathered fashionistas and press, allowing them to immerse themselves in a world of kingfishers and polished chrome.
It really got me thinking about how the world of fashion film has totally transformed over the past few years. There’s more of it, for one thing, but it’s also more innovative and strategic than ever before too.
The first big feature I wrote about fashion film was in 2006 or thereabout. Back then the strategic thought behind them could be roughly categorised as “collection display” or “creative brand building” (or, somewhat less kindly, “moving catalogue” and “low budget wank”). Things have progressed considerably. Fashion labels, like most other brands, now appreciate the need to reach and touch audiences with engaging content. And as demand has grown, so too has the quality. At its core, fashion is about creativity, style and detail so, naturally, that has translated into the film world as an attention to craft and the pursuit of aesthetic innovation, but these days fashion films seem to be more purposeful and less self-indulgent. To the outsider they can still seem inaccessible or, well, a bit wanky but how exciting is it to see brands embrace creativity that isn’t afraid to be challenging, difficult and fresh?
But there’s more to it than a simple desire for content or to reach audiences who didn’t quite make it to the front row at Fashion Week. The proliferation of new screens and new ways of shopping means that brands need to think creatively about how to make the most of evolving behaviours whilst staying true to a label’s own creative ethos. River Island’s Design Forum x Jean-Pierre Braganza project ultimately functions as a driver to the brand’s e-retail platform.
It’s also about making sure your brand gets column inches and double-page spread action in newspapers, glossies and blogs. With every human settlement of over 300 people getting its own Fashion Week (approximately speaking) and the annual schedule getting ever-more crowded, some skinny girls in nice frocks are no longer guaranteed to get you the coverage (unless you’ve cast Cara Delevigne and Kendall Jenner in your runway show and they start jelly-wrestling). Eye-catching innovation, exclusive or extra content – it all helps to ensure that you’re the belle amongst belles at the ball.
And it’s not just traditional film content for new screens that’s in demand. Fashion brands are approaching creative production companies to help enliven their runway shows with theatrics, projections and novel experiences.
As we checked out the films screening at Fashion Week – Gareth Pugh had a striking and bloody short by Ruth Hogben projected onto vertical screens and Henry Holland’s hyperactively kitsch spot served as an early morning caffeine substitute – Stephen and I chatted about the way fashion film (or, more accurately, content) has really exploded. When he first opened White Lodge, I know there were a few months of stress and anxiety and worry that the demand for fashion-focused production companies might not be there. Now, though, he’s busy, insanely busy, flying round the world on a seemingly endless schedule. As a barometer of fashion marketing as a whole, it signals good health. And on the editorial side of things, we’re seeing more fashion films and projects in the course of a week than I ever did in my first year of covering the creative industries.
Fashion and advertising are industries that sit in parallel lines, both heading in the same direction but never quite touching. For one thing there are too many 40-something ECDs in board shorts and Vans for there to be much interaction (no wonder many fashion labels and brands skip the ad agency and work directly with production houses…). But the changing face of fashion marketing is a real education in strategy that keeps creativity – no matter how challenging or obscure that creativity may be – at its heart.