Fashion Film: Art and Advertising in the Digital Age 9780857856661, 9780857857002, 9781474285995, 9781472519177

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Fashion Film: Art and Advertising in the Digital Age
 9780857856661, 9780857857002, 9781474285995, 9781472519177

Table of contents :
Title Page
Copyright Page
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It
Part 1 Promotion: Digital Fashion Film
Visual communications
Hyper-advertising and the mini-film event
Branded experience, artistic exploration, and cultural critique
Hybrid content: Fashion film and music video
Editorial convergence and spreadable content
Film and branded entertainment
Conceptual fashion film
Narrative fashion film
Commodity auteurism
Promotional genres
Part 2 Process: Documentary Fashion Film
Behind the scenes
The staging of labor
In and out of fashion with William Klein
Backstage with Loïc Prigent
Reframing fashion history
Filming everyday fashion
The fashion photographer on film
The fashion model on film
Part 3 Personalities: Designer Fashion Film
Masters of style
Designer lives
Curating Chanel
Documenting Dior
All about Yves
The Warhol legacy
Conclusion: The End of Fashion Film

Citation preview

Fashion Film


Fashion Film Art and Advertising in the Digital Age Nick Rees-Roberts

BLOOMSBURY VISUAL ARTS Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA BLOOMSBURY, BLOOMSBURY VISUAL ARTS and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in Great Britain 2018 Copyright © Nick Rees-Roberts, 2018 Nick Rees-Roberts has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. For legal purposes the Acknowledgments on p. xiv constitute an extension of this copyright page. Cover image © Kate Moss by Nick Knight for i-D Magazine 2010, courtesy of Nick Knight/SHOWstudio All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. ISBN: HB: 978-0-8578-5666-1 PB: 978-0-8578-5700-2 ePDF: 978-1-4725-1917-7 eBook: 978-1-4725-1918-4 Typeset by Deanta Global Publishing Services, Chennai, India

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Once again to Silvano with love And in memory of Alan Sinfield (1941-2017), an inspiring intellectual and a kind man


Contents List of Illustrations Acknowledgments Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It Part 1  Promotion: Digital Fashion Film



Behind the scenes 75 The staging of labor 84 In and out of fashion with William Klein 90 Backstage with Loï c Prigent 97 Reframing fashion history 102 Filming everyday fashion 108 The fashion photographer on film 111 The fashion model on film 113

Part 3: Personalities: Designer Fashion Film


Visual communications 18 Hyper-advertising and the mini-film event 21 Branded experience, artistic exploration, and cultural critique 24 Hybrid content: Fashion film and music video 32 Editorial convergence and spreadable content 36 Film and branded entertainment 39 Conceptual fashion film 41 Narrative fashion film 47 Commodity auteurism 56 Promotional genres 63

Part 2  Process: Documentary Fashion Film

ix xiv


Masters of style 131 Designer lives 136 Curating Chanel 146



Documenting Dior 155 All about Yves 158 The Warhol legacy 168

Conclusion: The End of Fashion Film


Bibliography Index

193 206

List of Illustrations Figures Figure 0.1 Lizzy Caplan in Fashion Film (2013). Credits: Matthew Frost (director) and Iconoclast (producer) 2 Figure 1.1 Marie Schuller’s film showcasing the SS 2015 Versus Versace collaboration with Antony Vaccarello, produced by Dazed Digital. Credits: Marie Schuller (director) and Dazed Digital (producer) 18 Figure 1.2 Under (2014). Credits: Kevin Frilet (director), Human Films (producer), and Nicolas Petris (director of photography) 26 Figure 1.3 Fallen (2015). Credits: Kevin Frilet (director), Psycho (producer), and Nicolas Petris (director of photography) 26 Figure 1.4 Headpieces for Peace (2011). Credit: Jessica Mitrani (director) 29 Figure 1.5 The Waist (2012). Credits: Kristian Schuller and Marie Schuller (directors), SHOWstudio (producer) 45 Figure 1.6 Noir (2013). Credits: Marie Schuller (director) for Dice Kayek (designer) and SHOWstudio (producer) 45 Figure 2.1 Loïc Prigent filming Le Jour d’avant (The Day Before). Credits: Loïc Prigent (director) and Lalala Productions (producer) 89 Figure 2.2 William Klein’s satire of Paris fashion, Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) (1966). Credits: William Klein (director) and Robert Delpire (producer) 92 Figure 2.3 Grayson Hall as Miss Maxwell, the overbearing fashion editor in Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) (1966). Credits: William Klein (director), Robert Delpire (producer) 95 Figure 2.4 The absurd futuristic fashion show in Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) (1966). Credits: William Klein (director) and Robert Delpire (producer) 95


List of Illustrations

Figure 2.5 Faye Dunaway as Lou Andreas Sand, the fading fashion model in Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970). Credits: Jerry Schatzberg (director) and John Foreman (producer) 116 Figure 2.6 Faye Dunaway as Lou Andreas Sand, the fashion model as prey in Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970). Credits: Jerry Schatzberg (director) and John Foreman (producer) 116 Figure 2.7 Between performance and reality: Faye Dunaway as Lou Andreas Sand, in Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970). Credits: Jerry Schatzberg (director) and John Foreman (producer) 118 Figure 3.1 Audrey Tautou as Gabrielle Chanel at work in the studio in Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel) (2009). Credits: Anne Fontaine (director), Simon Arnal, Caroline Benjo, Philippe Carcassonne, and Carole Scotta (producers) 151 Figure 3.2 Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen as the famous lovers in Coco Chanel et Igor Stravinsky (2009). Credits: Jan Kounen (director), Claudie Ossard, and Chris Bolzli (producers) 152 Figure 3.3 The Christian Dior studio in the documentary Dior et moi (Dior and I, 2014). Credits: Frédéric Tcheng (director) and Guillaume de Roquemaurel (producer) 156 Figure 3.4 Pierre Niney in the “authorized” version of the life of the designer, Yves Saint Laurent (2014). Credits: Jalil Lespert (director), Wassim Béji, and Yannick Bolloré (producers) 159 Figure 3.5 The Visconti legacy. Helmut Berger as the older face of the designer in the auteur biopic, Saint Laurent (2014). Credits: Bertrand Bonello (director), Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, and Christophe Lambert (producers) 162 Figure 3.6 Fashionable cruising. Louis Garrel as Jacques de Bascher in Saint Laurent (2014). Credits: Bertrand Bonello (director), Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, and Christophe Lambert (producers) 173

Plates Plate 1 Plate 2

Early experiments in digital fashion film. Sweet (2000). Credits: Nick Knight (director) and Jane How (stylist) Early experiments in live broadcasting. Sleep (2001). Credits: Nick Knight (director), Simon Hoxton (stylist),

List of Illustrations

Plate 3 Plate 4 Plate 5 Plate 6 Plate 7

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and Jonathan Kaye (stylist). The pixilation of this screen capture is due to the quality of early digital technology Fallen (2015). Credits: Kevin Frilet (director), Psycho (producer), and Nicolas Petris (director of photography) Fallen (2015). Credits: Kevin Frilet (director), Psycho (producer), and Nicolas Petris (director of photography) Jumper (2014). Credits: Justin Anderson (director) and Jonathan Saunders (designer and stylist) Jumper (2014). Credits: Justin Anderson (director) and Jonathan Saunders (designer and stylist) Givenchy Le Rouge (2016). Credits: Marie Schuller (director), SwissKiss (producer), and Nicolas Loir (director of photography) Givenchy Le Rouge (2016). Credits: Marie Schuller (director), SwissKiss (producer), and Nicolas Loir (director of photography) Bright New Things (2016) from the film directed by Marie Schuller for the initiative by London department store Selfridges to promote UK sustainable design labels. Credit: Marie Schuller (director) Change Is a Beautiful Thing (2014) from the film directed by Kathryn Ferguson for the Selfridges Beauty Project. Credit: Kathryn Ferguson (director) The Raf Simons début couture presentation for Christian Dior in 2012 from the documentary film Dior et moi (Dior and I, 2014). Credits: Frédéric Tcheng (director) and Guillaume de Roquemaurel (producer) The Masters, a campaign film by Marie Schuller and SHOWstudio for Selfridges (Autumn/Winter 2014). Credit: Marie Schuller (director) Raf Simons in the Dior studio in Dior et moi (Dior and I, 2014). Credits: Frédéric Tcheng (director) and Guillaume de Roquemaurel (producer) Jean-Paul Gaultier at work reimagining his most famous designs in a scene from Loïc Prigent’s documentary, Jean-Paul Gaultier travaille (2015). Credits: Loïc Prigent (director), Bangumi, ARTE, GEIE (producers)



Plate 15

Plate 16 Plate 17

Plate 18

Plate 19 Plate 20 Plate 21

Plate 22

Plate 23

Plate 24 Plate 25

List of Illustrations

Reshma, a worker in a textile recycling plant in Panipat, India, in Meghna Gupta’s short documentary, Unravel (2012). Credit: Meghna Gupta (director and producer) Stories from unwanted clothes in Unravel (2012). Credit: Meghna Gupta (director and producer) Fashion film as cultural critique. Headpieces for Peace (2011), directed by Jessica Mitrani for threeASFOUR. Credit: Jessica Mitrani (director) Fashion film as cultural critique. Headpieces for Peace (2011), directed by Jessica Mitrani for threeASFOUR. Credit: Jessica Mitrani (director) Kristin Stewart in Personal Shopper, directed by Olivier Assayas (2016). Credit: Olivier Assayas (director) Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria, directed by Olivier Assayas (2014). Credit: Olivier Assayas (director) Gaspard Ulliel as designer Yves Saint Laurent in the recreation of the 1976 “Opéra-Ballets Russes” collection in the biographical film Saint Laurent, directed by Bertrand Bonello (2014). Credits: Bertrand Bonello (director), Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, and Christophe Lambert (producers) Striking a pose. Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent framed by his muses Loulou de la Falaise (Léa Seydoux) and Betty Catroux (Aymeline Valade) in Saint Laurent (2014). Credits: Bertrand Bonello (director), Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, and Christophe Lambert (producers) Directing fashion. Elle Fanning as Jesse, the ingénue model, with director Nicolas Winding Refn on the set of The Neon Demon (2016). Credits: Nicolas Winding Refn (director), Elle Fanning (actor), and ©Gunther Campine (photographer) Model cannibals. The fashion shoot from The Neon Demon. Credit: Nicolas Winding Refn (director) Elle Fanning as Jesse in The Neon Demon. Credits: Nicolas Winding Refn (director), Elle Fanning (actor), and ©Gunther Campine (photographer)

List of Illustrations

Plate 26

Plate 27

Plate 28

Plate 29

Plate 30

Disturbing beauty. Examining the impact of fashion media on young girls in Marie Schuller’s contribution, Am I Ugly?, to the Nowness series Define Beauty. Credit: Marie Schuller (director) The catwalk film. Live-streaming the runway in Plato’s Atlantis, directed by Nick Knight for Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2010. Credits: Nick Knight (director), Ruth Hogben (director), and Alexander McQueen (designer) “This is not a show”: fashion presented through film (Gareth Pugh S/S 2018). Credits: Nick Knight (director), Gareth Pugh (designer), Younji Ku (editor/art director), Katie Shillingford (stylist), and Olivier de Sagazan (artist) “This is not a show”: fashion presented through film (Gareth Pugh S/S 2018). Credits: Nick Knight (director), Gareth Pugh (designer), Younji Ku (editor/art director), Katie Shillingford (stylist), and Olivier de Sagazan (artist) “This is not a show”: fashion presented through film (Gareth Pugh S/S 2018). Credits: Nick Knight (director), Gareth Pugh (designer), Younji Ku (editor/art director), Katie Shillingford (stylist), and Olivier de Sagazan (artist)


Acknowledgments The long journey I took to finish this book began in 2012 when I first mentioned the idea to Anna Wright, then commissioning editor for fashion titles at Bloomsbury, who encouraged me to develop a proposal. I thank Anna for commissioning the book and to my subsequent editors, Emily Roessler, Hannah Crump, and Frances Arnold for being so committed to the project and so patient while they waited for the manuscript. I have a number of friends and colleagues to thank in France, the UK, and elsewhere: Maxime Cervulle for commissioning a short piece on the subject for the French journal POLI: Politique de l’image in  2011, which first made me think about the subject more thoroughly. An invitation later that year to speak at the Film and Fashion seminar at the University of Nottingham at Ningbo in China also helped me to formulate some early thoughts and I would like to thank Armida de la Garza for organizing the event and to the other participants, particularly Eugenia Paulicelli, Sarah Street, and Pamela Church Gibson for their feedback. I am indebted to Pamela for her support and friendship throughout and for engaging with my ideas at every stage. At the University of the Arts London, I am extremely grateful to Agnès Rocamora for early collaboration on fashion and screen media, Marketa Uhlirova for reading and engaging with the manuscript in so much detail and for her invitation to interview Nick Knight at the Fashion in Film Festival in London in 2015, and Caroline Evans for her constant encouragement and generous invitations to give talks, and for commenting so insightfully on a late draft of the manuscript. I also thank Shaun Cole, who kindly invited me to act as external examiner for the MA in Fashion Cultures at the London College of Fashion, where it was a privilege to engage with the inspiring work of so many postgraduate students, and Nilgin Yusuf for inviting me to speak at the “New Medium, Diverse Messages: Convention and Transgression in the Fashion Film” event at LCF in 2014. Closer to home, I thank my colleagues Éric Maigret and Raphaëlle Moine at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris for invitations to give research papers and for their warm welcome to French academic life. At Parsons Paris, I would like to thank Émilie Hammen and Marco Pecorari for inviting me to lecture their MA students, who gave me such thoughtful feedback. Beyond Europe, I would also like to thank Chen Chen, senior video editor at Vogue China,



for his insights into fashion film in China and Hilary Radner from the University of Otago, New Zealand, for her continuing encouragement and interest in the project. A number of the filmmakers whose work features in the book very generously engaged with my ideas and provided some of the illustrations. Thank you to Justin Anderson, Kathryn Ferguson, Kevin Frilet, Matthew Frost, Meghna Gupta, Jessica Mitrani, and Marie Schuller. Olivier Meyrou also very kindly allowed me to view his unreleased documentary Célébration. Thank you to Elle Fanning and Nicolas Winding Refn for allowing me to use images from The Neon Demon. Finally, I’m extremely grateful to both Charlotte and Nick Knight at SHOWstudio for their interest in the project and for so generously providing not only the alluring cover image but also some of the others inside. Last but not least, thank you to Kate Moss for green-lighting the cover. Earlier drafts of some of the ideas in the book were published in different versions in Film, Fashion and Consumption, The Journal of European Popular Culture, and Fashion Tales: Feeding the Imaginary (Peter Lang: 2017). I am grateful to the editors for granting me permission to use parts of that material here. On a more personal note, I want to thank friends and family for love and support, particularly Anissa Eddnadni and Günter Tschiderer for their friendship, Tim Rees-Roberts for constant encouragement and technical prowess, and Silvano Mendes, whose thoughts have nourished my own, whose love has sustained me throughout, and without whom this book would never have been written. Paris, February 2018.


“The material world of commodities and technologies is profoundly cultural” Stuart Hall

Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It

In an online promo for the Viva Vena! line of the New York label Vena Cava entitled Fashion Film (Frost 2013), filmmaker Matthew Frost takes a potshot at the perceived pretentions of the genre. It features actress Lizzy Caplan as an ethereal blogger, who drifts through a retro bohemian world, an affected hipster dreaming of artistic authenticity. Frost uses a sun-drenched filter and languid close-ups of the clothes to ape the visual style of advertising. Frost’s parody is a meta-fashion film, as Caplan is rudely awakened from her reverie by an impatient girlfriend. “WTF are you doing?” she snaps. “I’m in a fashionart film,” Caplan replies nonplussed. “It’s a commercial,” the other girl explains dismissively. “Ads evolve into new forms as media landscape shifts,” reported the New York Times in 2016, detailing a media trend that had emerged over the course of the previous decade in which “advertisers and publishers are now looking for ways to make online ads look less like ads.” With the shift to the investment in and consumption of digital content over print media, “advertisers want their ads to look less like ads even as they are fighting harder for attention.”1 Strategies of covert promotion through online branded content and entertainment vehicles like the type of short, arty films parodied in Frost’s promo have become a key component of today’s fashion media. Online imagesharing culture across media platforms like Instagram or Pinterest (or through looping video apps like Twitter’s defunct platform Vine) has participated in the gradual transformation of fashion—a business and a concept that straddles commerce and culture—from a formerly elitist activity for those in the know into a popular wing of the global entertainment industry. But, as journalist Suzy Menkes remarked in 2013 in an article on what she considered the circus of fashion, “If fashion is for everyone, is it fashion? The answer goes far beyond the collections and relates to the speed of fast fashion. There is no longer a time gap between when a small segment of fashion-conscious people pick up a trend and when it is all over the sidewalks.”2 Indeed, one might add, the internet


Fashion Film

Figure 0.1  Lizzy Caplan in Fashion Film (2013). Credits: Matthew Frost (director) and Iconoclast (producer).

is today’s sidewalk, and, at times, today’s catwalk too. In the era of globalized fast fashion, luxury brand conglomeration, e and m-commerce, and, most crucially for our discussion here, the coexistence of fashion as material object and digital image, popular moving-image culture also seems to be enamored with fashion. Since the start of the new millennium, the proliferation of fiction films, biopics, television series, investigative reports, behind-the-scenes documentaries, and other online journalistic formats about fashion as both industry and culture testifies to the emergence of increasingly fashion-literate publics, both on and off-line. However, do all these diverse audiovisual formats come under the umbrella of fashion film? And how do different publics—commentators, practitioners, or critics—use and understand the term? Is fashion film the genre synonymous with the fashion film singular? A brief survey of various online “listicles” of the top ten fashion films is helpful in capturing the different understandings and meanings currently in circulation. The Business of Fashion, the online industry news and analysis platform, issues an annual top ten fashion films of the season, including both the designer branded communications films (labels frequently cited for successful integrated audiovisual strategy in recent years include Gucci, Kenzo, Prada, Miu Miu, and Alexander Wang), online editorial entertainment and infotainment films (sponsored and hosted by digital interfaces such as Vogue, Dazed Digital, or i-D Vice), and more conceptual fashion-video-art projects, such as those curated by photographer

Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It


Nick Knight’s online archive, SHOWstudio. At A Shaded View on Fashion Film, the annual festival hosted by blogger, filmmaker, and former designer Diane Pernet in Paris, the short films in competition are often categorized into subgenres such as communication, reflection, or music video, thereby differentiating them from the fiction and documentary feature films shown in parallel. Pernet’s festival also spotlights the emergence of fashion film beyond the content production of the global mega-brands or the artistic traditions of the Western avant-garde. For example, Holi Holy (Sikka 2013), a short promo for New Delhi designer Manish Arora, which won the festival’s grand prize in 2013, celebrates the widows of Varanasi, who defied tradition to play Holi, the festival of color, for the first time in 2013. Bejeweled garments representative of the designer’s psychedelic pop aesthetic adorn the body of musician and performance artist Bishi Bhattacharya while she is filmed parading through the streets of the ancient city. Yet, beyond the confines of the fashion industry the fashion film means something altogether different. Timed to coincide with the release in 2016 of Ben Stiller’s comedy Zoolander No. 2, a sequel to the broad parody of the industry that included hologram cameos from industry celebs from Kate Moss to Anna Wintour, the British Guardian concocted its own canon of the best ever fashion films, made up entirely of features, both fictional and nonfictional—from classics like Cover Girl (Vidor 1944), Funny Face (Donen 1957) and Blow-Up (Antonioni 1966) to contemporary examples such as The Devil Wears Prada (Frankel 2006) and The September Issue (Cutler 2009); from high-brow portraits of designers— Yohji Yamamoto in Notebooks on Cities and Clothes (Wenders 1989)—to long forgotten rom-coms like Mannequin (Gottlieb 1987), in which a window-dresser falls in love with his animated model. Topping the readers’ poll was the everpopular Clueless (Heckerling 1995), now considered a cult guide to mid-1990s designer extravagance and grunge styling. It’s a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, transposed to Beverly Hills, starring Alicia Silverstone as the high-school do-gooder Cher Horowitz, who, in one spectacular moment, is robbed at gunpoint and humiliatingly forced to lie down on the sidewalk in her expensive Alaï a gown. The prince of the silhouette is glossed by the coutureobsessed Cher to her assailant as “a totally important designer.” This enduring film was so popular years later that rapper Iggy Azalea tailored the video for her single Fancy in 2014 as a shot-by-shot homage to some of its most memorable scenes. Silverstone’s head-to-toe yellow plaid mall look also featured in celebrity magazine Hello!’s coverage in 2017 of the “top ten fashion films that influenced our wardrobes,” which drew on the perennial imprint of classic Hollywood films


Fashion Film

and stars such as Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Edwards 1961) and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (Marshall 1990).3 From Hollywood stars to below-the-radar promos, from industry documentaries to big-brand entertainment, the fashion film is a slippery signifier, used to denote different types of filmmaking in different contexts. The paradox of fashion film is precisely the absence of any consensus as to its actual contours. By interweaving short-form commercial film with narrative feature film, I argue that the standard definition of fashion film as a discrete textual form of moving image that evolved as a minor form of filmmaking through the twentieth century to display fashionable clothing has been challenged by the expansion of digital media convergence and the increasing importance to fashion brands of an online social media video content that is both immersive and interactive. Superseding an analog understanding in which the presentational display of the garment was the focal point, a contemporary digital reconceptualization of fashion film in its multiple guises—as both media image and cultural representation—must account for the popular discourses of the global entertainment industry along with the branded communications of the luxury-designer industry. In light of the terminological blur surrounding the phenomenon, I begin with some initial questions, definitions, and parameters to establish an overarching framework for this inquiry into the multiple forms of fashion film. These questions fall into three clusters that span form, diffusion, and content. First, what is fashion film? Who makes it and for what purposes? Who consumes it and in what contexts? Who are its leading practitioners? What does a fashion film look like and what are its defining characteristics? Is it a medium, a genre, or a mode of filmmaking? What makes a good fashion film? Is its success down to dramatic content (its use of narrative and storytelling) or formal style (its use of aesthetic experimentation and innovative design)? Second, how are fashion films spread across the internet? What communicational channels and platforms are used to diffuse fashion film? Is it merely a fad created by digital marketing or, instead, will it supersede photography as the principal means of communicating fashion? In our age of digital reproduction, how is the fashion film used today as a key visual means to stimulate the ever-growing numbers of electronic and increasingly mobile consumers? And third, with its postmodern reliance on stylistic quotation and cinematic allusion, to what extent does the fashion film operate as a parasitical medium for the promotion of the global luxury megabrands? Alternatively, could the form operate as a more critical vehicle for

Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It


oppositional types of cultural representation that question the consumer-driven status quo? This book is a theoretical inquiry into the multiple forms of contemporary fashion film, or more precisely—fashion moving image, whose ecosystem crosses the creative industries of fashion, design, and image with the media industries of promotion, communications, and film. Although I have not designed the book as an introductory guide to the subject—nor is it intended as a comprehensive A to Z of fashion film with the aim of providing an encyclopedic overview— it is nevertheless the first monographic treatment of the subject. My aim first and foremost is to provide readers with a critical and theoretically informed framework from which to engage with the form’s contemporary sensibilities, tendencies, shapes, and boundaries, and to do this, where possible, in an historical continuum with pre-digital forms of filmmaking. In writing this book, I have sought to open up ways of thinking about the relationship between fashion and the moving image by exploring a number of critical concepts, debates, and question marks from within the specific production contexts of both fashion design and moving image, two discrete but interlinked creative and commercial territories. From an academic perspective, the book attempts to provide readers with an in-depth coverage of the field of contemporary fashion film by attending to a broad range of artistic representations and cultural forms that include advertising and promotional film, documentary and actuality film, and entertainment and fiction film. I seek to provide answers to the questions outlined above by addressing the topic from the parallel perspectives of contemporary moving-image culture (from the critical intersection of cinema, advertising, and digital communications) and contemporary fashion (from the interdisciplinary histories and cultures of creative design and image-making). To begin, here is a broad definition: fashion film is primarily understood by those within the fashion industry to refer to the production of digital video content and branded entertainment commissioned by designer labels and fashion houses as a promotional tool. It is seen as an integral component of today’s networked culture as a type of “spreadable” media content.4 This type of fashion film tends to be produced by designers, brands, media, or retailers. As the consumption of online video has steadily risen since the 2000s with fashion houses gradually morphing into production studios that produce both material objects and digital content, short fashion films have become central elements of the PR, communications, and advertising of all the major global designer brands. The evolution of fashion publishing worldwide has led to the increased


Fashion Film

centrality of digital interfaces to the commercial operations of venerable publications like Vogue. Its recent Chinese iteration, Vogue China, for example, which was launched in 2005, has invested heavily in digital to accompany the print magazine with a social media network, iPad and iPhone apps (Vogue Mini) alongside Vogue Film and Vogue TV, hosted by video platform Youku.5 Unlike the Western preference for runway and reportage videos, Vogue China’s selection promotes a range of short art fashion films for global brands, which are performed by Chinese models, actors, and celebrities and specifically tailored for a national consumer audience. Fashion film is often problematically perceived as a new form emerging with both the advent of digital technology and the corporate consolidation of global fashion brands, both of which have intensified and accelerated since the start of the new millennium. As a product of multimedia convergence—cultural, economic, and technological—fashion film exists as a hybrid genre, a mixed form of online filmmaking mostly produced in short-form to display fashion in motion.6 Its underlying creative purpose is to make a moving-image statement about fashion. The various types of contemporary fashion film range from the popular and mainstream to the more arty and experimental. A schematic overview might differentiate the big-budget commercials or campaign films made by famous film directors or prestigious photographers for the leading fashion houses that are rolled out as part of larger advertising campaigns in stores and across the internet, television, and cinema from the cheaper, low-fi promos (more often) made by emerging filmmakers to display the collections of up-and-coming designers, sometimes in lieu of a runway show, and shown at prominent niche festivals in global fashion capitals such as London, Milan, and Paris, and other emerging fashion cities such as Berlin, Copenhagen, and Istanbul. At its narrowest, one primary function of online filmmaking for the fashion industry is promotional via the live broadcast or permanent diffusion of a catwalk show. To be sure, the catwalk video was not invented with the internet. Through the 1980s designers and retailers began to use ambient mood films in boutiques and on catwalks, but it wasn’t until the tail end of the decade that the live show began occasionally to be bypassed by video. At the Winter/Fall 1990 London fashion weekend (as it was then), journalists remarked on rising star Rifat Ö zbek’s use of a twenty-minute music video, Millennium, directed by filmmaker, John Maybury, to replace the live show. Then a fashion designer favored by pop stars and celebs like Madonna and Princess Diana, now a textiles designer,

Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It


fashion film made Ö zbek the talk of the town. In an era before the explosion of fast fashion and global luxury, before moving images of fashion weeks were live-streamed across the fashion capitals of the world, Ö zbek’s experimental use of video that used special effects technology was considered the weekend’s most spectacular event and stunned viewers with “a blast of brilliant color,” according to one journalist’s report. “Models drifted and floated across the screen against a shifting field of kaleidoscopic images.”7 The specific industry understanding and use of film as essentially a communicational activity—as a digital marketing tool or an editorial image of fashion—is complemented, in parallel, by the more historically and generically expansive use of the label, more often by cultural critics, academics, and journalists, to include more varied formats such as the feature film, in both its fiction and nonfiction forms. Theorists of fashion and film understand the label in different ways. In her study of fashion and celebrity culture, in which she argues for a truly interdisciplinary approach to contemporary visual culture in which “images now “bleed” right across the whole spectrum of the media through its formerly discrete strands, from cinema and television to fashion shoot and advertising,”8 Pamela Church Gibson has used the label “fashion films” to indicate narratives “where the fashion presence is central and celebrity-linked.”9 Fashion, she avers, is the star of the show in a number of popular backstage feature films from Prê t-à -porter (Altman 1994) to The Devil Wears Prada (Frankel 2006). Hilary Radner, for her part, distinguishes between films about the industry, such as Altman’s, from a more localized understanding of the fashion film in twenty-first-century screen culture as one which transcends product placement to embed narrative within an elaborate consumer environment, which is staged to promote fashion. “The film’s function,” she argues, “as a shop window is not secondary to its story.” This type of production “self-consciously plays upon the attraction that fashion and style, as an element in the larger media industries, may hold for its potential audience as part of the film’s conception and promotion.”10 One key strand of my argument here is that fashion film has now slipped from the fashion industry into popular culture more broadly, and is now more simply understood by a mainstream audience to refer to fiction and nonfiction feature films with fashion as the topic rather than as the vehicle. One might say that while pop culture has embraced the fashion film to denote a wideranging corpus of films about designers, editors, image-makers, and celebrities, the fashion industry, driven by the agenda and mind-set of marketing, has moved on from pre-digital generic labels for discrete visual or textual objects


Fashion Film

like the “commercial” or “fashion film” to embrace the more commercially profitably hybrid concepts of “motion content” and “branded entertainment” in digital moving image, which have now been integrated into the broader commercial landscape of visual communications. Beyond “content” such as films commissioned and financed by and for the fashion industry to promote collections, brands, or concepts, one might also consider those more traditional forms of popular entertainment such as long-form, narrative fiction films that stage fashion set pieces—the historical prototype for this is the classic Hollywood musical Funny Face—or those, in a more contemporary context, that embed fashion spectacularly into the narrative either through costuming and styling, or through commercially lucrative brand integration techniques like script inclusion and product placement. Examples might include the hyperbolic brand name-checking and celebrity cameo appearances in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (Fletcher 2016), or the pack shots of the patchwork denim Louis Vuitton handbag and the close-ups of the Manolo Blahnik heels used as a prop to replace a diamond ring for the marriage proposal in the first Sex and the City movie (King 2008). This last example shows how product placement is now more than the simple visibility of the product within the frame like the overdetermined sports cars that symbolize James Bond’s all-consuming virility. In the case of the spectacular visibility afforded to the Louis Vuitton luggage as a metaphorical vehicle for the characters’ own emotional baggage in Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited (Anderson 2007), the luxury product can also play a more integrated dramatic role within the narrative, thereby supporting both the film and the brand’s different understandings of visual storytelling. Feature film narrative is not only commercially valuable for its synergistic potential to place and promote products. The film can also become a fashion brand in itself. Take the popular Kingsman franchise, which was developed from a spy action-comedy comic book series written by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. The two Kingsman films to date, The Secret Service released in 2015 and The Golden Circle in 2017, both directed by Matthew Vaughn, are not simply long-form fashion films, which, to adopt Radner’s definition, self-consciously play with the audience’s potential investment in menswear; they are also fully fledged consumer experiences that give rise to a form of product film, in which consumers can potentially purchase items from a co-branded collection while they watch the film. Despite its inscription within fashion and consumption, the Kingsman franchise attempts to reroute the action spy thriller genre through comedy, a feature neglected by the new-look Bond films since Casino Royale

Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It


(Campbell 2006) and the ninja spy persona of the Jason Bourne franchise since the early 2000s. The incongruous casting of Kingsman also aimed to combine specific national and class styles (English upper-class tweeds in the first outing and all-American casuals in the sequel) with postmodern pop references to anime violence and a digital mash-up sensibility. The Kingsmen of the title compose a fraternity of secret English spies modeled on the Knights of the Round Table, who have saved the world for generations. Harry Hart, played by the crisply suited Colin Firth, recruits a young working-class boy at the moment when an evil technophile played by Samuel L. Jackson aspires to wipe out humanity. To perfect the art of elegant combat, the recruit is initiated into the world of made-to-measure tailoring at Savile Row in the shop that serves as a front for the fraternity. (Kingsman is a barely veiled reference to the Savile Row tailor, Huntsman, whose head cutter makes a cameo appearance during the scenes shot in the store’s actual tailoring rooms.) The operation is run by Michael Caine, who had risen to fame in the 1960s in part thanks to the role of a stylish antihero in the classic spy film, The Ipcress File (Furie 1965). Caine’s own working-class persona, memorably photographed wearing his emblematic black-rimmed glasses by David Bailey for his box of pin-ups in 1965, distinguished him as an ordinary icon of the era, a new brand of male celebrity born with the emergence of the popular consumer culture of the decade. Beyond the fashionable casting, the Kingsman franchise is also a product of its age, chiming with the digital intensification of image culture through the commercial vehicles of fashion and film. Here, the initiative involved a co-branding operation between the Kingsman films and the luxury men’s e-tailer, Mr Porter, who collaborated with the costume designer Arianne Phillips to create a capsule collection fashioned around the film’s various looks. The partnership articulates a conventional vision of straight masculinity that consists of sellable items such as formal suits and accessories such as belts and ties. The Mr Porter site acts as both editor and content provider by supplying style tips, editorial, and video content that shows off the Kingsman product range of Savile Row suits, and which provides the contextual background to the collection including extracts from the films, interviews, and behind-the-scenes images—a network of “paratexts” to accompany the film’s release and to ensure its cultural afterlife through retail. In short, the film franchise has morphed into a luxury brand. The retailer’s commercial investment is considerable given the upfront costs needed to produce the collection unlike the conventional practices of product placement, in which a production company does not tend to pay for goods and in which the


Fashion Film

brand benefits from on-screen exposure and the publicity generated by the film’s success. This sort of operation goes beyond the traditional “tie-in” initiative since the transformation of the feature film into the fashion brand secures its legacy beyond a limited theatrical release. The commercial feasibility of the film’s clothing line clearly depends on the box-office success of the film—a worldwide gross of some four hundred and fourteen million dollars in the case of Kingsman—and its transformation into a sustainable franchise.11 To coincide with the release in late 2017 of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which introduced the US statesmen, Mr Porter rolled out its own sequel, again inspired by Phillips’ costumes, which blended the traditional English tailoring with a range of iconographic Americana garments such as denim jeans, Stetson hats, and Mister Freedom bomber jackets. By 2017, the retailer claimed Kingsman as one of its “top performing luxury brands, six fashion seasons into its development and launch,” now in the company of the four hundred other designer and lifestyle brands on sale on the website.12 In her assessment of the franchise’s first retail initiative, journalist Vanessa Friedman reported that “film to fashion [was] about to get a whole new meaning.”13 Clearly, different understandings and contradictory meanings of the fashion film circulate among critics, commentators, and practitioners. Journalists and social media commentators now routinely use the term to include various types of fashion moving image such as biographical films (fictionalized dramatizations of the lives of designers, editors, and photographers) and informative modes of nonfiction film and television, such as reportage or actuality films and series, which are sometimes critical of, but more often than not, deferential to their subject. On UK television screens, take the BBC’s Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue (2016) and Channel 4’s Inside Dior (2017) series as two contemporary examples of these different approaches to the subject. Indeed, the various pre-digital televisual forms of fashion reportage—from Dim Dam Dom in France of the 1960s and The Clothes Show in the UK of the late 1980s and 1990s to the launch of the international channel Fashion TV in 1997 to cater for catwalk videos—are important precursors to the contemporary online video content housed on editorial sites such as Vogue or Dazed, which provide bitesize behind-the-scenes representations that stage the processes of design and image-making for a mainstream audience. This journalistic trend has also been accompanied, in parallel, by the cinematic resurgence of documentary feature films about designers, editors, imagemakers, and models—films that also tend to submit to fashion by perpetuating familiar myths and stereotypes of the industry and its fetishistic fascination with

Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It


surface glamour. The fashion doc takes an audience behind the scenes to capture the backstage drama by granting viewers the illusion of access through carefully framed testimonials and scripted insights into the creative processes of image and design. The paradoxical issue that underpins my inquiry into the documentary in relation to the fashion industry is the tension between the conventional “truth quest” of this factual mode of representation—or rather its staging of visibility—and the ethos of confidentiality and control that animates designer branded fashion. In Part 2, I explore the more mainstream fictional and nonfictional practices of fashion film, which are produced outside of the industry, in the contexts of screen drama and journalism. I point to the productive interrelationship between designer fashion and popular entertainment. As Helen Warner has argued in the context of TV programming of fashion, the current incarnation of fashion television through convergent digital media “emerges out of a specific set of industrial conditions which have informed the ways in which fashion is deployed within them.” In her authoritative readings of US shows like Gossip Girl in which, she argues, spectacular fashion moments “complement, rather than disrupt” narrative flow, Warner recognizes the importance of an audience willing to interpret consumer fashions on screen alongside the accompanying digital platforms whose commercial remit is “to invite fans to participate in an entirely immersive and interactive viewing experience.”14 Here, I consider the vehicles of fashion entertainment in relation to both the discourses of promotion (in Part 1) and the business of celebrity (in Part 3). In particular, I focus on the dramatized versions of the lives and careers of famous couturiers such as Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent, in which, rather than being in a subordinate role, fashion dominates the dramatic structure, narrative composition, and thematic content of the film. However, practitioners in the fashion industry do not tend to view popular narrative cinema, or the fiction film per se, as a legitimate part of the genre, which they see more readily as a moving-image adjunct to fashion photography—as a type of motion editorial. The influential image-maker, Nick Knight, whose groundbreaking work is covered in Part 1, cofounded, the preeminent website that documents the industry’s production of digital moving image, in late 2000 in order to explore the technological potential of communicating fashion beyond the confines of the photographic still. It would be difficult to underestimate the impact of his pioneering initiative on ways of thinking about the fashion image in motion. The collective output of SHOWstudio, which is billed as


Fashion Film

the “home” of fashion film and live fashion broadcasting, often seems to stand in metonymically for the whole body of production. A pioneer in the development of the techniques of live broadcasting, motion image-making, and interactivity, Knight’s collective moves fashion beyond the generic and technological conventions of photography and film to the multiple forms of fashion image. The still image becomes increasingly subservient to film through the use of cameras like the Red Epic, from which high-definition stills can be captured from moving footage. Asked to define the dynamic fashion image, Knight notes its intermedial relationship with music video and photography, its diffuse treatment of narrative, and its functional purpose to display clothing in motion. First of all it is not some kind of music video for the fashion industry. In music videos the narrative follows the sound, in fashion film it is the other way around. Of course there is a soundtrack—sound and image are a very important coupling— but in fashion film the visual mustn’t serve the music. The narrative is imbued in the pieces of clothing. When designers create clothes they have already put their narratives inside them, so the purpose of fashion film is to bring out these stories. And frankly, when a designer creates a piece of clothing, he does it for people who move, he imagines how the clothes will look in motion. . . . The internet is instant. So I think it is a real revolution and it has happened in the last 15 years. With SHOWstudio our agenda is to push fashion forward into the future.15

Beyond the industry’s precise understanding of fashion film, let us consider a more capacious definition of it in both its contemporary digital and historical analog forms. Marketa Uhlirova, curator of the Fashion in Film festival, has raised important questions about the legitimacy of fashion film as a specific genre given its intermedial history and cultural heterogeneity. Positioned at the margins of conventional advertising, much like fashion photography, it operates more as an umbrella term across media. Uhlirova questions the potential inclusivity of the term, since if it is also to include “all the journalistic formats that are being produced, leaving only fashion as a common turf, just how useful can the category be to any understanding and interpretation of it?”16 This is a valid methodological question given the contested definitions of the genre. Uhlirova suggests the need to differentiate between films in which fashion is the central concern (for a variety of different reasons—commercial, creative, or aesthetic) from those in which fashion is a subsidiary element in a broader thematic framework. This is a question of balance between the fashion focus, the creative intention and the directorial sensibility of the image-maker. My own view is that there is a critical need to provide the bigger picture of contemporary fashion film by considering the promotional discourse and rhetoric produced by the fashion industry through its commercial

Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It


and editorial imagery alongside the popular projections and representations of fashion—as a business, culture, and concept—that circulate more broadly within popular media and consumer culture. Moreover, how useful is fashion film as a critical tool to understand the broader meanings of fashion as both representation and industry, as both culture and economy? This seemingly contradictory tension might therefore be productive in extending the disciplinary boundaries of fashion communications (both media and imagery) beyond promotion to include intersecting academic inquiry into informational, editorial, artistic, and other emerging creative formats. I therefore include examples from the popular fiction and nonfiction film throughout to foreground the importance of fashion as object, image, and idea—as a vehicle for visual entertainment, spectacle, and information as much as creative design, process, and consumption. One of the main critical inquiries motivating my engagement with fashion film as both a cultural form and a commercial force has been to assess the convergent impact of promotion on feature filmmaking and the reciprocal relationship between different forms of advertising and narrative—not only the aesthetic impact of traditional forms of popular film on the production of the online fashion video, but also the more problematic impact of the promotional paradigm on the formal shape and creative ambitions of the narrative feature film. To summarize the framework for this study of fashion film, I conceive of it essentially as a portmanteau term for a host of varying formats of different lengths that include commercial, artistic, experimental, popular, fictional, and nonfictional films and that all share an overarching creative ambition: to make a moving-image statement of or about fashion. Rather than defining the fashion film as purely a moving extension of fashion photography, limiting it to its status as a form of motion editorial, I use the term here as convenient shorthand for the whole body of creative and informative audiovisual images of and about fashion—viewed in the broad sense of dress, style, beauty, and lifestyle—that have existed historically in various guises since early cinema.17 First, let’s consider today’s fashion film more specifically as a type of promotional communication or editorial experimentation through an extended analysis of the diverse forms of digital fashion film.

Notes 1 Sydney Ember, “Ads Evolve Into New Forms as Media Landscape Shifts,” The New York Times, May 8, 2016,








8 9 10 11


Fashion Film ads-evolve-into-new-forms-as-media-landscape-shifts.html?mcubz=0, accessed September 18, 2017. Suzy Menkes, “The Circus of Fashion,” The New York Times, T Magazine, February 10, 2013, html?mcubz=0, accessed September 18, 2017. Anon, “‘Clueless’ to ‘Pretty Woman’: The top ten fashion films that shaped our wardrobes,” Hello!, June 2, 2017, fashion/1201502202449/the-top-10-iconic-fashion-moments-in-film/, accessed September 18, 2017. On the overall relationship between fashion and “new” media, see Agnè s Rocamora, “New Fashion Times: Fashion and Digital Media,” in S. Black, A. De La Haye, J. Entwistle, A. Rocamora, R. A. Root, and H. Thomas (eds.), The Handbook of Fashion Studies, London: Bloomsbury, 2013, pp. 61–77. On the use of the term “spreadable media” see Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, New York: New York University Press, 2013. Vogue China fashion films are hosted by the video platform, http://i.!2~A, accessed November 26, 2017. These are critical terms proposed by Thomas Elsaesser in his discussion of the forms of digital cinema. Thomas Elsaesser, “Digital Cinema: Convergence or Contradiction?” in A. Herzog, J. Richardson, and C. Vernallis (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 13–44. Pat McColl, “Weekend Surprises,” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1990, http://, accessed August 10, 2017. In her historical framework for thinking about fashion film, Marketa Uhlirova also mentions this example. See Marketa Uhlirova, “100 Years of the Fashion Film: Frameworks and Histories,” Fashion Theory, 17(2), 2013, pp. 137–58. Pamela Church Gibson, Fashion and Celebrity Culture, London: Berg, 2012, p. 11. Church Gibson, Fashion and Celebrity Culture, p. 83. Hilary Radner, Neo-Feminist Cinema: Girly Films, Chick Flicks and Consumer Culture, New York: Routledge, 2011, p. 135. The box-office takings for Kingsman: The Secret Service are provided here: http://, accessed September 18, 2017. Mr. Porter quoted in Patrick Montes, “‘Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle’ & MR PORTER Connect for a Diverse and Wearable Capsule Collection,”,

Introduction: Fashion Film—The Long and Short of It


14 15 16



September 7, 2017,, accessed September 18, 2017. Vanessa Friedman, “Film to Fashion Is About to Get a Whole New Meaning,” The New York Times, June 11, 2014, colin-firth-movie-to-have-its-own-clothing-line/?mcubz=0, accessed September 18, 2017. Helen Warner, Fashion on Television: Identity and Celebrity Culture, London: Bloomsbury, 2014, pp. 14, 18, and 155. Nick Knight in Jan Kedves, Talking Fashion: From Nick Knight to Raf Simons In Their Own Words, Munich: Prestel, 2013, pp. 31–32. Marketa Uhlirova, “The Fashion Film Effect,” in D. Bartlett, S. Cole, and A. Rocamora (eds.), Fashion Media: Past and Present, London: Bloomsbury, 2013, pp. 118–29, at p. 122. See Caroline Evans, “The Walkies: Early French Fashion Shows as a Cinema of Attractions,” in A. Munich (ed.), Fashion in Film, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011, pp. 110–32.


Part 1

Promotion: Digital Fashion Film

Despite the growth in online video-driven journalism through forms of reporting, blogging, and editorial, the use of moving image by the fashion industry is still generally considered as a predominantly promotional tool for designers, brands, celebrities, and models. Karlie Kloss, to take a popular example, uses her Instagram feed to post staged videos and photos of her life to her 7.4 million followers. Given the widespread commercial use of the application by creatives from across the spectrum of the fashion industry, it could be argued that the incorporation of video to Instagram in 2013 (with the later addition of widescreen in 2015 and the creation of Instagram Stories in 2016, which allows users to post ephemeral moving image) made the notion of the fashion film, as a discrete textual category, seem increasingly obsolete. By the mid-2010s, video had become the dominant vernacular of social media, an integral part of online activity and interaction, and of the larger cultural conversation. As well as thinking of fashion film historically as a textual object of inquiry—by considering fashion films as individual film texts—it is also important to consider how content, the currency of social media platforms, defined as a form of entertainment devised through the visual storytelling of the brand, is shaping and changing fashion communications. Fashion houses now operate as brands that have effectively become content producers—indeed, brands are increasingly operating as media themselves—under pressure to maintain a constant flow of imagery across digital platforms by slicing it up and rolling it out frame by frame or scene by scene in an attempt to sustain campaigns for the duration of the season. It could therefore be argued that the more generic category of the fashion film no longer caters for the range of moving-image practices or experiences of fashion in today’s reconfigured online social media culture. Instances of integrated digital moving image that transcend a straightforward understanding of the fashion film include Burberry’s experimental use of the mobile messaging app Snapchat for content provision, and designer J. W. Anderson’s innovative use of gay geosocial networking (or “hook-up”) app Grindr to live-stream a menswear show


Fashion Film

Figure 1.1  Marie Schuller’s film showcasing the SS 2015 Versus Versace collaboration with Antony Vaccarello, produced by Dazed Digital. Credits: Marie Schuller (director) and Dazed Digital (producer).

in 2016. One might, then, legitimately question whether the use of one generic umbrella term can possibly cover the range of commercial practices through these types of platform-specific initiatives that blend design with media. These practices also indicate the potential relocation of contemporary fashion moving image within a digital culture of data processing and its potential disconnection from forms of film narrative.

Visual communications There are a number of recent cases of high-profile fashion houses that have made use of online motion content to rejuvenate their brand image. In the age of advanced luxury, in which the fashion designer now operates as a creative director, who oversees design strategy and visual communications, moving image plays an increasingly important role in the construction of seasonal campaigns. Films are now routinely supported by a range of visual paratexts: for example, posting teaser shots—still and moving—of individual looks from a collection, which are to be shared or reposted on the brand’s Facebook or Instagram feeds, aims to build up momentum until the release of the campaign film, which is now conceived as a social media event complete with a traditional cinematic release date. It is also a way of padding out and prolonging a campaign across the season by drip-feeding imagery as spreadable content to audiences.

Promotion: Digital Fashion Film


Some fashion houses have used motion content as a strategic means of rebranding both creative design and visual communications. Take the Italian global luxury giant Gucci. The promotion of an unknown accessories designer Alessandro Michele to the position of creative director in 2014 signaled a radical departure from the label’s signature manipulation of overt sexuality, which had been so lucratively exploited under the tenure of Tom Ford from 1992 to 2004, but which had become stuffy and bourgeois under his successor, Frida Giannini, in the decade since. Ford drew his success from a commercial update of American-style seventies glamour—the Halston look rebooted for the nineties— conceived to revive the fading aura of the prestigious Florentine leather goods company known principally for its status-symbol loafer shoe. Michele replaced Giannini’s polished iteration of Ford’s template with a new design proposal that reengaged with the brand’s European heritage through a form of assemblage that ranged from Italian Renaissance high culture to English post-punk pop culture. Michele proposed a patchwork of tonal influences that revived an alternative vision of the 1970s to Ford’s postmodern take on Studio 54 glamour, one that articulated gender insubordination and sexual ambiguity through a less assertive and more romantic lens. Where Ford’s era promoted frontal views of the body as merchandise, encapsulated by photographer Mario Testino’s famous shot of the brand logo on the model’s pubis, Michele’s promotes indeterminacy as both the form and content of his designs: he opted, for example, to blend women’s and men’s wear for the Fall/Winter 2017 show following similar attempts to surpass binary gender at Burberry, Tom Ford, and Vetements. He has also discussed his work as a form of costume design and expressed a desire both to direct and design for the cinema emphasizing the importance of narrative to his design process.1 This interest in storytelling has been adapted to the task of reinvigorating the brand’s visual codes through the promotion of fashion, accessories, fragrance, and eyewear. The commercial results of the revitalized brand were remarkable: by 2017, Gucci was posting record revenue growth of over 50 percent with strong global performance across the spectrum of products.2 The task of translating Michele’s disjunctive style and radical juxtapositions into campaign imagery has fallen largely to photographer Glen Luchford and art director Chris Simmons, who have collaborated on the series of campaigns since 2015 that assemble a collage of dissonant elements such as animal wildlife, adolescent insouciance, and urban transience: Over the seasons, these have become rich and complex tableaux, layering disparate elements and ensemble casts together in the same way that Michele


Fashion Film does with his collections and catwalk shows. Where nature and the animal kingdom run wild over the clothes and accessories—printed bumblebees, snakes, tigers, flamingos, birds, petals, vines and fanciful flora—so they are then placed in resolutely urban settings such as the Los Angeles subway or on a Berlin rooftop, creating a jarring tension that underscores the experimental mood of the Gucci studio.3

Photographer, model, and ambassador for the brand, Petra Collins, has also contributed to the campaign imagery by shooting a dreamscape for Gucci eyewear and appearing in the film for the launch of Michele’s first fragrance, Bloom, in 2017 with other on-trend faces, American actress Dakota Johnson and transgender actress and model Hari Nef. Gucci’s campaigns to date reflect a clear strategy to produce digital content continuously, and they engage with a specifically European artistic heritage and the generic forms of narrative cinema. Locations have included Florentine villas, Berlin shopping malls, and English country estates, all of which conjure up a surreal pop sensibility: the Spring/Summer 2017 film was shot in Rome to the soundtrack of Italian pop culture, fast food, savage animals, and iconic locations. Set to the sound of English pop (The Undertones’ 1980 track “My Perfect Cousin”), the 2017 Cruise collection was shot as pastiche home-video footage at Chatsworth House in England and mixed aristocratic class tradition with post-punk rebelliousness, channeled through the shrewd casting of British actress Vanessa Redgrave, who combines the classical and the revolutionary and who gamely modeled looks from the collection surrounded by the androgynous teens. This was followed by the pre-Fall 2017 film, Soul Scene, shot at the Mildmay Club in London, which dynamically reproduced the underground black Northern Soul movement of the 1960s and 1970s through a dance video setting the designs in motion. The call for all-black casting for the campaign on social media was accompanied by behindthe-scenes photos and teasers before the online release of the film in multiple formats: the regular “cinematic” edit and a longer director’s cut, accompanied by a 360-degree 3D version to be viewed via the brand’s virtual reality app, which added an immersive documentary feel to the viewing experience. The intertextual references to cinema are similarly eclectic. The official campaign films have been supplemented by director Gia Coppola’s four-part series of fashion films for the online Gucci Stories, The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, which starred Lou Doillon and was styled by Arianne Phillips. The film imagined the pre-Fall 2016 collection through a narrative transposition of the Greek myth to modern-day New York. Luchford and Simmons have

Promotion: Digital Fashion Film


tended to translate the collage sensibility of Michele’s designs through a more economical style of visual storytelling. The commercial for the 2016 Cruise collection, entitled A Fashion Story, filmed in New York, collapsed a basic boymeets-girl scenario into a presentation film as the model walks directly from the sidewalk to the catwalk. The Fall/Winter 2016 campaign lensed in Tokyo offset the floral psychedelic imagery of the city against a parallel commentary on its formal construction as film by grafting fantasy subtitles onto the images that describe the different sounds envisaged to accompany them like scenes from an imagined feature film. The Autumn/Winter 2017 developed this cinematic concept into a pastiche b-movie trailer for a futuristic sci-fi feature. The most ambitious engagement with cinema to date were the campaign visuals for the Spring/Summer 2016 collection shot in Berlin. The commercial replayed a scene from the German film Christiane F. (Edel, 1981), a bleak tale of drug addiction among errant teenagers in Berlin of the late 1970s, which included a prolonged sequence filmed at David Bowie’s Station to Station concert performance as the Thin White Duke persona. The homage to Bowie’s Berlin suggests a similar path to Hedi Slimane’s earlier lucrative scavenging of youth subcultural histories at Dior Homme, but in a less preprocessed manner. The Gucci film documents a group of carefree kids as they roam, falling and stumbling, through the corridors of a retro shopping mall before escaping to a rooftop, which allows for ensemble shots of the collection against the panoramic backdrop of the city. The original scene is a montage sequence set to the music of Bowie’s hit single “Heroes” from 1977, and the Gucci ad conveys the dynamic sense of movement of the original, but it is purposefully less fluid. Instead of the deep, geometric tracking shots through the long corridors that accompany the kids as they ransack the mall and escape from the police, the ad uses commercial continuity through a quicker-paced montage of shots to splice in the close-ups on product, thereby subtly switching between cinematic and promotional styles.

Hyper-advertising and the mini-film event Since 2015, Gucci’s advertising campaigns have shown innovative ways of engaging with moving-image content to rejuvenate a brand’s visual codes by tailoring imagery more specifically to online social media consumption. Other brands have pursued different strategies, however, in an attempt to blend the online fashion film with more traditional media advertising.


Fashion Film

In an era of intensified promotion, in which consumers are saturated by conventional forms of push marketing, there has been a drive to develop editorial content devised by fashion brands to give the illusion of an audiovisual experience, akin to the consumption of cinema or the visual arts, which masks the more obviously promotional logic of commerce and sales. In short, unlike the frequent interruptions of push ads that pester online consumers, vehicles of “advertainment” like branded fashion film have been developed according to the logic of convergence to suit the more actively participative ethos of social media consumption. Alongside strategies of covert communications— through a type of content in which the brand is on mute—comes the parallel resurgence of a residual form of spectacular hyper-publicity that amplifies the brand by collapsing online content into media advertising. For example, the lavish three-minute film, L’Odyssée (2012), a PR event directed by photographer and filmmaker Bruno Aveillan for the luxury jeweler Cartier, is emblematic of this trend, as is the director’s grandiloquent film for the classic French perfumer Guerlain, La Légende de Shalimar (2013), starring Russian top-model Natalia Vodianova as Mumtaz, the consort of a seventeenth-century Indian mogul emperor. In her analysis of this type of hyper-advertising spectacle, Karine Berthelot-Guiet explains how the large-scale Cartier film, which was produced at a cost of some four million euros by two agencies belonging to the Publicis group,4 glorifies the brand through its animated staging of myth and magic in the journey made by the brand’s emblematic panther across the globe, and by paraphrasing overtly cinematic effects—at least those that signify the Hollywood blockbuster in shorthand—such as overwrought orchestral music and spectacular postproduction animation.5 Both ads for Cartier and Guerlain reroute the form of the contemporary fashion film back to the traditional advertising film by limiting its potential to a straight pastiche of blockbuster entertainment cinema. In obvious ways, they stand as grotesque homages to familiar theories of the postmodern as a specific type of cultural production linked to consumer capitalism and preoccupied with forms of blank parody, hyperreality, and stylistic cannibalization.6 Cultural theorists Gilles Lipovetsky and Jean Serroy have posited the notion of the “global screen” precisely as a form of hyper-cinema, a product of imageexcess in the age of information technology and economic globalization. Under the influence of Jean Baudrillard’s philosophy of postmodernity, Lipovetsky and Serroy’s “hyper-cinema” signifies formal proliferation and stylistic excess: the ever-expanding repertoire of technological prowess, multi-platforms, tonal plurality, high speed, and the battery of formal editing techniques that film

Promotion: Digital Fashion Film


historian David Bordwell denoted in US mass-audience entertainment vehicles as “intensified continuity,” which is to say the amplification of classical continuity techniques for formal emphasis.7 Lipovetsky and Serroy also situate contemporary branded communications as a sort of tribute to the Hollywood star-system and its seductive ideal of femininity as a form of hyper-spectacular beauty, which is reanimated through the excessive glamour of stars like Nicole Kidman or Charlize Theron in high-profile fragrance ads for Chanel (N°5) and Dior (J’adore). With the advertising spectacle comes “the combination of overstatement and artistic quality, idealization and savage beauty, perfection and exploding budgets, elegance and over-mediatized outrageousness. A blockbuster-beauty in service of the brand.”8 Beyond fashion, they date the emergence of digital branded entertainment back to the start of the millennium, when, in 2001, BMW commissioned a series of short films, The Hire, from a pantheon of famous film directors (all male) from across the spectrum of international cinema, such as Tony Scott, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-wai, Alejandro González Inárritu, John Woo, and Guy Ritchie. At the time, the films were downloaded some fifty million times and released as a collectoritem DVD, signaling the start of a process of cultural elevation of advertising through the redefined digital cinema, which, according to digital media theorist Lev Manovich, testifies to the return of animation techniques that supersede the indexical nature of classic cinema as a recording medium.9 Despite its length, the Cartier film also tried to recapture the opulent visual style of the commercials of the late twentieth century, now seen as a golden age of the media advertising spectacle, arguably best remembered through the work of photographer and director Jean-Paul Goude in the 1980s and 1990s, who, rather than blandly aping Hollywood, developed his own creative signature through a style of promotional film that knowingly referenced the codes—particularly the tonal composition and generic conventions—of classic cinema without simply photocopying them. He blurred the boundaries between high art, design, and commercial imagery through a number of films made to promote the Chanel fragrances Égoïste (1990) and Coco (1991): in the former, he erected a vast fake hotel façade in Rio de Janeiro to shoot the patchwork of disjointed, nightmarish images of violent door-slamming, conceived as a feminine rebellion against male egotism; while in the latter, he imagined pop star and actress Vanessa Paradis as a fragile bird imprisoned within a giant cage, watched over by a predatory cat and the iconic spirit of the founder of the house. Goude’s creative (rather than imitative) take on brand imagery is sometimes paralleled by the commercial work of contemporary video-artists, such as the evocative commercial shot by Chris Cunningham to promote Gucci’s Flora


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fragrance in 2009. It represents one of the more successful attempts to combine scent, fashion, and brand through a poetic image of the model in a field of twenty thousand fake flowers morphing into a butterfly of moving fabric that documents the origins of the fragrance in the label’s floral silk scarf from the 1960s, and, in so doing, making a haptic-visual link between sensation and garment. More generally though, there is less formal difference between the heritage of the pre-digital commercial and the newer cross-media model, in which the short film is at times simply reconfigured as a branded cinematic event that overshadows the print campaign. In the case of the hyperbolic Cartier and Guerlain films, one might well consider the new-style commercial more as a pale facsimile of earlier visual creativity. The point of the big-budget fashion film commercial is to acquire the symbolic value of cinema in both its entertainment and high-art formats. The advertising film is quite clearly a mercantile form that traditionally lacks the perceived cultural prestige of narrative cinema, or even a coherent generic history of its own, drawing as it does indiscriminately across genres and taking inspiration from other media arts. Florence de Mèredieu labels this feature the form’s parasitical nature, which feeds off popular cinema in particular.10 Like fashion films and music videos, advertising films such as fragrance commercials tend to operate through a kaleidoscope effect in how they condense and paraphrase forms of feature filmmaking. Pastiche, as defined by film scholar Richard Dyer as “the kind of imitation you are meant to know is an imitation,”11 is the key to the intended self-consciousness of much movingimage advertising, be it new fashion film or old-school commercial. Guerlain’s earlier ad for the Shalimar fragrance in 2001 starring Brazilian supermodel Fernanda Tavares openly imitated the distinctive visual style and tonal palette of one of world cinema’s hits of the previous year, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (Wong, 2000), celebrated for its languid use of music and slow-motion camerawork.

Branded experience, artistic exploration, and cultural critique In grouping these short formats together, the broader term “promotional film” better captures the commercial nature of much contemporary movingimage production by differentiating types of fashion communication that are straightforwardly commercial from those that are more conceptual, artistic, or experimental. However, the problem with conflating promotional film—both

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old and new—with fashion film tout court is precisely the omission of nonbranded, less commercially viable projects that seek to make more prospective or critical statements about fashion. At times, the commercial fashion film also takes its inspiration from more conceptual artistic forms. For example, Kevin Frilet’s four-minute, crowd-funded, ambient mood piece, Under (Frilet, 2014), which consisted of black-and-white images of bodies floating underwater, was shown at A Shaded View of Fashion Film festival in 2015, where it won the award for best emerging talent, and was subsequently shown at short film festivals around the world and on the editorial platform Nowness, which granted the filmmaker’s work wider visibility. Armani subsequently hired Frilet to shoot an ad campaign for the brand’s Acqua di Gioia perfume in 2016 with the aim of transferring the loose style of his art film to the formatting of branded fragrance advertising. Armani transposed Frilet’s creative signature on Under to four twenty-second clips sensuously entitled air, sun, sky, and aqua, which were filmed using the square 1:1 aspect ratio for maximal traction on Instagram. Frilet has also collaborated on art fashion projects such as MOVEment, a series of films investigating the relationship between fashion and dance, commissioned by Jefferson Hack, the cofounder of the Dazed group, for Another Magazine in 2015. Hack invited designers and choreographers to collaborate on short explorations of clothing and the body in motion through the medium of film. Frilet’s atmospheric contribution, Fallen, filmed ten dancers from the Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal company, who were dressed by Miuccia Prada. In a deserted theater, the dancers perform a sequence of poetic duets while feathers rain down on them; the film culminates in a beautiful aerial shot of the ensemble of dancers in repose. This type of artistic-commercial project spanning dance, design, and motion editorial is illustrative of the productive dialogue between forms of performance and promotion in contemporary fashion communications. To be sure, the idea that the framework of marketing has now been fully mapped onto the landscape of moving-image culture is not a new one. From a theoretical perspective, the term “promotional culture” was first coined pre-internet by Andrew Wernick to examine promotion historically as a rhetorical tool,12 a semiotic part of the cultural expression of capitalist economics channeled through the specific art of advertising, which is conceived as an outfacing form of communication, “an institutionalized system of commercial information and persuasion”13 in a consumer society structured around the primary goal of selling. “Advertising,” wrote eminent Marxist cultural theorist Raymond Williams, “was developed to sell goods, in a particular kind of economy. Publicity has been developed


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Figure 1.2  Under (2014). Credits: Kevin Frilet (director), Human Films (producer), and Nicolas Petris (director of photography).

Figure 1.3 Fallen (2015). Credits: Kevin Frilet (director), Psycho (producer), and Nicolas Petris (director of photography).

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to sell persons, in a particular kind of culture.”14 Echoing Williams, who critiqued the underlying “magic” in the way advertising transforms material objects into collective fantasies through a chain of symbolic associations, Judith Williamson also saw advertising as a language with a life of its own. “It exists,” she explained, in and out of other media, and speaks to us in a language we can recognise but a voice we can never identify. This is because advertising has no “subject,” no speaker; it’s self-perpetuating; it works because it feeds off use value giving goods symbolic meaning.15

These analog conceptualizations of promotion relied on analysis of advertising’s textual significations within the context of mass-media representations (print ads or TV spots bought as discrete categories of media production). What we are witnessing in the digital media context of online fashion film is the confluence of traditional practices of advertising directed at consumers with strategies of non-advertising, the forms of which “radically blur distinctions between commercial and non-commercial media symbols.”16 So, by blending abovethe-line and below-the-line forms of marketing, fashion brands are engaging with content and entertainment vehicles such as the fashion film to forge some kind of “conversation” with networked consumers (displaced across various platforms) about the brand, its values and ethics, and the real and virtual worlds that surround them. This has meant reconfiguring in PR terms the relationship, if less often the actual balance of power, between the designer/brand and the consumer/audience, and rethinking the issue of online participation more precisely in the context of fashion branding as more than an illusion of access to the world of the storied luxury brands and couture houses. As Helen Powell explains in her more general discussion of cross-media promotion, “Media convergence challenges traditional models of assembling and delivering commercially viable audiences to advertisers specially due to their displacement across a plenitude of screens, stationary and mobile.”17 By moving away from the invasive methods of push advertising toward participatory networked spaces into which they strive to “converse” with online consumers, brands are now obliged not only to predict the type of content that will spread, but also to create content that will allow consumers to access the “experience” of the brand. This signals the shift from a brand pushing information about its products through transparent campaigns to more diffuse forms of communications fashioned around the emotional experience and response of online users and the diversity of content.


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The branded “experience” often seeks to take consumer publics beyond fashion through content that engages with adjacent political, ethical, or ecological issues, which are articulated through films that interrogate models of cultural representation or intersect with globalized patterns of consumption. In this context, we might mention films from across the media spectrum made by brands, designers, and artists—from the corporate communication of the fast fashion giants to independent films from small production companies—that actively seek to challenge the sociocultural, ecological, or economic status quo rather than to uphold the aesthetic ideals and commercial norms of the industry. At times, however, these are cynical vehicles for corporate communication that try to blend the commercial with the ecological. Despite their opportunistic attempt to recuperate the sustainable agenda through green-washing, two eco-films made by H&M are seductive examples of this trend: Close the Loop: sustainable fashion through recycled clothes (2015) was followed by Rewear It (2016), a hybrid type of fashion/music video featuring a performance by the controversial musician M.I.A. Both are sleek productions that promote the recycling of garments—ironic, given the retailer’s position at the pinnacle of fast fashion—in tandem with a progressive take on minority identity politics (of race, religion, gender, and sexuality) that is processed through the stylized lens of globalized consumer individualism. Beyond this type of packaged corporate communications, other more oppositional examples testify to a growing critical awareness of the potential use of online film to spread a progressive ecological agenda. In the short film Handprint (Nighy, 2013), commissioned by Eco-Age and produced by White Lodge, director Mary Nighy asked viewers to confront the origins of their clothes to unpack the ethical issues in the fashion supply chain. The film premiered at London Fashion Week in 2013 for the launch of the Green Carpet Challenge Capsule Collection on sale at Net-a-Porter, and was an exercise in consciousnessraising around the industrial challenges faced by garment workers around the world. It visualizes the manual imprint from production to consumption to highlight the traceability of the garment by surrounding the idealized (white, Western, female) consumer with the nonwhite faces of production, embodying the invisible masses, and returning the gaze to the Western consumer. The idealistic thinking behind the project is that if only consumers would universally acknowledge the hidden faces behind manufacturing there would be a collective shift away from the excessive consumption of fashionable clothing. Visual artists also use the medium critically to address the social politics of identity but in more politically radical and formally experimental ways. To take

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an example beyond commercial fashion film, Jessica Mitrani’s video installation Headpieces for Peace (2011) drew on eleven interchangeable testimonials to celebrate the links between fashion and feminism through a gendered critique of the politics of religion and style. In a nod to Michel Foucault’s preface to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipe, Headpieces for Peace is described in a mission statement as “a non-hierarchical, nomadic organization on a tandem bicycle that seeks to initiate free political action from all unitary and totalizing paranoia. The organization consists of eleven interchangeable and fluctuating members who belief that collective expressions of desire are possible.”18  The film was first commissioned by the threeASFOUR fashion collective as part of their exhibition Insalaam Inshalom at the Beit Ha’Ir Center for Urban Culture in Tel Aviv in 2011. Designers Gabi Asfour, Adi Gil, and Ange Donhauser covered the entire exhibition space in fabrics containing motifs from their collection and invited artists including Mitrani to develop the project theme of religious and cultural cohabitation between Judaism and Islam.19 Taking scraps and remnants from the prints that mix sacred geometry from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, Mitrani used the material to design and produce the eleven headpieces in the video. Since the overarching concept was peace, the film also contained references to the US civil rights movement to situate the artist’s and the designers’ lives in New York City within a larger transnational historical canvas. The video was later shown alongside the individual headpieces as an independent installation at the French Institute in New York in 2014. Mitrani’s

Figure 1.4  Headpieces for Peace (2011). Credit: Jessica Mitrani (director).


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contribution to the original project was an ambitious attempt to think through fashion beyond the commercial realm through its articulation with social questions of gendered norms and its inscription in geopolitical contest around religious belief and cultural belonging. Headpieces for Peace interrogates these weighty issues humorously by relying on stop-motion animation techniques. In so doing, it makes a graphic link between the contemporary fashion film and the trickery and special effects of “the cinema of attraction”—film historian Tom Gunning’s label for the specific qualities of spectacle and exhibition of veryearly-twentieth-century film.20 In more commercial settings, fashion filmmakers such as Kathryn Ferguson (resident filmmaker for the London department store, Selfridges) and Marie Schuller (formerly head of fashion film at SHOWstudio) have similarly sought to engage more critically with questions of gender, identity, culture, and heritage within a number of their branded fashion films and ads. Ferguson’s work for Selfridges has consistently interrogated the corporeal norms of mainstream fashion imagery within the framework of a number of special projects commissioned by the retailer. Ferguson’s film Incredible Machines from 2016 explored the unseen relationship five diverse women, including a trans activist, a Thai boxing champion, and a business-woman/fashion muse, have with their bodies and their undergarments to interrogate the widespread reproduction of a male heterosexist gaze within dominant forms of fashion imagery. In 2014, the Beauty Project included films aiming to celebrate and redefine the concept of beauty within contemporary consumer culture: Beauty I See You Everywhere explored the notion of regional beauty within the UK giving a platform to discussions of gender, race, and faith in relation to fashion and consumption, while Change Is a Beautiful Thing questioned received wisdom on notions of femininity and aging. In parallel, Marie Schuller’s collaborations with Selfridges have also combined conventional editorial campaigns such as The Masters in 2014 with more progressive social initiatives such as the talent platform Bright New Things in 2015 to champion ecologically sustainable UK labels. Schuller’s contribution, Babyface (Am I Ugly?) (2016), to the Nowness editorial series, Define Beauty, further exposed the pressures faced by preteen girls to respond to unrealistic and unvaried cosmetic ideals of femininity propagated through the techniques of digital modification that inform popular vlogger tutorials and contouring culture. As much as all these diverse forms of fashion moving image—blending the critical with the commercial—are concerned with communicating fashion

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in motion or making artistic statements about dress, fashion, and beauty as vehicles for social identity, any attempt to define the specific visual language or stylistic grammar of the new genre of fashion moving image invariably requires us to think about its cultural significance beyond a merely aesthetic or semiotic consideration of its style, meaning, form, or content. Essential to a more comprehensive understanding of the cultural value of fashion films are their various production contexts, both commercial and artisanal. To grasp the meanings of the fashion film, we also need to take into account commissioning, financing, and technology: the creative intention of the project and degree of authorial freedom, the commercial framing of the brief and the overall economic constraints, and the technological means available to realize it. The digital technology of the contemporary fashion film is also an integral feature of its consumption, because, as Gary Needham notes, “fashion in all its guises is now wholly integrated and synergistic with aspects of information technology, thus affecting the ways in which we access and participate in fashion culture as digital citizens and consumers.” As semiotic producers of digital imagery on both desktop and mobile screens, we mediate fashion as spectacle precisely through the transformative apparatus of the screen. “The digital fashion film,” Needham continues, “presents itself as the most recent tension in which the screen is in a creative tussle with the culture it appears to represent; it continues to pose those ubiquitous questions of how to see, how to evaluate, how to display, and how to experience fashion on screen.”21 To further transpose an argument earlier formulated by film theorist Aylish Wood, who emphasizes the encounter between viewer and image not as a straightforward access to a transparent story-world or document but more as an interface “created by elements that work to organize a viewer’s attention,”22 a critical engagement with the content projections of contemporary fashion brands requires not only a textual attention to meaning, form, and content, but also a recognition of the wider industrial contexts of production, circulation, and reception. The Italian fashion filmmaker, Luca Finotti, whose clients have included a diverse range of brands from established and emerging high fashion labels (from Moschino to MSGM) to global sportswear giants like Adidas and Nike, recognizes the financial incentive of fashion film for contemporary brands. Whereas brands previously invested heavily in media advertising space for TV commercials, they can now increase investment in production costs for viral video alongside the additional media costs such as paying for YouTube advertising. In a profile of


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the director in 2015 for the economic magazine Forbes, which raised Finotti’s profile beyond the fashion industry, the filmmaker underlined the importance of finance to assure the quality of his productions.23 The winner of best film at a number of fashion film festivals including Berlin and Istanbul in 2017, Finotti’s #WeBelieveInThePowerOfLove, made to promote Riccardo Tisci’s designs for a line of sneakers for NikeLab, chimed with both the technological aesthetics of social media, particularly its emphasis on color and speed, and the cultural politics of gender fluidity and sexual diversity of the millennial and postmillennial generations Y and Z. There is a notable difference between the campaign version used by Nike, coauthored by Italian directing duo SÄMEN, which is more conventionally product-focused and narrative-driven, and Finotti’s own more conceptual, extended director’s cut. The original ambition of the Nike project was to demonstrate the functionality of the product in movement through the lifestyle sensibility and visual codes of younger consumers, a brief Finotti interpreted in his own version by superimposing neon glitch art animation over images of various couplings (both hetero and queer)—insistent plural images of sexual identity that are more peripheral, but nonetheless present, in Nike’s commercial edit. In its hybrid mash-up of the viral codes of contemporary street art, music video, and fashion film, #WeBelieveInThePowerOfLove attempts to connect the post-digital structure of feeling—particularly the promotion of postmillennial social tolerance on questions of sexual identity—to the broader commercial exigencies of the global sportswear brand.

Hybrid content: Fashion film and music video Despite much talk of a digital “revolution” in fashion through the proliferation of online editorial platforms and the increased branded investment in motion content, the online fashion film has not always been greeted with praise by the industry. Back in 2012, Quynh Mai, the founder of Moving Image & Content, a digital marketing agency in New York focused on fashion and beauty brands, wrote an op-ed piece for the online industry news and analysis platform, The Business of Fashion, in which she asked the polemical question: “Are we failing to fulfil the potential of fashion film?” Criticizing brands for piggybacking their creative digital content off print shoots, passing off shoddy behind-the-scenes footage as actual film production, Quynh cited weak content, misallocated budgets, and neglected distribution strategies to explain why, arguably, the

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genre had not taken off as predicted.24 In her view, a commercially successful fashion film requires good storytelling not just aesthetic appeal; targeted distribution across different social media channels and digital platforms; a technical proficiency in film to avoid producing a moving version of still visuals; a reallocation of advertising budgets away from print to video; and the need to track engagement metrics more qualitatively through comments, feedback, and shares, rather than purely numerically through clicks. Cited by Quynh as an example of good practice was the one-minute video by photographer Steven Meisel for Alber Elbaz’s Fall/Winter 2011 for the revived house of Lanvin, in which the genre was used to mock the codes of fashion advertising by filming models Karen Elson and Raquel Zimmermann, who dance out of rhythm to the beat of the rapper Pitbull. To crown this parody of the pretensions of the high fashion image, Elbaz himself made an unexpected cameo appearance in a cheeky tribute to gangsta rap. The much-needed injection of humor into the serious business of fashion marketing suited the ironic sensibility of social media memes and the need for bite-size content, which in turn raises the broader strategic question of how brands struggle competitively to engage and entertain online consumers by operating in everreduced time frames, on multiple mobile devices and across different media channels. The incorporation of music and dance also signaled the fashion film’s intermedial debt to the music video, particularly through the ironic use of a presentational performance style.25 Meisel’s more experimental video the following season for Lanvin (Spring/Summer 2012) built on this convergent use of the fashion film to showcase emerging music trends in parallel by offsetting images of a decadent dinner party shot in juddering stop-start animation to the sound of a teenage YouTube phenomenon, Maxine Ashley’s first hip-hop single “Cookieman.” The development of this type of hybrid fashion film/music video has become a common feature of online production. Designer Alexander Wang’s campaign clips, for example, resemble music videos in their staging of hip parties and their use of ultra-accelerated montage. For his 2016 Fall/Winter campaign, Wang used Instagram to tease consumers with a film, shot by Director X with music by Skrillex, which unveiled his “Wangsquad,” a group of celebrity influencers that included Kylie Jenner, who party in a deserted Beverly Hills mansion. At times, pop stars also co-brand with fashion designers. Lady Gaga released her cover of the disco classic “I Want Your Love” through a video directed by Nick Knight that promoted Tom Ford’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection in motion by blending


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the dance floor with the podium. Such fashion and music collaborations have a history. Photographer Bruce Weber provided imagery for a number of Pet Shop Boys’ videos, including the pair’s elegiac masterpiece “Being Boring” in 1991, which embedded shots of the duo within a melancholic black-and-white evocation of past parties, and which stylishly translated the bittersweet lyrics of memory and loss to the seductive imagery of the lithe bodies on screen. In the contemporary digital context, in which music videos are used as fashionable multiscreen vehicles of self-promotion to create a connection between pop stars and their fans, consumers, or publics,26 there is intense focus on the fashion content of the video’s imagery, particularly centered around the star’s body, used to translate their spectacular desirability through the visual terms of fashion branding—take the press coverage of Iris Van Herpen’s avant-garde designs for Björk’s Biophilia album (2012) or Beyoncé’s shape-shifting transformations for her visual album Lemonade (2016).27 Three years earlier, she had co-branded with H&M on their Summer 2013 campaign film directed by Jonas Åkerlund, “Beyoncé as Mrs Carter in H&M,” which was shot as a hybrid film to promote both music and fashion, and which tied-in the collection with the release of the singer’s single “Standing On The Sun.” Beyond specific campaign commercials, auteur-branded projects like Spike Lee’s short film Brave for the high-end winter sportswear label Moncler in 2016, while not promoting specific collections or even featuring any actual garments for sale, also combine editorial-style stills with music and dance performance. Invited by the brand to make a film about his personal vision of New York (to transpose his political focus on racial representation to fashion communications), Lee crafted a six-minute film that in parallel promoted the single “Brave (Suffering / Beautiful)” by Stew & The Negro Problem. Both fashion film and music video operate as cross-media forms that are framed and conditioned by their online delivery modes. Indeed, “the definition of music video,” writes Laura Frahm, “seems to be intrinsically linked to the question of how it positions and articulates itself within the context of other media and art forms.”28 What do these two modes of communication have in common? They are both attractive to audiences but underfunded forms of cultural production. It could be argued that style—as both fashion and form— is as integral to the music video as audio—both sound and music—is to the fashion film. The generic porosity and aesthetic borrowings between these two relatively marginal forms of filmmaking, show both to be intermedial, readily absorbing influences from other media arts, particularly other screen and

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performance practices.29 Music videos have been historically classified into two types—those that emphasize performance and those that emphasize concept or mood.30 In the mid-1980s, cultural critic Peter Wollen explained the hybridization of the genre as part of the postmodern breakdown of the distinctions between live spectacle, television programming, and advertising, between the discrete formats of performance, journalism, and promotion. He added the fashion event as the fourth element in this generic mash-up. “Fashion,” he explained, already had a close relationship with music performance and with the packaging of musicians as “images”—witness the straddling of the music world, the performance world and the fashion world by David Bowie and Malcolm McClaren. Fashion, in its turn, has been moving into performance as the traditional catwalk has been supplemented by music, lighting, dance and even embryonic narrative. Music video is the culmination of this trend.31

Historians of the music video view fashion’s glamorous intrusion in different ways: for Saul Austerlitz, the form became showy and shallow due to the influence of fashion; its lucrative attractiveness to photographers such as Herb Ritts, JeanBaptiste Mondino, or David LaChappelle in the 1980s and 1990s led the form toward the superficial hyper-spectacle, “turning the genre into an expression of breathtakingly lovely uselessness”;32 whereas Richard Dienst celebrates Mondino as the emblematic “postmodern video auteur” of the period, arguing that his clips for Prince and Madonna drew on “not only the techniques of still photography, but also the contemporary functions of fashion and architecture.”33 Earlier in the 1980s, eminent film critic and theorist, Serge Daney, an early adopter, had elevated the music video to the status of minor art form, one whose foundations were built on fragmentation and instantaneity. Like fashion, the beauty of the clip is fleeting and ephemeral; it draws on the fragmented memories created by the rapid montage of shots. Daney wrote clinically of the music video as a sort of biopsy taken from a larger body of cinematic work—a sample that concentrates feeling and emotion through a short, sharp burst of energy.34 In the contemporary context of both the spreadable online fashion film and the instant sampling of music video via video-sharing platforms, it is precisely through what Carol Vernallis has termed the accelerated aesthetics of the digital “media swirl” that the nonlinear mood board approach of fashion joins the mixing-board culture of music video in shaping today’s “intensified audiovisual aesthetics,” in which the boundaries and distinctions between online platforms, forms, and technologies are increasingly blurred.35


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Editorial convergence and spreadable content Why, then, has such a hybrid form of fashion moving image emerged in the early twenty-first century as both a commercially viable way to promote fashion and to experiment with the potential shape of the fashion image itself? One concern about the promotional film—in both branded and concept videos—is whether it has the aesthetic impact and commercial durability of the still image in both fashion advertising and editorial. This might well explain the persistence of the still as the dominant image for fashion, a format that has also been digitally reactivated by online image-sharing and curatorial practices. The Lanvin example also illustrates the importance of inclusive humor and an illusion of spontaneity, which operate as a digital structure of feeling to ensure the maximum circulation of motion content by online audiences. By 2012, video already accounted for some 57 percent of online consumer traffic due mostly to video and imagesharing platforms. By 2019, video content is set to account for some 80 percent of all traffic according to US information technology giant Cisco.36 This marks a dramatic generational shift from print media toward video content and entertainment platforms dependent on more active audiences participating in content production and circulation through video-content sharing channels like Flickr, YouTube, or Vimeo, where the audience is no longer the target but also the medium through which to communicate. Brands no longer need the editorial filter of established media to communicate with consumers. As we have seen, the adoption of fashion film by the global designer brands toward the later part of the 2000s is clearly embedded in the rise of social media, particularly visual platforms, as the defining media practice of our age, part of what Kate Nelson Best has reviewed as fashion’s central position as the cultural conversation of the 2010s. “Digital technology and social media give advertisers direct access to their customer base, reducing the need for mediated marketing. .  .  . Fashion film, for example, has been co-opted by international brands, e-tailers, and fashion magazines as a primary form of publicity,”37 she explains, noting that the profound shift from fashion as a closed off industry to its current mode of mass entertainment has seen the rise of video to its current status as the digital’s storytelling medium. The launch in 2013 of Dazed Digital and Vice Media’s i-D platforms or interfaces, which are funded by branded content, licensing deals, and online advertising, signaled a move away from the conceptual experimentation of earlier forms of fashion film toward narrative, a drive that dovetailed with the immediate marketing requirements of fashion brands.

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This trend signals changes to the economic structures of editorial content production within the practices of fashion journalism. The growth in investment in online branded content is part of an ongoing search for an economically viable model for journalism. Both magazines and brands were initially wary of increasing investment significantly in forms of digital marketing without a clearer indication of financial sustainability. The role of the fashion magazine was always essentially to relay fashion imagery and desirable products to an avid consumer public. In the transitional phase through the shift toward electronic media, emerging cultural forms such as online moving image are inevitably affected by broader shifts in the communications strategies of the corporatized luxury sector as we move into a fully “post-print culture.”38 This has involved the creation of advertorial platforms since the early 2000s. Initially part-financed by Condé Nast, Fly 16 x 9, for example, was created in 2003 as a platform to provide a digital motion magazine across art, beauty, and fashion. The original mission statement for the portal explains the intended strategic role of social media in relaying branded content elsewhere at a fraction of the cost of mass-media ad campaigns: FLY16x9’s members now have the unique experience of viewing original never before seen films on the web each month. This elite web-based portal delivers full resolution art, and style-related content to home computers, iphones, ipads, and web enabled televisions. This platform also provides the viewer with the ability to share, to post or embed content on blogs or social networks.39

Media theorist Henry Jenkins details the historical background for such common forms of convergence by arguing that practices of participatory culture that actively work across media were rooted in technological developments that began in the 1980s when companies choose “to distribute content across various channels rather than within a single media platform.”40 Jenkins emphasizes the active participation on the part of savvy consumers in hunting out entertainment and information across dispersed media platforms. Accordingly, convergence is now seen as the widely accepted term to denote “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment they want.”41 The specific emergence of the online fashion film is therefore part of a much broader commercial inquiry into the fragmentation, orientation, and sustainability of the practices of fashion journalism and the role and potential


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efficacy of forms of digital marketing that are directed at younger influencers, who do not necessarily connect with the conventional forms of media advertising and who are the future consumers of high-end fashion and luxury goods. Alongside residual forms such as the big-budget commercial there are also more diffuse formats that communicate with consumers more covertly through aspirational lifestyle initiatives such as the media channel Nowness. Founded in 2010 by luxury conglomerate LVMH, which later sold its majority stake to Modern Dazed in 2017, Nowness ditched the blatant e-commerce of its defunct sister-site in favor of a more conceptual video channel. Originally launched as an editorial platform, now promoted as a global media channel, Nowness claims to curate contemporary culture through storytelling, through a transversal interest in lifestyle, design, art, and music. Narrative is therefore promoted as the key to video content that audiences will want to spread, share, or repost. Budgets for commissioned films are low but the filmmakers benefit from the visibility of the channel. Beneath the veneer of luxury and the aesthetics of aspiration are basic forms of customized entertainment that revise the commercial synergies, extensions, and franchises highlighted by Jenkins as key components of trans-media convergence culture. The channel also ties in more traditionally with e-commerce. In 2010, it commissioned Italian film director Luca Guadagnino, who had woven fashion by Fendi and Jill Sander into his feature I Am Love (Io sono l’amore) in 2009, to shoot model Mariacarla Boscono in a short film Chronology, an abstract piece that showcased a variety of pieces on sale at luxury fashion e-retailer Net-a-Porter. As Jenkins, Ford, and Green note in the context of convergence culture’s production of “spreadable” media texts, unlike the former broadcast models of media piping out content to audiences, spreadable content depends on an actively participatory environment of audiences. “Content spreads,” they explain, “when it acts as fodder for conversations that audiences are already having.”42 For example, unlike the commercials posted virally on a brand’s website or Instagram feed, the more targeted use of a niche film might succeed qualitatively as an exercise in brand awareness because it interacts with an existing public or select fan base. Even “slow” films like the educational documentary The Hands of Hermès (Laffont and Dupuy-Chavanat, 2011)—online content that requires considerable time and concentration—tap into the spirit of participatory engagement and public interactivity that contemporary brands seek to adopt in their attempts to communicate directly with consumers without the editorial filter of traditional media. Indeed, beyond the creation of branded spaces intended to

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promote online content as non-advertising such as the Nowness platform, the next step in this competitive process of remediation between “old” and “new” media is for fashion brands to become media channels or production studios themselves to rival platforms like Netflix by producing their own entertainment content to ensure loyalty through serial frequentation.43

Film and branded entertainment The diverse forms of contemporary fashion film—from the commercials and promos to the catwalk films and e-look books; from the linear narrative to the nonlinear concept—show how brands and designers have followed Christopher Bailey’s lead as (former) chief creative officer at Burberry by repositioning themselves as part fashion and retail designers and part image and content producers. The leading high-end fashion houses have morphed into content providers of both material products and digital images. Such a move also involves articulating a creative relationship between fashion and film to give the fashion brand added symbolic value and cultural capital.44 The ultimate English heritage brand produces old-school fragrance ads like the 2016 Mr. Burberry commercial, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker and visual artist Steve McQueen, who was listed by TIME magazine in 2014 as one of the hundred most influential global personalities and whose signature is stamped on the ad in the opening shot, second only to the brand logo. It was shot on rare 70 mm highresolution film for cinematic effect and set to the soulful soundtrack of musician Benjamin Clementine. Paratexts included an online behind-the-scenes film, Mr. Burberry–The Art of Film, which contained testimonials from the models and musician.45 The same combination of film and behind-the-scenes material was also used for the brand’s project The Tale of Thomas Burberry, shot by filmmaker Asif Kapadia, who is celebrated for his documentary portraits of Ayrton Senna (2010) and Amy Winehouse (2015). The Tale of Thomas Burberry reimagined the brand’s history inspired by the discoveries of its founder, using film as an online communications exercise in brand archaeology. Both the perfume commercial and the branded film are packaged as promotional events that share the same temporal format of a three-minute ad, but differ in tone and style: McQueen’s Mr. Burberry is a clichéd product film rooted in the stylistic history of the fragrance ad with its focus on surface and emotion, casting two fashion models for their physical allure. In its text-book mise-en-scène of sensuousness and the


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spectacular staging of the label’s emblematic trench coat, the ad recalls Gillian Dyer’s explanation of the basic semiotic structure of advertising, whereby an object is transformed “into something which is given meaning in terms of people. The meaning of one thing is transferred to or made interchangeable with another quality, whose value attaches itself to the product.”46 By contrast, Kapadia’s newstyle elliptical branded film functions as a commercial trailer for an unmade film. It is narrative-driven and character-based, and stars-recognizable screen actors (Domhnall Gleeson and Sienna Miller) to encode the brand, however superficially, within the history of cinema rather than advertising. At the time, Burberry was leading the product-driven changes to the fashion industry’s calendar by promoting the concept of “see now, buy now” as a new frontier in retail practice. As Silvano Mendes argues in his discussion of these changes, “Within the confines of fashion’s consumer-driven economy, we are witnessing a U-turn from a symbolic system structured around the circulation of signs and immaterial goods back towards a more product-focused system dominated principally by sales.”47 Indeed, one point at which fashion and moving image converge, beyond the routine production of online advertorial content, is precisely in the context of retail. “E-tailers” from the luxury/high-end Net-a-Porter to the mass-market ASOS use short ten-second videos to preview most products in movement through the display format of an embedded podium that strips back the editorial staging of clothing. These micro-fashion films generally follow the same formal pattern: the model enters the frame from the left to provide a full-body display of the look before we cut to a closer shot of the garment on sale, then back to the frontal view as the model revolves three hundred and sixty degrees to show off the product from the rear before exiting the frame. Along with catwalk videos and e-look books, these generic e-commerce videos are perhaps the most mundane but widely viewed forms of commercial fashion film today. To return to the more specific question of the fashion film as content for branded entertainment, it is also worth considering the diverse reasons for designers and brands to produce creative motion content through the production of short films. The financial imperative behind such a move to the online fashion video is clear: rough estimates suggest that a thirty-second television commercial can cost anything up to and beyond one million dollars depending on the stars and filmmakers’ commissions, while a short internet video can average as little as fifty thousand dollars with none of the attendant distribution costs.48 However, fashion brands do not always differentiate media advertising from

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spreadable content, which explains the lack of focus of many of the branded fashion films. The commercial advantage of film for a brand lies in its potential to capture the attention of online consumers through the look, style, or affect (in nonnarrative films) or the story, performance, or characterization (in narrative films) as a means of communicating indirectly through the generic structures of entertainment and through artistic forms like cinema that bestow on the brand more cultural legitimacy than is the case with conventional advertising. The question of investment is central to fashion branded content. Traditionally more cost-effective than full-blown ad campaigns, online films nonetheless attract ever greater investment, particularly by more productdriven US labels such as Tory Burch, for example, which now invests heavily in digital. Made to coincide with the brand’s flagship store opening in Paris, the cross-cultural film L’Américaine (Agron, 2015) starring US TV star and model Margaret Whalley, efficiently blended narrative with advertising by recounting a French boy’s love story with an American girl in flashback to provide advertorial-style shots of Whalley displaying Burch’s functional designs. In the absence of any distinctive cultural heritage beyond its national provenance, this type of symbolically weak brand projects its image through the discursive manipulation of its codes and values to consumers by integrating moving content into brand-building or product-led campaigns. The economic key is the versatility and flexibility of motion content for a brand that can embed its production within a broader communications strategy. If the end product is successful, high-definition stills can be taken from the film to create a print campaign; it can be rolled out across boutiques and online platforms and traditional advertising space can be bought to broadcast it on cinema, television, and public transport screens.

Conceptual fashion film Beyond the commercial logic of marketing, there are also formal and aesthetic factors to consider within the more conceptual forms of fashion film. How to explain the haptic materiality or the surface appeal of the non-narrative display mode of fashion film? Before it went mainstream through branded communications in 2010s, digital fashion film was more often associated with experimental art and performance practices, prototypes for which included the videos shot by the designer Hussein Chalayan, who has been described


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as an “architect of ideas”49 and whose futuristic video installation Place to Passage (2003) followed the migration of a woman across time and space in an aerodynamic pod, and, in so doing, visualized the theme of displacement that is more concretely expressed elsewhere in his garment designs. However, it was the launch of photographer Nick Knight’s pioneering website SHOWstudio in late 2000 that opened the way for the digital development of fashion moving image. At the time, Knight was a celebrated print-based stills photographer, previously named Kodak photographer of the year twice in 1985 and 1987, who had worked on high-profile editorial and advertising imagery for designers such as Yohji Yamamoto and Jil Sander in the 1980s and Alexander McQueen and John Galliano in the 1990s. Knight has collaborated throughout his career with a broad range of practitioners from musicians and performers such as Björk and Michael Clark to stylists and designers such as Simon Foxton and Peter Saville, with whom he co-founded SHOWstudio. Frustrated by the editorial channels of mediation in print press between the image-maker and the audience, Knight and Saville launched the website to explore visions of fashion through the intersecting mediums of moving image and performance, through the conception of prospective and interactive fashion-based collaborations. Working with creatives from across the audience, Knight, together with Penny Martin, the platform’s editor in the early years, established a noncommercial platform to debate, reflect, communicate, and share visions of fashion. By eschewing narrative, early experiments dealt with the kinetic relationship between fashion and the moving image. The Sound of Clothes: Synaesthesia project (2006) conceived and directed by Knight with Daniel Brown and Nick Ryan, explored the haptic appeal of clothing by drawing on the full range of senses to suggest possible soundscapes for fashion. This idea has since been successfully transplanted into the commercial realm by the Dutch duo Lernert & Sander, whose two-minute campaign film for high-street label COS, The Sound of COS (2014), staged a behind-the-scenes fantasy of the sound engineers dubbing the track to accompany the images. In their sharp advertising and editorial work for Jean-Paul Gaultier, Phillip Lim, Brioni, Nowness, and Fantastic Man, the duo has consistently honed visual concepts to translate ideas to the commercial sphere through performance and installation art. Indeed, many of the formal experiments in moving image first developed through the SHOWstudio platform in the 2000s have gradually crossed over into mainstream communications in the subsequent years, particularly the “performative” dimension to the processes involved in creating the fashion image. One of the very early attempts to experiment with 3D imaging technologies to

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capture fashion in motion was Sweet (2000), in which Knight and stylist Jan How recreated looks from the year’s collections to allow for an interactive exploration of the garments from all angles. Two of Knight’s early time-based experiments indicate the influence of Andy Warhol on the emerging genre. In Sleep (2001), Knight made an attempt (pre-streaming) at live image broadcasting by feeding live stills of nine models who were dressed and styled for a photo shoot but were in fact asleep in hotel bedrooms. The piece marks a continuity between digital fashion film and the analog avant-garde preoccupation with time, famously problematized in Warhol’s video installation Sleep (1963), which, despite the illusion of authorial nonintervention, manipulated time through the repetitive montage of consecutive shots of the poet John Giorno sleeping.50 Rather than direct the famous models chosen for More Beautiful Women (2000), in Knight’s homage to Warhol’s screen tests, The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women (1964), he passively captured them posing continuously for two minutes, thereby reconfiguring the formal construction of the photo shoot and evacuating it of the photographer’s directorial framing. By rejecting the auratic myths of the photographer, Knight relinquishes authorship of the image to communicate his ideas through the processes of collaboration—with models, stylists, hair, and makeup artists—through the laboratory setting of SHOWstudio, rather than by imposing his authorial signature on the finished product.51 Knight has filmed some of the biggest names in contemporary fashion and pop culture including music promos for Björk (Pagan Poetry, 2001) and Lady Gaga (Born This Way, 2011) and prospective films examining the fame and iconicity of supermodels Naomi Campbell (Naomi, 2009) and Kate Moss. The Editing Kate project (2010) invited video editors to interpret the model’s image from the footage captured during Knight’s editorial with her for Vogue Italia. Shot from the perspective of a stalker, one of Knight’s early pre-digital films from the mid1990s, The More Visible They Make Me, The More Invisible I Become (1995), had previously used the superstar as a vehicle to comment on celebrity, voyeurism and surveillance culture, and included footage of the pair’s first session working together, historical testimony to the performance and process of creating the fashion image. One of the ambitions of SHOWstudio was precisely to establish a digital archive of fashion imagery, which has included curating the experimentation of earlier generations of photographers such as Erwin Blumenfeld in the 1950s and Guy Bourdin in the 1970s—both important pre-digital precursors to contemporary fashion film. Titled Experiments in Advertising, Blumenfeld’s


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motion imagery, which included ads for Dayton’s department store chain, was ordered into a triptych of films edited by filmmaker Adam Mufti and sound designer Olivier Alary that explore the commercial and conceptual aspects of the photographer’s legacy. The Compulsive Viewing: The Films of Guy Bourdin project in 2002–03 curated eleven noncommercial process films that captured the photographer’s sessions. Bourdin also took home-video footage out scouting for locations.52 Like the hypnotic quality of Blumenfeld’s imagery, Bourdin’s films captivate the viewer’s attention through their open-ended structure and cyclical rhythmic patterning, by animating images of his models at work in front of the camera. The space used to exhibit Bourdin’s films at the Bon Marché department store in Paris in 2009 was designed to enhance their hallucinatory effect by inhabiting a circular room and by using floating screens, panoramic projections, and infinite mirrored boxes. The montage of clips from the newly edited and digitized films produced an uncanny effect that cultural theorist Elizabeth Wilson has described as “magic fashion”53 by immersing the viewer in the photographer’s world of editorial and advertising images, as if enveloped within the pages of Vogue magazine—a total immersion in the fashion image through the medium of film. Bourdin’s stills photography has been perceived as a form of arrested cinema—stills from moving narrative tableaux frozen in time that plunge the viewer into the action in media res, before or after the moment of suspense. 54 Bourdin’s staging often resembled a film set by channeling cinéphilic references to Hollywood glamour through the codes of b-movies, noirs, and crime thrillers. “Each image,” Christian Caujolle explains, is a little narrative, each composition has a script, the setting is a décor and whereas in the past models had first and foremost served as extras presenting dresses and fur, they become actresses. We see it immediately from their body language: previously, models posed for the camera, which resulted in a series of more or less extravagant conventions. Here instead, under Guy Bourdin’s direction, they perform roles so that each image tells us a story.55

Two of these films from the mid-1970s feature actress and model Dominique Sanda, known for her prestigious roles in European films of the period such as Vittorio de Sica’s costume drama The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s political drama The Conformist (1970). In his advertising imagery for Charles Jordan shoes, in which “an arresting image—and a mood— may be as, if not more, alluring than the product itself,”56 Bourdin’s models are often sadistically contained by their macabre surroundings. However, in the

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two films with Sanda that picture her swinging back and forth on a chair in pink lingerie or immobile in a doubling trompe l’oeil of her dismembered body, Bourdin established an ambivalent tension between constraint and freedom: the model is objectified through clothing and pose and literally contained within the frame, but the fluidity of her movements and stylized gestures allude to her contextual agency as a film actress and star performer.

Figure 1.5  The Waist (2012). Credits: Kristian Schuller and Marie Schuller (directors), SHOWstudio (producer).

Figure 1.6  Noir (2013). Credits: Marie Schuller (director) for Dice Kayek (designer) and SHOWstudio (producer).


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Bourdin’s impact on contemporary film is evidenced in two ways. First, it makes a connection between digital film and early-twentieth-century surrealism. For example, Kristian and Marie Schuller’s film The Waist for SHOWstudio’s site-specific installation series, The Fashion Body (2009) blended the still imagery of Horst’s photograph of the “Mainbocher Corset” (1929) with the animated statues from Jean Cocteau’s film Le Sang d’un poète (1930). The impact of earlier twentieth-century cinema is also apparent in Marie Schuller’s SHOWstudio collaboration with designer Dice Kayek, Noir, in 2013, in which she drew inspiration from the film styles of film noir and German expressionism. Second, the hypnotic style and open-ended structure of Bourdin’s motion imagery has been transposed to the type of abstract promos made by filmmaker Ruth Hogben for designer Gareth Pugh, in which the aim is to display clothing in motion by using film to convey the sensorial tone of the collection through movement. The spatiotemporal specificities of film—the editing and sound effects—work to enhance the visual presentation of the designs. Hogben’s promos for Pugh since 2008 are at the vanguard of this more conceptual vein of fashion film, providing a dystopian accompaniment to his designs. Insensate (2008), codirected by Knight, transposed the brutal geometry of Pugh’s collection to the backdrop of digital experimentation. Hogben’s imagery is noted for its technical expertise such as the intricate layering, editing, and coloring of shots into a synthetic kaleidoscope that is both threatening and alluring, and that toys with the viewer’s visceral response to the image.57 This focus on sensorial spectacle was also visible in Hogben’s collaboration with Knight on Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection, Plato’s Atlantis. The show was live-streamed, and accompanied by a video set to an eerie electronic soundtrack that depicted the naked body of Brazilian model Raquel Zimmermann coiled in snakes before cutting to a series of multicolored images projected back onto her flesh. These images in turn mirrored the motifs printed on the McQueen dresses, part of a dystopian collection that referenced human mutation and environmental meltdown. Making use of the kaleidoscope effect that was subsequently brought into the mainstream by Knight in his video for Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” single in 2011, the haptic visual for McQueen’s show enhanced the theatricality of the live event. It is one of the most ambitious attempts to date to merge the visual potential of the moving image with the sensation of the live catwalk show. The parallel streaming of the show was made apparent by the appearance on stage of two huge robotic cameras positioned on mechanical cranes that ran along tracks on both sides of the runway. They filmed

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the stage and audience, images of which were back-projected onto the huge screen. The decision to project images of the garments onto the screen as the models walked the runway highlighted the mediation of fashion from material garment to digital image. The self-reflexive acknowledgment of the various audiences that simultaneously consume fashion in both actual and virtual spaces also signaled the future shift in retail practice from print to the immediate online consumption of both image and product. As Nathalie Khan has argued, SHOWstudio’s nonnarrative approach essentially “pays homage to the still image”58 by formally exploring the tension between stillness and movement in digital film production. Knight has insistently defined the parameters of the emerging genre in opposition to mainstream cinema. “Just as fashion photography is a very different beast to photography, fashion film is very different to conventional film. Fashion film doesn’t rely on narrative. .  .  . The subject of the film is the clothes.”59 Consequently, SHOWstudio’s understanding of fashion film as motion imagery rather than digital cinema precludes any possible dialogue with other practices of fictional or nonfictional filmmaking. In the remainder of this chapter, I attempt to challenge the assumption that digital fashion film is divorced from mainstream cinema by exploring the creative links and commercial synergies between feature filmmaking and promotional culture.

Narrative fashion film When Kris Van Assche, at the time the creative director of Dior Homme, asked cult photographer and independent director Larry Clark to work on a short film for the house, Clark reminded him that he was not, after all, a fashion photographer, which, it transpired, was precisely the reason Dior wanted to hire him.60 One way for a fashion house to avoid a straightforward moving version of the print campaign and to augment their artistic credibility is to co-brand with a named director, an “auteur” whose artistic signature can complement the brand’s projected identity. A major reference point for menswear since the influential tenure of Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme through the early 2000s, Clark’s distinctive take on urban youth subcultures is shot through an ambiguously voyeuristic lens—an aesthetic approach that simultaneously exploits and neutralizes the predatory nature of much of his photography and film. Clark’s imagery also provided the visual template for some of the codes that were slickly reprocessed by luxury labels such as Dior Homme and imitated by high-street


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labels like The Kooples to communicate menswear through the display of skinny white teenagers since the start of the millennium. The director’s explicit feature film The Smell of Us (2015), shot around the Trocadéro in Paris, conjured up a libidinous fantasy of a group of gay-for-pay skater boys, who meet to practice, film each other, and turn perverse tricks with older clients. The film stared Lukas Ionesco, son of photographer and filmmaker Eva Ionesco, whose own stylized account of childhood sexual exploitation at the hands of her mother had previously been transposed to the screen in My Little Princess (Ionesco, 2010). Fashion was not far from Clark’s masturbatory fantasy—he even features in a cameo role as a toe-sucking client—and, as critic Peter Bradshaw explained in his review for The Guardian, The Smell of Us was less preoccupied with skating and more interested in the boys’ bodies: “Whatever the actual skating skills of the actors on screen, Clark makes them look like male models pretending to skate.”61 A subsequent collaborative book project with designer Jonathan Anderson saw Clark create images of the cast of the film shot in Paris in a self-styled edit of Anderson’s retro-futurist pre-Fall 2015 collection as a commercial means of connecting brand and film to a young demographic.62 Clark’s imprint on contemporary visual culture largely derives from the success of his first film Kids in 1995, trenchantly labeled by feminist critic bell hooks as “transgressive subject matter—reactionary film,”63 one that not only displayed an authentic array of hip street wear labels but also launched the career of the fashionable actress Chloë Sevigny, who has also modeled and directed her own film, Carmen, for the Miu Miu “Women’s Tales” series in 2017. The Smell of Us included an incongruous scene that featured the privileged female protagonist in the audience at avant-garde designer Rad Hourani’s Fall/Winter 2013–14 couture show, testimony to the director’s interest in high fashion as well as street style. His earlier film Wassup Rockers (Clark, 2005) had also included a cameo from designer Jeremy Scott, who appeared as a predatory gay photographer, whose swanky Beverly Hills pool party is crashed by a group of down-at-heal Latino skater boys, whom he offers to shoot for an ad campaign. Clark’s mini-film for Dior, A Larry Clark Project—Paris Session, appropriates the director’s brand identity and persona as a recognizably “edgy” and “countercultural” image-maker for the fashion house, thereby commercially piggybacking off the earlier feature film while glossing over its more contentious content. The film juxtaposes slow-motion presentational shots of the fashion models and close-ups of the details of

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the garments alongside more dynamic accompanying shots of the skaters in motion, which include a lascivious close-up of a nude tattooed to anchor the brand’s commodity fetishism in the world of the auteur’s body fetishism. To be sure, Clark is far from the first film director to work in fashion communication. Directors-for-hire like David Lynch and Wong Kar-wai have consistently produced commercials for fashion houses and brands in between feature film projects. Wong has made numerous commercials for Christian Dior with Sharon Stone and Eva Green, for Lancôme with Clive Owen and Daria Werbowy, and another for Lacoste in 2002, the soundtrack for which echoed Shigeru Umebayashi’s melancholic refrain from the director’s signature film In the Mood for Love.64 His commercial imagery, however, goes beyond the purely cinematic: in 2011, he coauthored a makeup collection with Japanese cosmetics brand Shu Uemura, for which design imagery from the campaign film starring French-Taiwanese star Sandrine Pinna was reproduced on the product packaging. Conversely, there are also cases of “admen” who later became renowned Hollywood directors, such as Ridley Scott, whose commercials for the Chanel N°5 perfume in the late 1970s and early 1980s first expanded the advertising format to the minifilm by incorporating a lifestyle narrative that relied on glamorous, aspirational settings to display models at the poolside of luxurious villas. It thereby retained the setting for the fashion editorial but took the commercial beyond the conventions of fashion photography, hitherto reliant on the film star’s fame, charisma, and face, as illustrated by Helmut Newton’s earlier ads for the Chanel scent, which were built around head shots of film star Catherine Deneuve. David Lynch, for his part, shot numerous ad campaigns through the 1980s and 1990s for fragrances by Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld, and Yves Saint Laurent without lending his creative signature to the product or brand. The advent of twenty-first-century fashion-film content altered the communicational process by conveying the brand through the authorial imprint of the director—through the practice of co-branding—thereby repositioning the commercial beyond media advertising within the realms of PR, as part of a broader artistic project intended to bolster the reputations of auteur, brand, and star. Lynch’s project with Christian Dior in 2009, which featured French film star Marion Cotillard, Lady Blue Shanghai, was packaged as a fifteen-minute motion picture by the house. As John Berra explains in his discussion of the project, this type of convergent film amalgamated the roles to date of the transnational star Cotillard into a condensed version of Lynch’s brand identity, “repositioning the trademark tropes of [the director] within the context of a promotional piece.”65


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The commercial brief was to promote the product—the Lady Dior handbag—in the context of Shanghai’s old city and Pearl Tower. Beyond the prescribed product placement and touristic locations, Lynch chose to adapt the drama in line with his claustrophobic interiors, which consisted of the eerie corridors and rooms of a corporate hotel. As Justin Nieland observes in his analysis of Lynch’s cinema from the perspective of interior design, his approach is a “matter of engineering atmosphere and producing dynamic, totally synthetic affective environments.”66 The attempt here to psychologize space through the film’s attempt at plotting— the handbag is used as a surrealistic prop to jolt Cotillard’s repressed memory of a former affair in Shanghai—is, however, circumscribed by the commercial format. The film’s dramatic impact and narrative credibility are undercut by the audience’s awareness from the opening credits of the commercial framing of the piece (“Dior presents Lady Blue Shanghai”) and its basic function as advertising, which is indeed the main sticking point for the efficacy of much narrative fashion film. The semiotic confusion derives from the fact that brands strive to position fashion films creatively as artistic endeavors by hiring named directors and by casting A-list stars, but, despite the fact that they are often branding rather than campaign tools, marketing rather than advertising, the audience still tends to decode them automatically as promotional products, as new-look commercials, as just advertising. Rather than opt for dramatic plot and embed the campaign film within the “art” of cinema, Larry Clark approached his Dior project more as a conventional editorial that emphasized the model, pose, and look of the garments. Elsewhere, however, branded collaborations on creative projects with film directors have tended more often to rely on the dramatic effects of storytelling, a fact that underlines two intersecting trends in cinema and fashion branding: first, the return of narrative dramatization to high-end fashion imagery; and second, the impact of branded entertainment on the conception, direction, and style of contemporary feature films. Penny Martin, editor-in-chief of The Gentlewoman, first detected the narrative trend in fashion advertising and editorial imagery in 2010, when she analyzed the photographer Steven Klein’s cinematic techniques for the Spring/Summer ad campaign for Dolce & Gabbana, which made, in her view, a timely point about the shifting state of fashion imagery. After a decade of excess characterised by deathly dull campaign imagery where the only factor distinguishing one studio shoot from another was the time spent in postproduction, it is interesting to see characterisation, narrative and performance creeping back into fashion photography at the highest end.67

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Martin put this turn down to the relentless demands of digital content production and the need to roll out imagery across multiple media platforms. Diane Pernet has also been quoted as saying that “what makes a good fashion film is exactly what makes any good film: direction, lighting, acting, script, sound,”68 returning to underlying formal questions concerning the quality of fashion film content in terms of performance, storytelling, and cinematography—questions of aesthetic value that indicate the difficulty of assessing the output of an emerging genre without reinscribing entrenched and often elitist critical divisions between (high) art and (popular) consumer culture. Some uses of narrative film by fashion brands indicate a conventional reliance on dialogue to promote product and brand through failed attempts at dramatic storytelling that overshadow the fashion. Take Karl Lagerfeld, whose mini-dramas for Chanel are analyzed later in more detail. His short campaign film Remember Now, made for the 2010/2011 cruise collection, featured classical French actor Pascal Greggory, who arrives at an ostentatious St. Tropez nightclub, where he is introduced to various models including Baptiste Giabiconi, Lagerfeld’s muse—a meeting that makes for an inchoate collision of fashion and cinema, in which the actor’s dramatic performance is undermined by the awkward presence of the nonacting models. The commercial point of the film is to sell the Chanel lifestyle. The story’s glitzy setting allows Lagerfeld to make a detour through the resort’s cultural heritage by referencing historic figures from Colette to Brigitte Bardot, names that are superficially dropped onto an artistic backdrop to promote the designer’s Riviera-inspired collection. However, there are films that straddle the categories of art and advertising in more creative ways. Justin Anderson’s short film Jumper (2014), commissioned by British designer Jonathan Saunders to celebrate the tenth anniversary of his label, self-consciously engages with queer visual history by blending references to the designs of a number of David Hockney’s pool paintings—particularly “Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool” (1966), “A Bigger Splash” (1967), and “Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two figures)” (1972)—and the visual style of Jack Hazan’s biographical film about the painter, A Bigger Splash (1974) with the tense drama of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s intellectual art film Teorema (1968), in which a handsome visitor, played by the fashionable actor of the period, Terence Stamp, transforms the members of a bourgeois family by seducing and then abandoning them to their own devices. Described by Pasolini as a religious experience, the visit “demolishes everything that the bourgeoisie knows about itself, which the guest has come to destroy. . . . After the guest leaves, each member of the family is left


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with an awareness of his or her own inauthenticity or inability to be authentic because of class and historical limitations.”69 Anderson’s commercial rerouting of queer visual history lays bare the erotic component to the visitor’s clothing in Pasolini’s original film, the controlled tone of which is ruptured by what film theorist Stella Bruzzi has described as Teorema’s “exemplary clothes moments in which the specific conjunction between desire, sexuality, and Terence Stamp’s quintessentially cool 60s look is made central.”70 Jumper was also styled by the designer Saunders, who picked representative pieces from his colorful archive to convey the symbolic emotional effect of the narrative through the visual impact of the clothing. The film starts in the lush garden as the visitor strips naked before diving into the pool. A woman watches him swim; her red dress with a botanical motif evokes the passionate mother, played in Teorema by Silvana Mangano, whose true sexual nature is unleashed by the young man’s seductive presence. In Jumper, the erotic appeal of the visitor, who observes the family members as they dine in silence, is channeled through haptic shots of his naked body, which stands before them as a haunting personification of their repressed desires. As in traditional melodrama, in the absence of dialogue the hectic geometric prints and bright color block garments articulate the story intertextually through the visual communication of fashion. Contemporary brands like Kenzo, Prada, and Miu Miu have become particularly known for their moving-image productions, having commissioned films by some of international cinema’s most prestigious names. The arrival of designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, cofounders of the Opening Ceremony boutique and brand, at Kenzo in 2011 saw a change of direction. Known for their accessories and sweatshirts, the creative directors gradually rebooted the brand’s imagery to make it feel more urban and contemporary in tone. Spike Jonze’s ad for the launch of the duo’s first fragrance, Kenzo World, in 2016 featured Margaret Qualley wildly breaking out of the generic conventions of the fragrance ad by free-styling to a dancehall track called “Mutant Brain.” The campaign won a number of prestigious awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2017, including the Titanium Lion prize, which rewards a campaign that aims to break with industry norms. In parallel, Leon and Lim also explored the possibilities of short film promos with collaborations with a number of indie directors including Gregg Araki and Sean Baker, whose work resonates with their casual Californian sensibility. Araki, who emerged through the early 1990s New Queer Cinema and whose film Mysterious Skin (2004) consolidated his reputation for encasing alienated queer adolescents within a pop framework,

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filmed an offbeat skit called Here Now that displayed the psychedelic Fall/Winter 2015 women’s and men’s wear collections by nostalgically referencing the lost teens of his cult film Nowhere (1997). Following Tangerine (2015), a film shot entirely on an iPhone, which depicted the friendship between two black trans sex workers in downtown Los Angeles, Sean Baker contributed an eleven-minute piece called Snowbird, which drew on naturalistic performance and dramatic characterization to promote Kenzo’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Model and actress Abbey Lee—whose elongated physique was on prominent display in the reboot of the Mad Max franchise, Fury Road (Miller, 2015)—is filmed making her way through Slab City, a trailer park for winter sunseekers in the Californian desert; she goes from caravan to caravan sharing her homemade cake with the residents. The loose and unscripted feel to these everyday encounters is contrasted by the series of choreographed shots of her outside crossing the sun-drenched desert. This spatial contrast underlines the difference between the look of the fashion editorial and the structure of the narrative film, and, in so doing, exposes the tension between the opposing visual languages of drama and style. As we follow Lee through the trailer park as she switches between character and model, the shifts between spectacle and story become seamless and the expansive exterior shots of the garments in motion to provide an affective release from the more intimate interior encounters. The trend for collaborating with directors and artists on digital fashion films has been particularly associated with the Italian designer Miuccia Prada. Her labels Miu Miu and Prada have been at the vanguard of artistic, technological, and commercial developments in fashion film. Her extensive patronage of the arts has been instrumental in positioning luxury fashion within the corporatized reconfiguration of the visual arts and the “appropriation” of the avant-garde by fashion branding.71 A collaboration with visual artist James Jean on a four-minute animation film Trembled Blossoms in 2008 using motion-capture technology was seen, at the time, as a watershed moment in the history of digital fashion film, as the first piece commissioned by a luxury brand to promote garments and accessories from a specific collection (Spring/Summer 2008).72 A subsequent collaboration with Chinese visual artist Yang Fudong in 2010 allowed the brand to shift its communication toward cinema proper by linking its image to the heritage of modernist art film—Yang’s First Spring was a silent, dreamlike film noir shot with atmospheric black-and-white cinematography to promote garments from the Spring/Summer 2010 menswear collection.


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As well as her patronage of moving image through the Fondazione Prada in Milan and the itinerant Transformer structure that promotes cinema across the globe, Prada has herself also appeared in front of the camera in Baz Luhrmann’s Impossible Conversations series, an extension to the MET museum’s exhibition in New York in 2012, in which she performed an imaginary encounter with Elsa Schiaparelli, played by actor Judy Davis. Prada’s prestigious position as the world’s most influential female designer is inflected through her “Women’s Tales” series of films for Miu Miu since 2012, which have premiered each year at the Venice Film Festival. Aiming to discover and empower female directors, the films are entirely financed and produced by Prada and loosely promote (or are inspired by) Miu Miu collections. The series has included short films by emerging talents in international cinema such as directors Naomi Kawase and Alice Rohrwacher, together with those by veteran artists such as Agnès Varda, whose film The Three Buttons (2015) playfully embedded dress within a whimsical fairy tale. One of the most remarkable of the “Women’s Tales” series to date has been Argentine director Lucrecia Martel’s unsettling hybrid genre film, Muta (2011), which mixes sci-fi futurism with low-key horror. Muta depicts the corporeal mutation of fashion models into insects, a dig at the industry whose products it ostensibly seeks to promote. While the label’s accessories and dresses are prominently filmed in close-up, the bodies of the alien mannequins mutate into butterflies and float free from their designer carapaces. Prada’s media advertising has frequently referenced cinema—the 2017 eyewear reveled in the escapism of the movies and Steven Meisel’s ad for Fall/ Winter 2013 parodied the casting process of film production. Furthermore, the brand’s film collaborations have consistently sought to promote both the auteur’s symbolic value along with the brand’s commercial clout. Despite relatively low budgets, the Prada movies have generated much media interest, particularly the high-profile examples such as A Therapy (2012) with Roman Polanski and Past Forward (2017) with David O. Russell. While Polanski’s film transposed the classicism of his narrative cinema to a dialogue between fashion and psychoanalysis shaped around the conventions of character and situation and enhanced by the dramatic performances of Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley, Russell’s more abstract film embedded an homage to Alfred Hitchcock within a multiscreen collage installation. If the symbolic objective is for the fashion brand to acquire the cultural capital of the big screen by association, its commercial ambition is to extend the brand’s activities into film production by transforming it into a post-digital studio rather than simply

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operating as the commissioner of media advertising. As we have seen, while conventional campaigns to promote cosmetics and fragrances have frequently involved celebrity directors and film stars, thereby historically underscoring the commercial ties between cinema and marketing, the new digital films aim to sustain a more fluid relationship between fashion and the moving image. In short, artistic collaborations with film directors enable the brand to shore up its luxury positioning to project an aura of immaterial timelessness beyond the more ephemeral nature of seasonal campaigns.73 Director Wes Anderson’s multiple collaborations with Prada illustrate how a filmmaker’s signature style can complement the brand’s visual identity and adapt to its commercial needs. As well as designing the space for the café at the Prada Foundation in Milan, Anderson has also been employed for film campaigns. In addition, the house financed his short 1950s pastiche, Castello Cavalcanti (2013), filmed at the Cinecittà studios in Rome for the “Prada Classics” series. The film was intended as a concentrate of Anderson’s style in homage to Italian culture and cinema, particularly the ambient nostalgia and rural setting of Federico Fellini’s Amarcord (1973).74 While photographers Jean-Paul Goude and Steven Meisel shot the media campaigns for the Prada Candy and Prada Candy Florale fragrances with the French actress and “face” of Prada, Léa Seydoux, the three accompanying vignettes for Prada Candy L’Eau were codirected by Anderson and Roman Coppola. Anderson’s directorial signature consists of a trademark style of meticulously designed and over-framed shots of actors, who perform artificially as if marionettes rather than characters. Written in French and shot in a mock-up studio set of Paris, the Prada Candy episodes allude to the heritage of the French New Wave and make affectionate pastiche nods to the triangular amorous relationship in François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962). From The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) onward, Anderson’s pop cinema has had a considerable impact on fashion—on the new-look Gucci among others—and the director’s obsessive attention to decorative detail makes him an obvious choice for fashion communications. Short-form film and advertising commercials have been described as the “perfect vehicle” for Anderson’s “heightened reality” film style, because it allows him to express his oblique worldview through condensed set pieces.75 The Christmas holiday TV ad, Come Together, for H&M in 2016, which starred Adrien Brody, made obvious reference to the emblematic train from The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and succinctly transposed the director’s whimsical aesthetic, in particular the artificial color palette and quirky art direction, to the business of promoting seasonal fast fashion.


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Beyond the transposition of authorial style and narrative drama to the film commercial, there is also the further question of the impact of the diverse online formats on feature filmmaking practice itself. To what extent is an auteur film now conceived as a product in a director’s line to be communicated through the techniques of marketing? The conventional way of perceiving product through the symbolic means of branding, that is to say through the semiotic economy of names, symbols, and concepts, which are routinely categorized in marketing terms as the “codes” and “values” of the fashion house,76 indicates the potential cross-fertilization between the different forms of storytelling—both visual and narrative—used by the adjacent industries of cinema and advertising. According to the conventional wisdom of marketing, consumers do not buy products; they buy into the stories spun by advertisers that are conveyed through products. They do not buy brands; they buy into the myths and archetypes symbolized by the brand. Hence the importance of forms of narrative communication, which focus on emotional engagement with the brand’s actual or invented histories. This explains why the lure of narrative cinema is still so potent for the discursive economy of designer brands, not purely as a one-way channel of communication from brand to audience, but equally as a dynamic means of experimenting with moving image and forms of visual storytelling in the promotional context. 77

Commodity auteurism The intersection of narrative cinema and fashion branding is not, however, always unproblematic, and it can at times produce contradictory tensions between the staging of a lifestyle aesthetic and the structure of narrative drama. Yet, with the rise of fashion as a central feature of the reconfigured landscape of imagery produced by the intersecting pop and consumer visual cultures, film directors are now generally less inhibited about discussing their commercial work in advertising since they are now routinely marketed as brands themselves and have incorporated the notion that contemporary independent filmmaking is as intrinsically linked to marketing as it is in the Hollywood studios. The fact that directors are also no longer required to strip their commercials and fashion films of an authorial signature—take Wes Anderson’s self-parody, My Life, My Card for American Express (2011)—illustrates a working relationship between cinema and promotion for contemporary directors; a trend which,

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according to film historian Thomas Elsaesser, originated in the shift from a European auteur theory of stylistic classification to an American type of directorial self-definition. One could say that the term “auteur” in the 1980s makes a fascinating journey from critical category to brand-name and marketing-device, mainly because in the uncertain world of the cinema in the age of television, of blockbusters, mainstream cinema and independents, of art-cinema and new waves, there are very few sign-posts and markers, and in the end, it is the market that demands labels and recognition-signs: whether they like it or not, directors cannot just be directors—they have to advertise themselves, promote themselves, create a brand-identity for themselves: the filmmaker as superstar and the filmmaker as cult director are some of the most familiar results of this process. It makes the term “author” in one sense almost meaningless, and in another so indispensable that we hardly question its assumptions.78

Some directors attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience via the importance of fashion and advertising, not simply through conventional strategies of product placement, but also through extensive creative collaboration on production and costume design to create a type of lifestyle or advertorial aesthetic for narrative drama. For example, Luca Guadagnino’s incorporation of Raf Simons’ disruptive designs for actress Tilda Swinton in I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015) ensured both movies a broader communications platform across online and off-line media. For I Am Love, Simons’ design team at Jil Sander collaborated with the film’s costume designer, Antonella Cannarozzi, who was Oscar-nominated for her work in fashioning the supremely elegant wardrobe of a family of rich Milanese industrialists, including most notably the Fendi furs worn by actress Marisa Berenson. Alongside this spectacular inclusion of luxury, the Jil Sander pieces are memorable for their formal subtlety and chromatic expressivity. Swinton’s character Emma, a Russian émigré and the adulterous wife of a rich textile industrialist, is delineated by Simons’ austere tailoring, which on a purely narrative level indicates her social status, but which on a symbolic level distances her from the surrounding opulence through the maximal color coding. Emma’s transformation from a female clotheshorse to a passionate woman is overscored by Simons’ designs, which act out, rather than merely accompany, the character’s narrative arc. Her transformation from a style icon to a woman in love is conveyed through the precise cuts, luxurious fabrics, and tonal range of Simons’ designs.79


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In certain scenes in Guadagnino’s subsequent collaboration with Swinton, A Bigger Splash—a modern variation on the chic sixties romantic thriller La Piscine (Deray, 1969)—the narrative playfully dissolves into advertorial fashion and lifestyle imagery, particularly the shots of Swinton as a reclusive rock-star, who is dressed throughout by Dior, and the scenes that display seminaked bodies by the pool. Guadagnino’s postmodern approach combines the design aesthetic of the original film, which exploited the physical charms of Alain Delon and Romy Schneider, with the pop sensibility of Jack Hazan’s documentary portrait of artist David Hockney, which was also titled A Bigger Splash (1973). The initial framing device for Guadagnino’s film was to have included a scene shot at the Tate Gallery in London featuring Hockney’s actual painting.80 Guadagnino’s aestheticized imagery, however pleasing to the eye, is not in fact intended to pastiche the glossy visual language of lifestyle advertising. The decision to relocate the narrative to the Italian island of Pantelleria, in close proximity to the coast of North Africa, was meant to work in ironic counterpoint to the bourgeois drama at the villa and the film’s satire of local corruption by contrasting the spectacular composition of Swinton’s glamour looks, which include a beachwear combo of knotted dress-shirt and oversized DiorSoReal shades, and the character’s touristic imperialism with the anonymous faces of the African migrants who seek refuge on the island. Sarah Gilligan has argued that the use of aspirational luxury costuming “plays a pivotal and disruptive role in fashioning identity.”81 In collaboration with the costume designer Giulia Piersanti, Simons’ capsule collection of resortwear commodifies the audience’s potential ambivalence about fashion. The designer’s spectacular off-duty looks for Swinton, which are stiff and ill-fitting, loosely reference Ingrid Bergman in Robert Rossellini’s Journey to Italy (1954), while the flashback scenes of her character at work in the recording studio or on stage show her dressed in gender-neutral zipped sequined suits. Swinton’s pale aloofness, her distinct brand of upper-class whiteness, contributes to the character’s elitist image and reference Bowie’s iconic seventies looks for the Thin White Duke persona and the alien figure from Nicolas’s Roeg’s film The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976). As feminist film theorist Jackie Stacey observes, Swinton’s otherworldly “off-gender flux” falls under the aesthetic influence of the late pop star, with whom she collaborated on the retro-design video for The Stars (Are Out Tonight) single in 2013. By “off-gender flux” Stacey means less the “in-between-ness of androgyny and more the capacity to move across, to embody the mobility of temporal flux,”82 a shape-shifting characteristic

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put to remarkable effect elsewhere by director Jim Jarmusch, who cast her as a supremely stylish vampire in Only Lovers Left Alive in 2013. Guadagnino’s own ease in fashion communications—making advertising films through his production company, Frenesy, commissioned by luxury brands such as Armani, Cartier, Ferragamo, DKNY, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Pomellato (again with Swinton)—illustrates the extent to which his commercial work in advertising acts as the experimental ground for some of the formal ideas, which are more fully developed through dramatic narrative in his feature films. In his inquiry into the convergence of branding and mainstream cinema, Paul Grainge asks: “What modalities does branding assume in cinematic culture and what do these modes reveal or imply about the patterning of film experience?” Taking the extended example of branded entertainment in the form of the alliance of Hollywood and Madison Avenue, he cites examples from the earlier 2000s of branded consumer interactivity through experimental digital initiatives in brand content since BMW’s series The Hire in 2001 and Baz Luhrmann’s event spectacle, Chanel N°5 The Film in 2004. As we saw with the hyperbolic Cartier mini-films, the convergent blending of the experience of Hollywood entertainment with branded promotion transforms the extended commercial into a filmic event in itself—Luhrmann’s film was made at a cost of some thirtythree million dollars and given a global cross-media release. Thus, Grainge argues, the residual format of the advertising spot is superficially transformed into a “new” or emergent type of cultural product.83 The Chanel N°5 film, leaning on the director’s earlier musical film Moulin Rouge (2001) through self-referential casting, setting, and diegesis, has also been read through the lens of the director’s oeuvre and its productive relationship with fashion, style, and glamour. As with Luhrmann’s other film productions, the costumes were designed and coordinated by Catherine Martin. Nicole Kidman, dressed by Lagerfeld, returned as the star who is pursued by the paparazzi to a Paris rooftop, where she enjoys a tryst with her secret lover, a setting adorned by the mammoth Chanel logo. As Pam Cook has observed in relation to the director’s feature films, despite the lavish scale of the production marketed as a PR event and its success in promoting the brand, “the mini-film’s relationship to a commercial is tangential.”84 Narrative coherence and plausibility were absent and the original dramatic tension between commerce and creativity was diluted by the condensed format. Fashion was also central to the conception and reception of Luhrmann’s later adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s melodramatic novel The Great Gatsby in 2013, the production and costume design for which included some forty pieces


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designed by Prada, which were inspired by some of the 1920s inspired cocktail and evening gowns from her 2011 and 2012 collections. Catherine Martin also curated an edit of the costume designs for a peripatetic installation at the Prada Epicentres in New York, Tokyo, and Shanghai.85 The rebooted Gatsby was, in effect, a strategic vehicle for trans-media entertainment, the PR for which included a co-branding operation with Tiffany & Co, with whom Martin created and sourced jewelry for the production and who created a tie-in collection to mark the film’s release. Mainly due to the adaptation’s pyrotechnic visual style and frenetic editing rhythms—particularly its dizzying use of 3D and jarring use of sonic counterpoint through contemporary hip-hop commissioned from Beyoncé and Jay-Z—more conservative critics dismissed it as shallow and vulgar in its apparently demagogic attempt to seduce a young consumer demographic: “It suggests that [Luhrmann is] less a filmmaker than a music-video director with endless resources and a stunning absence of taste”86 as the critic for the New Yorker bluntly put it. Similar charges of style over substance have also been levelled at the work of director Sofia Coppola, who is emblematic of the centrality of fashion branding to contemporary cinema in that her films highlight an underlying tension between narrative and consumption, which positions her as a type of commodity auteur, one whose status is inflected by gender and an ambivalent relationship with questions of female agency and commodification. Through her modeling and one-off collections for Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton, which have included a luxury line of “Sofia” handbags, together with her own Japanese teen fashion label, MilkFed, Coppola has been described as a new type of celebrity auteur, one who exploits the marketing potential of her personal brand.87 As Pam Cook argues, Coppola’s authorial profile fashioned through popular consumer culture is “characterised by high levels of transmedia public visibility similar to those experienced by stars.”88 This publicly curated profile is bolstered by her work in advertising. The commercial exigencies of conventional media advertising often either limit directors to a generic brief (Coppola’s commercial for Marni’s co-branded collection with H&M in 2012, shot at a luxurious Moroccan villa, combined her trademark evanescence with a series of romantic lifestyle clichés) or to a processed concentration of their authorial signature. Her commercial for Dior’s City of Light fragrance in 2010 effectively redeployed the nostalgic filters reminiscent of the cinematography of her film Virgin Suicides (1999). Released to coincide with The Beguiled in 2017, Coppola’s lifestyle commercial for the relaunch of Cartier’s “Panther”

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watch bridged the gap between an all-American iconography of L.A. with luxury French jewelry by alluding to the director’s preferred style of dress through the casting of a model who adopts her low-key look of white madeto-measure dress shirts. The seductiveness of Coppola’s cinema has led to criticisms of her promoting surface glamour, despite the clear satirical intent of a film like The Bling Ring (2013) with its deceptively accessible style, or the pleasurable subversion of the historical costume drama in Marie Antoinette (2006) with its anachronistic attention to branded apparel, which included a fetishistic close-up of a pair of Converse high-tops included in the queen’s extravagant “I want candy” shopping scene. In her monograph on Coppola’s cinema, Fiona Handyside concurs that fashion is an essential part of the “management” of her public persona.89 The spectacular visibility of fashionable lifestyles leads her to situate Coppola’s cinema within the realms of the twenty-first-century fashion film, which, following Hilary Radner’s definition, purposefully draws on the popular appeal of fashion for audiences who are receptive to consumer culture and advertising imagery. The Bling Ring, however, was adapted from a critical journalistic account of the story of a gang of hyper-connected, label-obsessed L.A. teens, who break into celebrities’ homes to bag their hordes of luxury goods.90 Despite Coppola’s measured distance from these real-life events—a position articulated through the ambiguous viewpoint of an extreme distance shot of the gang at work looting a palatial glass-lined villa—the film’s final verdict is more ambivalent, since, through the use of montage party sequences, the film tends to glamorize the same milieu that it attempts to critique—a milieu that on the evidence of the voyeuristic media coverage of the trial was seemingly less aspirational in reality than in this polished adaptation. The intersection of celebrity and lifestyle, intentionally critical in the case of Coppola, leads us to the door of fashion designer-turned-film director Tom Ford, who presents a more problematic case study for the conjunction of contemporary fashion and film because he takes commodity auteurism to the next level. The target of much critical suspicion of fashion on screen comes from the sort of production design that submerges the narrative in a stagnant aesthetic coding, which is reliant on the clichéd look of editorial or advertising imagery, structured around the model’s pose and a level of surface perfection more attuned to fashion photography than to narrative film. Ford’s directorial debut A Single Man in 2010 is revealing in this respect for it self-consciously straddled the codes of advertising and art cinema. The film, a prototype for the promotional


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film in long form, described aptly by one critic as having been “designed to death,”91 raises pertinent questions around the definition of authorship in the convergent mediascape of fashion, moving image, and consumer culture. What does the fashion designer bring to the creative and collaborative process of directing? Is this type of cinema a spin-off of a commercial approach to fashion that “channels” or appropriates visual sources pell-mell? Is the film simply part of a broader self-promotional strategy with the product rolled out along with fashion and fragrance to promote the designer’s own label? Pamela Church Gibson has written extensively about Ford’s strategic positioning of his selffinanced film within the revised consumer culture of branding and celebrity that he helped to forge as creative director of Gucci through the 1990s.92 Following in the footsteps of the celebrated US television series Mad Men, Ford’s glossy adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel was criticized for its contrived shots of designed interiors and its over-insistence on immaculate garments.93 Isherwood’s cruel realism was replaced by Ford’s luxury aesthetic, the elegant clichés of which served to neutralize the existential angst and affective allure of the original story. Ford’s subsequent film, Nocturnal Animals (2016), adapted from Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan, was a complex meta-thriller with a tripartite structure that allowed the director to airbrush the more realist elements of the novel out of the picture in search of a perfect aesthetic vehicle through which to launch a curated critique of the same luxury lifestyle that he had forged a career promoting through fashion branding. In her reading of Ford’s film, Church Gibson argues in a similar vein that this is, in essence, an advertorial approach to film, in which the aesthetics of promotion “infiltrate” and “disrupt” the conventional narrative. “The narrative strands of the film proper,” she explains, “are moving against and in conflict with the viral-film aesthetic that seems to dominate at times.”94 Rejecting the academic setting of the novel for the art milieu of the film, Ford’s intended critique of the shallow existence of the superrich L.A. gallery owner, Susan Morrow, who in the moralistic adaptation finally accepts that she has missed her chance for happiness years earlier, is untenable because of the filmmaker’s own branded celebrity—in particular his techniques of self-promotion and his public performance of the high-stylist; an image that is fashioned around Ford’s nonchalant elegance and the projection of a formal dress code that he commercializes through an eponymous menswear label.95 The idealist ambitions of the film’s romantic narrative—having read the manuscript of her ex-husband’s harrowing book, Susan offers to meet him in

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the hope of rekindling their relationship—are here undercut by the audience’s contextual knowledge of Ford’s status as the archetypal commodity auteur, an image of good taste embedded in promotional culture. From a purely commercial perspective, one could, of course, argue that Ford has simply managed to circumvent the inherent problem of the branded fashion film in the world of convergent media entertainment: how to persuade an audience to overlook the commercial intention of the film altogether and to consider it as art rather than advertising. In one sense, Ford’s authorial posture as a director is a commercial “breakthrough” because it repositions and extends his brand identity through adjacent forms of artistic production. Beyond Arianne Phillips’s on-point styling for actor Amy Adams, Shane Valentino’s production designs for the character’s sterile home—inspired by one of Ford’s own luxurious properties—transpose the steely look and empty affect of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Red Desert (1964) to contemporary Los Angeles, and, in so doing, lay bare the production’s more calculated grounding in imitation, replication, and consumption.96 The artistic product placement alone included artifacts loaned by the stars of contemporary art such as Sterling Ruby, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst.97 Unlike the apparent vulgarity detected by critics in Luhrmann’s literary adaptation of Gatsby, Ford’s ultra-tasteful film takes a mood board approach in which narrative drama, however deftly deployed, is ultimately subordinate to the stylistic coding and value system of branded communications.

Promotional genres In the pantheon of directors who have made branded films, one of the most unexpected examples is that of Kenneth Anger, the pioneering gay experimental filmmaker of the American avant-garde, who, in 2010, made a short promo for the Italian house Missoni, known for its expressive colorful knitwear. Born Kenneth Anglemeyer in 1927, the artist changed his name to Anger as a way of branding himself and his work. He also appeared in front of the camera in a cameo role for an arty film, Vox Humana, directed by Griffin for the American label Rodarte in 2009, part of SHOWstudio’s exploratory Future Tense project that promoted the work of emerging designers through moving image. Commissioned by the Italian fashion house to promote its Autumn/Winter 2010–11 collection, Missoni by Anger transposed the filmmaker’s trademark hypnotic dissolves and homoerotic imagery to the straight world of corporate promotion by shooting members of


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the Missoni family who display the garments in motion, in what amounts to a pastiche homage to his earlier work. The piece alludes to the more experimental historical lineage for twenty-first-century fashion film in earlier forms of queer underground cinema such as Anger’s midcentury esoteric explorations of sexual dissent, magic, and the occult, in which clothing and adornment were integral to the style, tone, and atmosphere of the short films.98 Puce Moment (1949), an early prototype of the fashion film, began with a shot of 1920s vintage dresses sliding toward and away from the camera as a woman (Yvonne Marquis, the director’s cousin) selects one before getting elegantly dressed up to take her dog out for a walk. Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) began with an enigmatic close-up of jewels being sensually wound around a woman’s hand; and the voyeuristic pleasure of Anger’s “water film” Eaux d’Artifice (1953), filmed around the garden fountains at the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, Italy, was largely derived from the contrast between the fetishistic exuberance of the woman’s eighteenth-century costume and the earthily erotic allusions to golden showers. With its fetishistic imagery of violent leather-clad bikers, Scorpio Rising (1963) defined the queer S/M look on film in conjunction with the more mainstream, but nonetheless ambiguous, rebel icons of the era such as Marlon Brando and James Dean. And, in an original e-tail initiative, Anger now sells the branded merchandise from his films online. Chiming with the designer trend for satin souvenir bomber jackets produced by the likes of Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent following actor Ryan Gosling’s quilted version in the film Drive (Winding Refn, 2011), limited edition “authentic copies” of the original black leather jacket hand-stitched with a multicolor motif of the occult triangle, which had been prominently displayed in the ritualistic Lucifer Rising (1972), and which has since been reimagined in black and gold satin imitations that are personally signed by the filmmaker, now retail for just under three hundred dollars on his website.99 Notwithstanding Anger’s interest in fashion and his cultivation of costume, the luxury industry’s embrace of his work—sequences from his films were incorporated into the staging of Valentino’s Fall/Winter 2010/2011 runway show—is indeed striking given his reputation as an artistic maverick and outsider figure. In a critical study published in 1999, French screenwriter and director Olivier Assayas celebrated Anger’s low-fi production for having provided an exemplary alternative to the commercial triumphalism of Hollywood.100 It is precisely the ritualistic aspect of Anger’s imagery that gives it its unique structure, and it may indeed be the magical spectacle of the trance that lends itself so well to the communication of consumer fashion.

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Assayas’s films Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Personal Shopper (2016) also provide critical commentaries on the tension between image and consumption by problematizing the nexus of celebrity, performance, and materialism that underpins contemporary fashion. Both films alternate between fascination and repulsion, which is surprising given their production contexts: both were partfunded by the house of Chanel and both contain manifest product placements by Cartier, Christian Louboutin, and Vionnet. Personal Shopper, an esoteric meta-thriller, sets the subject of spiritualistic philosophy (perhaps under the influence of Anger) against the backdrop of luxury fashion’s brutal hypermaterialism. The director’s shaded view of luxury is not puritanical, however; it is not directed at fashion per se, but rather at the excessive “financialization” of the industry.101 (Incidentally, Assayas is the son of Catherine de Karolyi, the Hungarian-born fashion designer who launched Hermès’s first ready-to-wear collections in the late 1960s and invented the house’s emblematic H buckle.) This type of accommodated critique would seem emblematic of the creative tension between independent cinema and corporate fashion that has taken hold of moving-image production: Assayas’s films lay bare the contradictions of contemporary screen and consumer culture, in which the fashion house sponsors the feature film, thereby ensuring it broader publicity platforms and distribution networks, while giving the auteur free rein to develop a partial critique of its ethos or practices. In 2017, Assayas collaborated with Chanel on a product film for the launch of the Gabrielle handbag staring French model and music producer Caroline de Maigret, known for her display of a nonchalant French aristocratic chic—she is the coauthor of an aspirational volume titled How To Be Parisian: Wherever You Are—here filmed drifting around an apartment preparing for a photo shoot with Lagerfeld. (She also makes a fleeting appearance in Sils Maria as a Chanel PR.) The characters in Assayas’s feature films, however, are more openly skeptical about fashion. Maureen (Kristin Stewart), the cash-in-hand personal shopper who works for a vain A-list celebrity called Kira, hates her job, which she sees as futile and vacuous. When a job opening comes up at Vogue, she complains about how magazines just sell things for advertisers rather than catering to their readers. Bemoaning the fashion photographer’s lack of freedom, she is herself subservient to a tyrannical boss, who refuses to return the garments she borrows for gala events. Secretly trying on the prized pieces, Maureen even has to stand in when Kira fails to show up for a photo shoot. When she mysteriously receives anonymous texts that coerce her to transgress by discarding her no-look attire


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and slipping into the sexy Vionnet harness dress and the vintage Chanel metallic gown, Maureen’s spiritual powers as a medium start to increase. Fashion, the film elliptically suggests, empowers her to contact her deceased brother in the afterlife. In Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart plays the quick-witted assistant to a star of stage and screen, played by Juliette Binoche, who is also elegantly dressed by Chanel. Like the Cartier jewels in Personal Shopper that are partially used to resolve the ghost story-cum-thriller, the brand is here woven into the narrative for descriptive effect—simply to present the character of Maria Enders as a modern star. The spectacular staging of the fashion shoot toward the start, at precisely the moment when the actress learns of the death of her former mentor, is intended to underline the opposition between her plastic image as an icon of beauty and glamour and the conflicted performer and individual beneath the mask. The meta-effect of both films depends on a contextual recognition of Stewart’s international fame: in Sils Maria her character debates the car-crash celebrity of a postmillennial teen starlet played by Chloë Grace Moretz, which provides a pointed commentary on the public scrutiny of Stewart’s private life since the global success of the Twilight film franchise since 2008. The intended critique of Personal Shopper is, however, circumvented by Stewart’s prestigious role as brand ambassador for Chanel, for whom she has appeared in advertising campaigns and online fashion films for the brand’s eyewear, makeup, accessories, and fragrances. The much-publicized launch in 2017, at a time when the brand started to experience a dip in sales,102 of Chanel’s first perfume for fifteen years, Gabrielle, was accompanied by an advert with Stewart, which rejected the romantic clichés of heterosexual coupling that traditionally underpin the genre by positioning the “out” queer star as the actively transgressive face of the brand. Stewart is shot struggling to break through a wall of glass perfume flacons. Assayas’s collaborative relationship with the world of branded fashion highlights a formative fault line running through contemporary cinema, one that is rooted in consumer culture. Film critics have historically been hostile to such collusion, and fears of the artistic corrosion of cinema by fashion are not a recent phenomenon. At the start of the millennium, articles appeared in the Cahiers du cinéma lamenting the “contamination” of cinema by consumerism, recognized as a move from MTV to Fashion TV, a position that incorrectly hives off cinema as a pure artistic practice untainted by commercial considerations.103 On the contrary, to accept cinema as a popular art form requires an acknowledgment

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of its creative synergies with forms of consumer culture. The critical receptions of both Coppola’s Virgin Suicides (1999) and Wong’s In the Mood for Love (2000) were also framed, at the time, within theoretical discussions about the impact of consumerism on film and the perceived “temptations” of the video clip aesthetic.104 And, long before the inception of digital cinema and the fracture of media platforms, Assayas, writing in the context of the cinéma du look in 1983, had already addressed advertising and fashion imagery as blind spots in the history of French cinema.105 Fast forward to the digital media age, by which time “advertising is so ingrained within the public consciousness that is has become an intrinsic part of popular culture,”106 when cinema is often defensively seen as threatened by ambient digital imagery, there are signs of continued creativity and innovation in the blurring of formal distinctions between film genres and fashion narratives. An excellent example of the visual importance of styling to storytelling is Brando De Sica’s sinister short film L’errore (2014), which embeds high glamour in the horror format: a beautiful film star returns incognito to the rural farm of her abusive childhood only to be unwittingly slaughtered by her desperate poverty-stricken parents. One last example of the genre-fashion film, intended to segue into our consideration of nonfiction representations of the fashion industry. Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon (2016) binds the supposed symbolic violence of fashion to the gory horror of cannibalism. The film consolidates a number of stereotypical ideas about modeling and image-making by distancing them through an ultra-stylized aesthetic, which mixes nods to fashion photography, installation, and video art, one that is encoded within the generic conventions of gore. The film—branded from the opening credits with the director’s initials NWR—tells the story of an ingénue model, Jessie, played by Elle Fanning, who arrives in L.A. with big dreams and who embraces the mythical cruelty of the modeling industry and its morbidly narcissistic fascination with physical perfection. Agents, photographers, and designers instantly admire Jesse’s youth and charms; she is envied by two other predatory models and lusted after by a make up artist who works shifts in a morgue. The self-consciously editorial look of the film makes reference to the cynical blend of style, eroticism, and death associated with 1970s photography through the artificial staging of shots that echo the sensibility of image-makers like Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton. From its arresting opening shot of Fanning on a gaudy fake interior, her blood-stained body laid out on an ornate sofa, the film flips back and forth between photography and cinema by artificially animating the model’s pose


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through slow-motion and highly saturated neon lighting effects. Jessie’s first photo shoot staged in an expansive bleached-out interior turns into an art installation as the predatory photographer smears her body in gold paint. Her transition from naïve waif to glamour puss at the hands of a manipulative designer is punctuated by a series of hallucinatory shots of her embracing her multiple reflections, thereby underscoring the film’s more general conflation of narcissism, voyeurism, and fetishism. Following a gory death at the hands of the cannibal models who consume and then regurgitate her, the film ends with an extended pastiche of the poolside photo shoot, a commentary on the revolting underside to the surface gloss of the fashion image—a critical point of view that is contradicted by the director’s lucrative work in advertising, which to date has included NWR branded ads for Hennessy cognac financed by Nowness and unsigned ones for Lincoln cars (with Matthew McConaughey), H&M fashion (with David Beckham), and Gucci perfumes (with Blake Lively). Like previous generations of directors-for-hire, there is a disconnect between the artistic and the commercial work, a barrier that is increasingly permeable in the era of advanced digital communications. Nevertheless, a residual dismissal of advertising by those in art cinema and photography remains. When asked to comment on his practice of advertising, photographer and film director William Klein once bluntly replied, “I have nothing to say. Like everyone else, I just did it for the money.”107

Notes 1 See Rebecca Mead, “Gucci’s Renaissance Man,” The New Yorker, September 19, 2016,, accessed September 11, 2017; and Jessica Michault, “Alessandro Michele’s Exclusive Interview: ‘I’m a Fetishist’,” Antidote Magazine, March 15, 2016, http://, accessed September 11, 2017. 2 For Kering’s reported sales growth see Harriet Agnew, “Record sales at Gucci owner Kering see shares jump 11%,” Financial Times, April 26, 2017, content/c2560660-29d7-11e7-9ec8-168383da43b7, accessed August 18, 2017. 3 Jonathan Wingfield, “The Happy Couple: Alessandro Michele and Marco Bizzarri,” System Magazine, 7, 2016,, accessed September 11, 2017. 4 The budget for the Cartier film is quoted in the following online sources: http://, accessed August

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6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16


18 19




11, 2017 and, accessed August 11, 2017. Karine Berthelot-Guiet, “L’Hyperpublicitarisation,” in V. Patrin-Leclère, C. Marti de Montety, and K. Berthelot-Guiet, La Fin de la publicité?: Tours et contours de la dépublicitarisation, Paris: BDL éditions, 2014, pp. 158–69. See Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991. See David Bordwell, “Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary American Film,” Film Quarterly, 55(3), 2002, pp. 16–28. Gilles Lipovetsky and Jean Serroy, L’Écran global: du cinéma au smartphone, Paris: Seuil, 2007, p. 270. Lev Manovich, “What is Digital Cinema?” in T. Corrigan and P. White (eds.), Critical Visions in Film Theory, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, pp. 1058–70. Florence de Mèredieu, Le Film publicitaire, Paris: Éditions Henri Veyrier, 1985, p. 106. Richard Dyer, Pastiche, London: Routledge, 2007, p. 1. See Andrew Wernick, Promotional Culture: Advertising, Ideology and Symbolic Expression, London: Sage, 1991. Raymond Williams, “Advertising: The Magic System,” in Culture and Materialism (1980) London: Verso, 2005, pp. 170–95, at p. 170. Williams, “Advertising,” p. 183. Judith Williamson, Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising, London: Marion Boyars, 1978, pp. 13–14. Emily West and Matthew P. McAllister, “Introduction,” in M. McAllister and E. West (eds.), Routledge Companion to Advertising and Promotional Culture, Abingdon: Routledge, 2013, pp. 1–8, at p. 2. Helen Powell, “Introduction: Promotion in an Era of Convergence,” in Helen Powell (ed.), Promotional Culture and Convergence: Markets, Methods, Media, Abingdon: Routledge, 2013, p. 4. Jessica Mitrani, Mission Statement for Headpieces for Fashion (2011), http://www., accessed January 24, 2018. On the threeASFOUR Insalaam Inshalom project, see David Stromberg, “Come Together,” T Magazine, The New York Times, November 29, 2011, https://tmagazine., accessed January 24, 2018. Tom Gunning, “The Cinema of Attraction: Early Film, Its Spectator, and the AvantGarde,” in T. Elsaesser (ed.), Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, London: BFI, 1990, pp. 56–62. Gary Needham, “The Digital Fashion Film,” in Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church Gibson (eds.), Fashion Cultures Revisited, Abingdon: Routledge, 2013, pp. 103–11, at pp. 105 and 106.


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22 Aylish Wood, Digital Encounters, Abingdon: Routledge, 2007, p. 5. 23 Declan Eytan, “The Film Director Behind Fashion’s Viral Videos: Luca Finotti,” Forbes, March 25, 2015,, accessed January 26, 2018. 24 Quynh Mai, “Are We Failing to Fulfill the Potential of Fashion Film?,” The Business of Fashion, May 24, 2012, op-ed-are-we-failing-to-fulfill-the-promise-of-fashion-film, accessed August 3, 2017. 25 Marketa Uhlirova first traced the “intermedial” history of fashion film in her article, “100 Years of the Fashion Film,” pp. 137–58. 26 See Paolo Peverini, “The Aesthetics of Music Videos: An Open Debate,” in H. Keazor and T. Wübbena (eds.), Rewind, Play, Fast Forward: The Past, Present and Future of the Music Video, Bielefeld: transcript, 2010, pp. 135–53. 27 Marjon Carlos, “Beyoncé’s Fashion Transformations in Lemonade Are More Surreal Than Ever,” Vogue, April 24, 2016, beyonce-lemonade-hbo-visual-album/, accessed August 10, 2017; Kathleen Flood, “Dressing Björk: Meet Fashion Designer Iris Van Herpen,” The Creators’ Project, February 9, 2012,, accessed August 10, 2017. 28 Laura Frahm, “Liquid Cosmos: Movement and Mediality in Music Video,” in H. Keazor and T. Wübbena (eds.), Rewind, Play, Fast Forward, Bielefeld: transcript, pp. 155–78, at p. 156. 29 Lars Ellestrom describes intermediality as “a general condition for understanding communicative and aesthetic mechanisms, events and devices, rather than a peripheral exception to ‘regular’ mediality.” Lars Ellestrom, “The Modalities of Media: A Model for Understanding Intermedial Relations,” in L. Ellestom (ed.), Media Borders, Multimodality and Intermediality, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010, p. 12. 30 Saul Austerlitz, Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes, New York: Continuum, 2007, pp. 2–3. 31 Peter Wollen, “Ways of Thinking About Music Video (and Postmodernism),” Critical Quarterly, 28(1–2), 1986, pp. 167–70, at p. 168. 32 Austerlitz, Money for Nothing, p. 42. 33 Richard Dienst, Still Life in Real Time: Theory After Television, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994, p. 84. 34 Serge Daney, Le Salaire du zappeur, Paris: P.O.L., 1993, pp. 103–105, and Ciné Journal 1981–1986, Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 1986, pp. 299–300. 35 Carol Vernallis, Unruly Media: YouTube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 3 and 6. 36 Julie Bradford, Fashion Journalism, Abingdon: Routledge, 2015, p. 198.

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Kate Nelson Best, The History of Fashion Journalism, London: Bloomsbury, 2017, p. 220. Charlie Gere, Digital Culture, London: Reaktion, 2008, p. 10., accessed August 15, 2017. Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York: New York University Press: New York, 2006, p. 11. In Digital Culture, Charlie Gere also points to the technological history of a seamless digital mediascape as rooted not only in postindustrial economic shifts in consumption, but also in the history of avant-garde artistic, theoretical, and countercultural thinking about technology, nature, and the body. 41 Jenkins, Convergence Culture, pp. 2–3. 42 Jenkins, Ford, and Green, Spreadable Media, p. 199. 43 On the competition and cooperation between ‘old’ and ‘new’ media, see Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2000. 44 See Bruno Remaury, Marques et récits: La marque face à l’imaginaire culturel contemporain, Paris: Institut Français de la Mode/Éditions du Regard, 2004. 45 On the concept of media paratexts see Jonathan Gray, Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts, New York: New York University Press, 2010. 46 Gillian Dyer, Advertising as Communication, London and New York: Routledge, 1978, p. 92, quoted in Gray, Show Sold Separately, p. 28. 47 Silvano Mendes, “See Now, Buy Now: The Position of the Press in Fashion’s ‘New’ Consumer Model,” International Journal of Fashion Studies, 4(2), 2017, pp. 285–91, at p. 286. 48 See Elva Ramirez, “Cinema à la Prada,” Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2010, https://, accessed January 29, 2018. 49 Bradley Quinn, “An Architect of Ideas,” in Barbera van Kooij and Sue-an van der Zijpp (eds.), Hussein Chalayan, Rotterdam: NAI Publishers/Groninger Museum, 2005, pp. 46–51. 50 See Henry Geldzahler, “Some Notes on Sleep,” in P. Adams Sitney (ed.), Film Culture Reader, New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000, pp. 300–301; and Peter Wollen, “Time in Film and Video Art,” in Peter Wollen (ed.), Paris Hollywood: Writings on Film, New York: Verso, 2002, pp. 233–41. 51 See Charlotte Cotton, “Introduction,” in Nick Knight (ed.), Nick Knight, New York: Harper Collins, 2009, pp. 7–21, and Diane Smyth, “Nick Knight: Showman,” Aperture, 197, 2009, pp. 68–75. 52 See Pamela Church Gibson, “Alistair O’Neill, Curator of the Exhibition ‘Guy Bourdin: Image Maker’ Interviewed by Pamela Church Gibson,” Film, Fashion and Consumption, 3(2), 2014, pp. 93–100. 37 38 39 40


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53 Elizabeth Wilson, “Magic Fashion,” Fashion Theory, 8(4), 2004, pp. 375–86. 54 The term “cinéma arrêté” is Sarah Moon’s, quoted in Gilles De Bure, “Introduction” to Guy Bourdin, Arles: Actes Sud, 2008, pp. 1–18, at p. 8. 55 Christian Caujolle, “Preface,” in J. Clark (ed.), Femininities—Guy Bourdin, Paris: Chloé and Idea Books, 2017, pp. 10–11, at p. 11. 56 Susannah Frankel in Alistair O’Neill and Shelly Vertime (eds.), Guy Bourdin: Britain by Cadillac, London: Somerset House, 2014, p. 36. 57 On the affective responses to fashion photography, see Eugenie Shinkle, “The Line Between the Wall and the Floor: Reality and Affect in Contemporary Fashion Photography,” in E. Shinkle (ed.), Fashion as Photograph: Viewing and Re-viewing Images of Fashion, London: I.B. Tauris, 2008, pp. 214–26. 58 Nathalie Khan, “Cutting the Fashion Body: Why the Fashion Image Is No longer Still,” Fashion Theory, 16(2), 2012, pp. 235–50, at p. 239. 59 Nick Knight, “Foreword” to SHOWstudio, SHOWstudio: Fashion Revolution At Somerset House, London: Somerset House, 2009, pp. 3–4, at p. 4. 60 Alex Tudela, “Kids’ director Larry Clark lends his eye to Dior,” The New York Times, November 2, 2016, mens-style/larry-clark-dior-homme-tuxedo-rentals-western-trend.html?mcubz=3, accessed August 19, 2017. 61 Peter Bradshaw, “The Smell of Us review: Larry Clark’s passionless voyeur flick,” The Guardian, August 31, 2014,, accessed August 19, 2017. 62 Jonathan Anderson and Larry Clark, The Smell of Us, New York: Document Publishing LLC, 2015. 63 bell hooks, Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies, New York: Routledge, 1996, p. 60. 64 Stephen Teo, Wong Kar-wai, London: BFI Publishing, 2005, p. 156. 65 John Berra, “Lady Blue Shanghai: The Strange Case of David Lynch and Dior,” Film, Fashion and Consumption, 1:3, 2012, p. 233–50, at p. 247. 66 Justus Nieland, David Lynch, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012, p. 10. 67 Penny Martin, “Analysis Dolce & Gabbana S/S 2010 Campaign,” Fantastic Man, 11, Spring/Summer 2010, p. 36. 68 Diane Pernet quoted in BoF Team, “Top Fashion Films of the Season,” Business of Fashion, October 24, 2010,, accessed January 27, 2018. 69 Pier Paolo Pasolini, quoted in Lino Peroni, “Incontro con Pier Paolo Pasolini,” Inquadrature, 15–16, Autumn 1968, teorema-incontro-tra-pier-paolo_22.html, accessed January 26, 2018. 70 Stella Bruzzi, “Pasolini’s Teorema: The Eroticism of the Visitor’s Discarded Clothes,” in E. Paulicelli, D. Stutesman, and L. Wallenberg (eds.), Film, Fashion, and the 1960s, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017, pp. 49–57, at p. 51.

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71 Nicky Ryan, “Prada and the Art of Patronage,” Fashion Theory, 11(1), 2007, pp. 7–24. 72 Oliver Horton, “Fashion Film gets a life of its own,” International Herald Tribune, September 24, 2008,, accessed September 13, 2017. 73 On the connections between luxury and both art and time, see Vincent Bastien and Jean-Noël Kapferer, Luxe oblige, Paris: Eyrolles, 2008, pp. 105–34. 74 Whitney Crothers Dilley, The Cinema of Wes Anderson: Bringing Nostalgia To Life, New York: Columbia University Press, 2017, p. 209. 75 Crothers Dilley, The Cinema of Wes Anderson, p. 211. 76 On the semiotics of branding, see Jean-Noël Kapferer, The New Strategic Brand Management: Advanced Insights and Strategic Thinking, London: Kogan Page, 2008. These notions are transposed to the context of Film Studies in Paul McDonald, Hollywood Stardom, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 42–43. 77 On branded storytelling see Christian Salmon, Storytelling: Bewitching the Modern Mind, trans. David Macey, London: Verso, 2010. 78 Thomas Elsaesser, “A Retrospect: The Film Director as Auteur—Artist, Brand name or Engineer?” 1995, elsaesser_the_author_a_retrospect.pdf, p. 9, accessed August 19, 2017. 79 For a fuller analysis of the film’s costuming see Karen de Perthuis, “I Am Style: Tilda Swinton as Emma in Guadagnino’s I Am Love,” Film, Fashion and Consumption, 1(3), 2012, pp. 269–88. 80 Nick James, “Island of Lost Souls,” Sight and Sound, March 2016, pp. 42–45. 81 Sarah Gilligan, “Sun, Sex, and Style in Smart Cinema: Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015),” Fashion Theory, 21(6), 2017, pp. 667–87, at p. 670. 82 Jackie Stacey, “Crossing over with Tilda Swinton—the Mistress of ‘Flat Affect’,” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, 28, 2015, pp. 243–71, at p. 267. 83 Paul Grainge, Brand Hollywood: Selling Entertainment in a Global Media Age, London: Routledge, 2008, pp. 39–43. 84 Pam Cook, Baz Luhrmann, Basingstoke: BFI & Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, p. 114. 85 Adam Geczy and Vicki Karaminas, Critical Fashion Practice: From Westwood to Van Beirendonck, London: Bloomsbury, 2017, p. 74. 86 David Denby, “All That Jazz,” The New Yorker, May 13, 2013, http://www., accessed August 22, 2017. 87 Pam Cook, “An American in Paris: Sofia Coppola and the New Auteurism,” unpublished conference paper,, accessed August 22, 2017, p. 1. 88 Cook, “An American in Paris,” p. 2. 89 Fiona Handyside, Sofia Coppola: A Cinema of Girlhood, London: I.B. Tauris, 2017, p. 136.


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90 Nancy Jo Sales, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins,” Vanity Fair, February 3, 2010,, accessed August 22, 2017. 91 Prudence Black, “Designed to Death: Tom Ford’s A Single Man,” Film, Fashion & Consumption, 2(1), 2013, pp. 105–14. 92 Church Gibson, Fashion and Celebrity Culture, pp. 95–102. 93 Ben Walters, “The Trouble with Perfume,” Film Quarterly, 63(4), 2010, pp. 14–17. 94 Pamela Church Gibson, “The Fashion Narratives of Tom Ford: Nocturnal Animals and Contemporary Cinema,” Fashion Theory, 21(6), 2017, pp. 629–46, at p. 643. 95 Christopher Breward, The Suit: Form, Function and Style, London: Reaktion, 2016, p. 155. 96 Elizabeth Stamp, “The High Style Sets of Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals,” Architectural Digest, November 29, 2016, gallery/nocturnal-animals-set-design/all, accessed August 22, 2017. 97 Emerson Rosenthal, “Everything We Know About The Art in Nocturnal Animals,” creators., January 12, 2017, nocturnal-animals-art-tom-ford-shane-valentino, accessed August 22, 2017. 98 On the relationship between Anger, queer underground cinema, and fashion, see Juan A Suárez, “Kenneth Anger: Clothing, Queerness, Magic,” in M. Uhlirova (ed.), Birds of Paradise: Costume as Cinematic Spectacle, London: Koenig Books, 2013, pp. 277–92. 99, accessed September 5, 2017. 100 Olivier Assayas, Kenneth Anger, Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 1999. 101 Pierre de Gasquet, “Olivier Assayas: La Mode en toile de fond,” Les Echos, December 2, 2016,, accessed September 13, 2017. 102 Christopher Morency, “Chanel Sees Dip in Sales, Profits,” Business of Fashion, August 22, 2017,, accessed September 6, 2017. 103 Charles Tesson, “Fashion cinéma,” Cahiers du cinéma, April 2001, pp. 50–51. 104 Patrice Blouin, “La Tentation du clip,” Cahiers du cinéma, February 2001, pp. 50–51. 105 Olivier Assayas, “La Publicité, point aveugle du cinema français,” Cahiers du cinéma, September 1983, pp. 16–26. 106 Paul Springer, Ads to Icons: How Advertising Succeeds in a Multimedia Age, London: Kogan Page, 2007, p. 312. 107 William Klein quoted in Philippe Le Guay, “Les Professionnels,” special issue on the advertising film, Cinématographe, July–August 1982, pp. 6–11, at p. 8.

Part 2

Process: Documentary Fashion Film

Behind the scenes When he launched SHOWstudio in 2000, Nick Knight intended the platform to document “the entire creative process from conception to completion.”1 Showing the studio meant exploring the multiple forms of fashion through the conjunction of moving image with text, illustration, and photography. From the late 1980s onward, Knight had begun the practice of capturing his photo shoots on video, providing a behind-the-scenes insight into his working practice. His ambition to position fashion communication as dynamic, changing, and interactive, was manifest in the 2007 commission, 24 Hours, which exposed the process of a high-end fashion shoot from start to finish, with online viewers encouraged to participate in the creative process by influencing the direction of the shoot’s narrative. In collaboration with designer Stefano Pilati, then in tenure at Yves Saint Laurent, model Jessica Miller, and set designer Gideon Ponte, Knight created a catalog and series of fashion films to inaugurate the brand’s “Edition 24” collection, with each of the twenty-four films representing an hour of the live broadcast. Rather than conceiving of the fashion still as divorced from the process of its production, Knight has consistently emphasized the live broadcasting of online content as an integral part of its elaboration. The process films accompany the staging of the shoot to provide contextual insight into the art of making the fashion still. This view of image-making as a collaborative process aims to be more accessible to online audiences by debunking certain myths of creativity and personality that surround the fashion industry. SHOWstudio’s behind-the-scenes footage instead highlights the excitement, enjoyment, and work involved, showcasing the editorial decisions, flashes of inspiration, and wrong turns necessary to produce the desired end product.


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Arguably, the expanded documentary mode contributes more generally to the process of demystifying the industry by constructing a carefully contrived illusion of proximity for followers of fashion, giving them entry to a hitherto closed world of privilege, access to which was controlled by inside prescribers and tastemakers. The recent rise of the fashion documentary (from the growth in conventional feature films on theatrical release to the multiplication of various hybrid television and internet formats) is partly indexed to the growth in online participatory cultures, fueled by the desire for vicarious backstage access to design studios and trade events, and immediate involvement in runway shows, which brands and designers have responded to through the increased use of live streaming. Rather than wait for traditional print media to edit and shoot the collections, online audiences now have immediate access to fashion in motion, following the event as it happens. This is especially the case at London Fashion Week, where roughly 70 percent of the shows are streamed. An independent report by Oxford Economics undertaken for the British Fashion Council in 2012 identified ten key subsectors underpinning the growth of the fashion sector in the UK, which include digital innovation in creative, marketing and media.2 In 2013, the BFC promoted their “digital drive” as a calculated way of differentiating itself from the events in New York, Milan, and Paris, using social media platforms to document the unfolding of the fashion week to the public, collaborating with bloggers and beaming news reports to digital screens across the city in an attempt to encourage virtual consumer participation in the event.3 As I argued in Part 1, with the expansion of digital media through the first decade of the twenty-first century, the fashion industry began to embrace the moving image much more readily than ever before. Alongside advertising films, other moving-image formats such as fashion documentary and reportage reemerged across a variety of platforms—from the traditional formats of film and television to the hybrid viral nature of online social media that challenges the authority of the still fashion image. An example of this challenge is the rise of fashion and beauty vloggers and influencers, who arguably supersede the role of print magazine editors as the traditional arbiters of good taste and trend forecasting. Here, I consider how different modes of factual representation frame and consolidate the moving fashion image by purportedly deconstructing its processes of production. In so doing, they gesture to the etymological origin of fashion in the Latin verb to make (facere) and the French verb to shape (façonner),

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a capacious term indicating the performative acts of modeling, molding, and manufacturing.4 Fashion, understood in the specific sense of fashionable clothing, indicates both a system of production and “system of stylistic innovation” that, as the sociologist Joanne Entwistle argues, is also concerned with transforming aesthetic ideals as much as routine stylistic change. Any discussion of fashionable dress must be mindful of both “the production of actual garments” and “the production of aesthetic value around such garments.”5 Hence, I not only focus here on representations of the production of fashion, but also further examine how documentary film, in particular, much like other historical forms of audiovisual communication, such as fashion photography or motion advertising, plays a formative role in recording shifts in aesthetic ideals through corporeal techniques such as modeling and in shaping the broader myths of the fashion industry that circulate within popular culture. I have explained previously how “new” forms of branded content emerged with both the corporate ownership of fashion and the parallel rise of the internet from the late 1990s onward. Beyond the emergence of the online fashion film, the reemergence of reportage and other factual formats has included short-form documentary videos made to accompany photo shoots or to follow backstage preparations for catwalk shows, the two main events that dominate media representation of the industry. Beyond the conceptualization of fashion film as a genre or an effect,6 in which the industry mobilizes motion to show the potential sensorial appeal of clothing, there is also the fashion film in both its fictional and nonfictional guises, which include diverse moving-image formats such as documentary feature films, TV shows, and factual online content, all of which take audiences behind the scenes to frame the cultural myths surrounding the processes involved in the production, mediation, and consumption of fashion. Rethinking the contemporary modes of screen documentary, film theorists Thomas Austin and Wilma De Jong explain that “the early years of the twenty-first century have witnessed significant and ongoing changes in the technological, commercial, aesthetic, political, and social dimensions of documentaries,”7 including the proliferation of delivery platforms, formats, and developments in accessible digital technology. In the context of the nonfictional fashion image, formatted entertainment vehicles such as House of DVF (2014– 15), for example, worked to boost the designer Diane von Furstenberg’s brand presence by exploiting the naked ambition and ruthless competition widely associated with the globally franchised reality formats, including those based around modeling like America’s Next Top Model (from 2003) or design like


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Project Runway (from 2004). Beyond these lucrative and enduring examples drawn from factual television, the success of the conventional documentary film—on theatrical release, DVD, or VoD—through the 2000s and 2010s illustrates the increased demand for factual fashion-focused content, a trend that can be attributed to a combination of factors that include technology (the proliferation of media platforms and cheaper digital technology), genre (the rise of the fashion documentary is part of the mode’s wider resurgence in its featurelength format on cinema screens and as a key component of TV entertainment shows), popularity (an increased fashion literacy feeds into celebrity as a defining element of contemporary popular culture), representation (fashion documentaries exploit a number of widely shared stereotypes of the fashion industry), and industry (the expansion of the global super-brands and luxury design houses  situates fashion at the commercial intersection of the creative economy). Fueling the growth of an increasingly fashion-literate public culture, the recent output of documentaries includes portraits of the careers and lifestyles of a number of high-profile designers, both past and present, from Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino through Karl Lagerfeld to Marc Jacobs and Raf Simons. The corpus comprises predominantly American and French productions that range from the discerning to the reverential, from the educational to the hagiographic. (Many of these examples are analyzed in detail in Part 3, which explores the celebrity profiles of fashion designers.8) Designers are, however, not the only source of inspiration for contemporary documentary filmmakers. Other examples drawn from feature filmmaking and television spotlight a wide range of practitioners and intermediaries such as editors (Diana Vreeland in Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, Immordino Vreeland, 2011, or Franca Sozzani in Franca: Chaos and Creation, Carrozzini, 2016), stylists (Carine Roitfeld in Mademoiselle C, Constant, 2013), icons (Iris Apfel in Iris, Maysles, 2014, and Advanced Style, Plioplyte and Cohen, 2013), hairstylists (Vidal Sassoon in Vidal Sassoon: The Movie, Teper, 2010), photographers (Bill Cunningham New York, Press, 2010), and even institutions such as Vogue magazine in The September Issue (Cutler, 2009), In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye (Bailey and Barbato, 2012), Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue (Macer, 2016), and The First Monday in May (Rossi, 2016), or high-end department stores in Secrets of Selfridges (Taplin, 2014), or Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf ’s (Miele, 2013). This last example raises critical unease with regard to the industrial provenance and financial backing of these audiovisual productions, with audiences potentially naive about the

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corporate investment in reframing the documentary as a commercial tool or exercise in promoting the prestigious Bergdorf Goodman store. The film is a salient example of the contemporary vogue for manipulating the documentary feature film as long-form advertising—the art of the sell, shot almost as a pitch for the promotion of the venerable New York department store. Disparagingly described by the New York Times as a “glossy, fawning valentine to conspicuous consumption,”9 Scatter My Ashes provides a history of the store, a directional fashion institution, whose chief buyer Linda Fargo, described as the bar-setter, has been instrumental in launching and sustaining the careers of emerging and established designers. The film’s director, Matthew Miele, a former literary agent, employs a string of infomercial clichés—particularly the use of fast motion resembling the aesthetics of advertising—to translate the store’s aspirational propaganda; this despite the project’s financial independence. The talking-head testimonies, which number over a hundred, and include celebrities, designers, and curators ranging from Nicole Richie and Tom Ford to Harold Koda, operate as quotable sound-bites and suture the film to provide a patchwork of praise to endorse the product. (Only the late comedian Joan Rivers acknowledges the setup by pausing before asking for remuneration.) Unlike earlier cases of more ironic and socially aware documentaries like Douglas Keeve’s Unzipped (1995), contemporary fashion’s founding documentary, which captured the zeitgeist of the mid-1990s with the rise of the charismatic supermodels, the 2010s signal the rise of the made-to-measure “infomercial” film, whose raison d’être is simply to promote institutions, labels, or designers. The financial profit from these (often commissioned) vehicles would appear to come from their exhibition through VoD and online platforms such as Netflix, rather than from their limited theatrical release, which is principally a communications event valued for its cultural prestige. The commercial manipulation of the fashion documentary reveals the widely held supposition that the nonfictional mode of filmmaking would somehow naturally emphasize objectivity, transparency, and reality, to be, in itself, a fiction. In her theoretical reframing of screen documentary, Stella Bruzzi takes issue with other scholars of documentary cinema such as Michael Renov, who argued that “every documentary issues a ‘truth claim’ of a sort, positing a relationship to history which exceeds the analogical status of its fictional counterpart.”10 Against this critical investment in the ideal of a “pure” documentary form, Bruzzi repositions the nonfictional mode as “predicated upon a dialectical relationship between aspiration and potential, that the text itself reveals the tensions between


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the documentary pursuit of the most authentic mode of factual representation and the impossibility of this aim.”11 Bruzzi further argues that the relaxation of the documentary’s formal and aesthetic parameters in the early twenty-first century is symptomatic of the mode’s “renewed . . . interest in the more overt forms of performativity: reconstruction, acknowledgement of and interplay with the camera, image manipulation, performance.”12 This emphasis on the performativity inherent in the problematic act of framing actuality, as well as the increased acknowledgment of performance as an integrative part of the documentary mode, is of particular interest to the study of films that unpick fashion, itself a mix of applied art and commercial culture heavily invested in image, spectacle, and drama. For example, Iris, Albert Maysles’s insightful portrait of nonagenarian icon Iris Apfel, attempts to break through the subject’s carefully contrived persona to provide glimpses of the woman beneath the irreverent image and charismatic performance. Following a long career as a textile merchant and interior designer, working with her devoted husband Carl, Apfel rose to fame later in life after the success of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition of her personal collection in 2005. Her idiosyncratic style is noted for its daring assemblage of clashing colors, fabrics, and accessories; her iconicity, so to speak, is such that the buyers at the Bergdorf Goodman department store are filmed by Maysles opting simply to use her signature spectacles—rather than an actual photographic reproduction of her face—to promote their Apfel-themed window display. The first half of the film revels in the subject’s eccentric fusion of high fashion with kitsch memorabilia—the Apfels’ Florida apartment is depicted as a fantasy space, crammed full of the remnants of commodity culture. However, Maysles’s film goes beyond a straightforward exposition of Apfel’s visual excess, to underscore her own artistry and performance. Her arch strategies of self-presentation are perceived as an affective engagement with fashion that constitutes a major part of her life’s work. Apfel’s ironic self-fashioning, in life as on screen, is also shown by Maysles to be distinct from her personal self, which he captures through a subtle acknowledgment of aging. Behind the visual excess lies the image of an elderly woman dealing with the more mundane issues of physical decline and mortality. Austin and De Jong observe that the current interest in the nonfictional image also involves “an intensified interpenetration between fictional and nonfictional modes,”13 which, while not a recent phenomenon in itself, has been rejuvenated by the greater textual hybridity of “docu-fiction” and the “mutual

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borrowings”14 that routinely make up the landscape of screen entertainment such as docudramas, scripted reality, and “mockumentary” films and TV series. A strand of inquiry running through this chapter highlights the porosity between fact and fiction by examining documentaries alongside fiction films. These include debut films made by fashion photographers that have some factual basis in off-screen reality and draw on the director’s lived experience as an industry insider; or those that transpose the techniques, aesthetics, and preoccupations of the documentary mode—notably its indexical questioning of history, actuality, and evidence—to narrative fiction. These include William Klein’s excoriating satire of mid-1960s Paris fashion and media, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?, Klein, 1966), and other often overlooked films such as Puzzle of a Downfall Child (Schatzberg, 1970), which starred Faye Dunaway as a schizophrenic model in decline. The film also included intricately staged recreations of editorial photo shoots. The turn to more recent examples of digital cinema such as the naturalistic Frankie (Berthaud 2005), which saw former model Diane Kruger cast as the eponymous heroine, who negotiates the traumatic end to her career, reveals a productive dialogue between fictional and nonfictional modes of storytelling, a critical exchange that cinema—in both its mainstream and auteur forms—is largely unable to handle, more preoccupied as it is with reproducing the facile caricature of fashion as histrionic, superficial, or frivolous; examples of this trend include Prêt-à-Porter (Altman, 1994), Zoolander (Stiller, 2001), and Rage (Potter, 2009). Adam Szymanski observes that the “focus on the production of fashion as in itself a topic for a documentary is indicative of the seductive aura that surrounds the world of fashion, including its industrial component.” By deconstructing “how fashion comes to be fashion,” the documentary mode therefore “offers its viewers an opportunity to see how materials are assembled in such a way that through the abstract nature of creativity they become culturally defined as ‘fashion’.”15 The factual interest in the editors of Vogue magazine (In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye followed The September Issue) was fueled largely by the success of the popular adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s autobiographical novel, The Devil Wears Prada (Frankel, 2006), the author’s self-pitying tale of having survived the industry, made more alluring in the film adaptation by Patricia Field’s arresting designs and the memorable comic performances, which included the camp composite of Vogue editors past and present, Miranda Priestley, played by Meryl Streep. Despite the existence of earlier Hollywood narratives set in fashion salons such as Roberta (Seiter, 1935) or the world of fashion magazines such as Funny


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Face (Donen, 1957), Pamela Church Gibson has observed that the commercial success of recent cinematic narratives about the fashion industry, along with their nonfictional companions, is symptomatic of a wider fashion literacy within popular culture since the dawn of the new millennium; one that has positioned the intersection of fashion and celebrity at its center.16 Indeed, it is no coincidence that the prominence of fashion as a subject in its own right in contemporary cinema occurred at the same time as powerful financial conglomerates were rapidly buying up so-called storied couture houses and assertively promoting them across the globe as brands. This communications strategy stimulated a public fashion literacy, which is, in turn, sustained by a contrived consumer familiarity with (and an illusion of proximity to) the workings of the luxury industry. As historian Florence Müller has observed, “Fashion, which hitherto had only touched a narrow constituency of designers and buyers, broke out of its ghetto to become a truly social and economic phenomenon” underwritten by the massive injection of capital and promoted by the mythic fictions spun by the luxury empires.17 The historical tribute to the iconic editor of Vogue in the 1960s, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, was directed and coproduced by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the wife of the subject’s grandson, who administers her estate, and is consequently respectful and uncontroversial. The director pays nostalgic tribute to the editor’s singular vision of high fashion, accompanied by archival footage in the form of recorded interviews conducted in 1983 with George Pimpton, who was, at the time, shaping Vreeland’s memoirs, D.V.18 The film draws on Vreeland’s subjective framing of her career—from her rise to prominence at Harper’s Bazaar through the 1940s and 1950s to the editorship at Vogue between 1963 and 1971 to her late renaissance as a curator at Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 1971 onward. The film also documents her overarching influence as the principal prescriber of fashion for midcentury main-street America. Despite describing her as physically resembling “an authoritative crane,” in his overall flattering account, photographer Cecil Beaton explained Vreeland’s idiosyncratic gift for discerning the essence of high style by praising her as “an aesthete without being either a snob or an intellectual” and “a connoisseur of fashion” who possessed “both the seriousness and the humanism that are necessary for making her own tolerant moral judgments about the behavior of the world in which she is involved.”19 The lofty position of the prescriptive editor-in-chief in the mid-twentieth century was of course radically transfigured by the intersection of digital and

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celebrity cultures, which Anna Wintour has played a significant role in promoting as instrumental to Vogue’s continued relevance in the twenty-first century. In this respect, The September Issue attempts to consolidate the branding of Wintour as a democratic force by promoting fashion as an indicator of the popular postdigital zeitgeist. The film celebrates the visual work and creative collaboration of the editors, at the expense of the journalists whose written contribution is overlooked, and deploys the long-standing relationship between Wintour and her (then) creative director, Grace Coddington, as the leading source of narrative tension, flanked by the opposition between the editor’s daunting CEOstyle celebrity persona and the creative director’s more romantic vision of the editorial process. Shot through the first six months of 2007, the film follows the preparation for the delivery of its annual bumper issue, a material testimony to the continuing financial investment in print media by advertisers. It fails, however, to question the actual impact of such an economic model on the ethical practices of journalism and image-making, including the more questionable use of advertorial practices. Despite the filmmaker’s attempt to paint an impartial portrait of Wintour through observation of her at work, his crisp editing style favors a more obviously self-promotional style, supported by the subject’s own mastery of performance. Wintour’s contrived staging of her private life, which includes a pristine, off-duty golfing look reserved for weekends on Long Island, largely reiterates, rather than challenges, her established persona. However, the film is insightful in its behindthe-scenes recording of both the photo shoots orchestrated by Coddington and the meetings chaired by Wintour, which indicate her business acumen and influence over designers. In its picture of a powerful professional, the film invariably crosses the intersection of gender, power, and fame, suggesting that the subject’s public demeanor—the dictatorial caricature camped up by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada—is remarkable simply because of her gender. Wintour’s selfparodying appearance as a “comedy icon” in an online behind-the-scenes spoof with TV presenter Seth Myers to promote his Late Night show for NBC in 2015 further demonstrated the span of her cultural influence, while acknowledging a degree of ironic self-awareness. The September Issue also alludes to Wintour’s industrial reach beyond the traditional role of the editor—advising stores on what to buy, designers on where to show or even what to design, and celebrities on what to wear to red-carpet events such as the prestigious MET ball. In the documentary, the CEO of the luxury Dallas department store Neiman Marcus solicits her help to intervene with the shipping of products; and at the annual


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Vogue retailers breakfast at the Ritz in Paris, Wintour claims to have advised Miuccia Prada on the practicalities of using heavy-weight fabrics, showing the editor’s commercial role as a go-between and her consumer-oriented approach spanning design, production, and retail.

The staging of labor The commercial-industrial focus, though peripheral to the dramatic performance of editorial business and the conflicts of personality staged in The September Issue, is nonetheless illustrative of the extent to which the contemporary documentary responds to the consumer desire for behind-the-scenes insight into the methods and processes involved in making, editing, promoting, and selling fashion. Given this focus on production—fashion conceived as the conjunction of production and aesthetics, as both garment and image—the trajectory for the contemporary fashion documentary follows the narrative arc of the industry. The range of films includes a concurrent focus on both communications (on runway presentation at the global fashion weeks, advertising, and editorial promotion) and the processes of garment design and manufacturing (the selection from across the globe of raw materials, fabric treatment and processing, garment manufacturing transportation, and retail). Factual exposés of global garment manufacturing have included Micha Peled’s China Blue (2006) about a teenage worker in a Chinese sweatshop, Amie Williams’s No Sweat (2006) about L.A. brands American Apparel and Sweat X, and Chao-ti Ho’s My Fancy High Heels (2010) about the transnational nature of fashion manufacturing in Asia and the United States. After oil, fashion and textiles is the most polluting industry in the world. It endangers the planet’s natural resources—in particular, the amount of water required to produce cotton and the polluting chemicals used in the processes of dyeing and finishing. What becomes of the clothing that does not sell, or the clothing that falls apart or simply goes out of style? It is often discarded in giant landfills. The end of the line is where the afterlife of the garment comes into play. The ethical question of sustainability has begun to be addressed by documentary films such as The True Cost (Morgan, 2015), which unpacks the human and environmental costs of the garment industry, or Unravel (Gupta, 2012), which documents the end of the production cycle by showing how once fashionable clothes are transported across the globe to Panipat in rural India to

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be recycled to produce new fibers, thereby beginning the production process all over again. Gupta’s film on the process of “up-cycling” built on anthropologist Lucy Norris’s study of reused and recycled clothing practices, and illustrates the exploitative labor practices and low-quality products, clothing whose “value has been destroyed through shredding because markets cannot be found for the amount of used clothing now in circulation.”20 Unravel follows the testimony of the female factory workers employed to sort through the piles of clothes, and accompanies their explanation of their work with shots of the scale of the operation, the distribution of clothes into color-coded piles, and the process of recycling them into usable threads. The scale of the material detritus produced by global consumerism is captured through long shots of the ships docking with massive containers of often hardly worn clothes, which are slashed to prevent them from being stolen before they can be reprocessed. However, the film is more than a straightforward exposé of the workings of the global fashion system; it also provides insight into the women’s aspirations and fantasies of their Western counterparts through the material traces of their lives—through their discarded garments. The life of one worker, Reshma is shown in close-up, as the camera frames her cramped living quarters; her husband has traveled around India through his job as a truck-driver, but she can only imagine the world via the television images (from the Discovery Channel) and materials she is provided with, which conjure up fantasies of Western women as goodlooking and well-dressed. This idealized image of femininity is undercut by the scenes of mirth at the sight of some of the outlandish cast-offs from global fast fashion. The workers’ incomprehension as to why seemingly unused garments are thrown away in such quantity (are clothes as cheap as water, or do Europeans just not like washing them?) denaturalizes the out-of-control global fashion system through the testimonies of those whose lives are governed by its excesses. This dialectical vision of the garment industry is also a feature of factual filmmaking that records the start of the production line. The opening of Jia Zhangke’s documentary Useless (Wuyong, Jia, 2007) locates the beginning of the cycle in the factories of Guangdong in Southern China. The film is structured as a triptych that articulates fashion through its manifestations as industry, art, and artisanship, by juxtaposing contrasting aspects of the garment industry through portraits of three economic models: the disappearing handicraft of the tailor, the dehumanizing effects of industrialization on the workforce, and the artistic aspirations and transnational lifestyle of the conceptual anti-fashion designer


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Ma Ke. Much like his fictional cinema, Jia’s film takes the screen documentary as a form of fragmented manifesto, intended to be read as a critique of contemporary China, shot through the lens of material culture. Useless frames the problematic issues around the globalized textile industry in conjunction with more specifically local questions of history and memory, such as the human cost of rampant consumerism on Chinese society. The film, which won the Orizzonti documentary prize at the Venice International Film Festival in 2007, followed Jia’s intimate portrait of the painter Liu Xiaodong, Dong (Jia, 2006), and the two documentaries were bookended by neorealist fictions tracing the alienating effects of neoliberal economics on China: Still Life (Jia, 2006), which won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival in 2006, and 24 City (Jia, 2008), which was shown in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Useless is a materialist account of the garment industry, its dialectical structure opposing the privileged lifestyle of the conceptual designer and the brashness of global consumer culture with the physical injustices of both urban industry and rural crafts. As Eugenio Renzi observes, dust—in the form of earth and dirt—is used as a poetic motif to link the three segments of the film—from the soiled bodies of the laborers to the sustainable designs of Ma Ke, whose 2007 collection involved unearthing buried garments to emphasize the use value of discarded items in the age of fast fashion.21 The establishing shots of Useless switch between the polluted skyline of Guangzhou and the exertion on the factory floor, as the workers busily cut and sew pieces of fabric. The camera slowly tracks their activity, maintaining a cautious distance, taking in the manual movements and the machinery used. The camera’s self-consciousness equates the apparatus of film with the apparatus of fashion; it drifts seamlessly through the factory, pausing to take in the empty space of the workers’ canteen. This architectural inquiry was extended through the more hybrid mode of the director’s subsequent film 24 City, which blended documentary testimony with scripted scenes staging the demise of a factory in Chengdu. While his naturalistic fictions have often been compared to documentaries in tone and form, it is precisely his aestheticized camerawork and staging of reality that pull Useless in the opposite direction, toward the style of narrative fiction, foregoing the clichés of the cinéma-vérité mode of observation and nonintervention.22 The self-conscious control of camera distance and movement (as if floating through space) forces the viewer to acknowledge the subjective relationship between the participants and the scene’s formal construction, laying bare the aesthetic borrowing from the director’s other

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fictional worlds. His more intrusive filming of the workers’ appointments with the on-site doctor serves to underline the noxious side effects of their labor by documenting their irritated eyes and worn-out bodies—images of fatigue that are later echoed in the third fragment of the film by shots of the filthy miners in rural Shanxi. Their only professional option is hard labor following the demise of local crafts due to competition from the textile industry in the south. The film’s parting shot is of a lone tailor, whose workshop is to be imminently demolished, at work on his treadle sewing machine, a mechanical remnant of past technology. His manual labor paradoxically stands as an emblem of China’s current economic might. Useless was originally conceived as a commissioned portrait of Ma Ke, whose trajectory from Guangdong to Paris and back occupies the central section of the film. The establishing images that precede the designer’s conventional talking-head testimony expose the commercial success of her high-end ready-to-wear label Exception de Mixmind, which was founded in 1996 with a strong retail presence in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Her designs are known for their embrace of local traditions of spinning, dyeing, and weaving, using recycled and sustainable materials. Her lapidary critique of rampant consumerism might explain both the press attention granted her by prestigious European cultural institutions at the time and her subsequent low international profile ever since, despite prominently dressing the Chinese first lady, Peng Liyuan. In 2008, she was invited to present her second Wuyong collection as part of the official haute couture calendar in Paris and the “earth” collection showcased in Useless was presented that year as part of the V&A museum’s live catwalk events, Fashion in Motion. Useless reveals the elitist contradictions in Ma Ke’s ethical discourse of sustainability. Indeed, it is due to the designer’s retail success that she is able to underwrite the avantgarde Wuyong experiment, consisting of recycled clothing made from “layers of discarded items such as sheets covered with old paint, meshed knits, and intensive gathers. All the coats and dresses featured magnificent volume, earthy colors, and rich textures that were linked to the theme of the show: soil.”23 Unlike the frantic rhythm of mass production, Jia films Ma Ke’s workshop as a haven, set against the backdrop of nature. Her didactic voice-over emphasizes the labor-intensive nature of the designs and the affective investment in luxury handmade garments, underscored by the director’s subtle tracking of the atelier. The film opposes this pastoral idyll of craftsmanship with a brief scene intercut for ironic counterpoint, set at the Louis Vuitton store in Guangzhou, where the so-called friends of the label assemble to celebrate their conspicuous consumption and trade opinions on


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fashion, while the camera floats among them taking in the fetishized symbols of the global mega-brands that adorn their bodies. Positioned at the artistic end of the spectrum, Ma Ke was invited to participate in the Paris Fashion Week in February 2007, displaying her “earth” collection as a static performance piece staged in a converted school gym with the live models presented as sculptures. Useless is a testimony to her investment in the material history of the garment as a unique piece of work, a luxury item crafted by hand and made to last. The film situates her work within debates around ethically sustainable models of fashion and the Parisian couture tradition that continues to promote age-old handicrafts as central to the fabrication of luxury goods. Paris is still not only the most prestigious and varied stage for the presentation of international design, recognized for its creative conceptualism, but also the window for the traditions of luxury artisanship, a point made by journalist and documentary filmmaker Loïc Prigent in his exposé of the couture wing of the House of Chanel, Signé Chanel (Signed Chanel), a series made for Franco-German TV channel Arte in 2005. Unlike the frantic pace of Prigent’s later extended series, The Day Before (Le Jour d’avant, 2009–) following the twenty-four hours leading up to the catwalk show, Signé Chanel traces the elaboration of a couture collection designed by Karl Lagerfeld from start to finish, from the initial sketches of the designs through the production process and the spectacular runway show to the client fittings and sales. Alongside Prigent’s ironic amusement at Lagerfeld’s celebrity lifestyle and enduring status as the kingpin of high fashion, runs a materialist inquiry into patterns of work, and into the methodology of making fashion, drawing attention to the hours of intricate manual labor undertaken to produce the sumptuous suits and gowns. Over the course of the five episodes, we follow the design trajectory via the artisans and seamstresses (appropriately named “les petites mains” in French), observing the fabrication of fashion through close observation of the milieu of the atelier, capturing the women’s interaction and the specific rites of their profession. Prigent’s trademark humor is evidenced by the manipulation of sound (ironically borrowing musical refrains from other shows) and speed (the frantic camera movements and fast-forward editing techniques) to convey the sense of excitement and drama, in contrast to the day-to-day intricacies and laborious repetition involved in crafting a collection. The title for the series—Signé Chanel—underscores the importance of authorship to the tradition of couture, which is generally ascribed to the designer’s stylistic signature or artistic imprint. Prigent is, however, more interested in filming

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Figure 2.1  Loïc Prigent filming Le Jour d’avant (The Day Before). Credits: Loïc Prigent (director) and Lalala Productions (producer).

fashion as a collective enterprise by documenting the in-house seamstresses and the contribution of suppliers, the independent artisans who sustain the design house. Chanel is keen to position itself as instrumental in maintaining France’s craft heritage—in particular, moribund techniques such as braiding. Far from the seat of power at the Rue Cambon in Paris, Prigent visits a remote hay farm, where the elderly Madame Pouzieux has made the braiding for the famous Chanel suits since 1947. With her arched back and arthritic fingers, the lone artisan-farmer is figured as the antithesis of the archetypes of urban fashion culture such as the worldly figure of Lagerfeld. Prigent’s interweaving of sequences following the build-up to the runway show intercut by others framing the tranquility of the rural artisan supports the broader attempt made by French design houses like Chanel to communicate their investment in tradition as central to their overall operation. This strategic manipulation of heritage aims to promote the added value of product design beyond the hype of celebrity and marketing. Prigent’s critical emphasis on the material stuff of fashion points to the overlapping histories of both documentary film that problematizes the subject and value of fashion and journalistic reportage that exposes the processes involved in the fabrication of garments and accessories. In tune with the role


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of the moving image to capture the social environment in which fashionable clothing is conceived, designed and manufactured, Prigent’s behind-the-scenes insights underscore the need to sustain and renew the craft traditions of luxury artisanship. Despite its potential for recuperation by the luxury brands, such documentation of fashion (not only as an object-of-value but also as a crafted object-of-pleasure) is paralleled by the emergence of a “new materialist” turn in theoretical understandings of fashion, seen as the fusion of “practice, embodiment and experience.”24 This shift in focus from the textual to the material in recent theoretical work is, Agnès Rocamora and Anneke Smelik argue, illustrative of the “constant negotiation between the material and the symbolic,”25 between the material object and its cultural inscription. The rise of the documentary film that frames the processes of design and production further indicates a central fault line running through the fashion creative economy that conjoins the realm of craft and creative endeavor with the material, ethical, and economic questions of sustainability, labor, and human cost, which are some the key critical issues facing the fashion industry in the early twenty-first century.

In and out of fashion with William Klein Prigent has pointed to two important historical influences on his work. Jacques Demy’s short stylized documentary film from 1955, which focuses on the artisanal work of a clog-maker, The Loire Valley Clog Maker (Le Sabotier du Val de Loire) with its aestheticized cinematography and poetic voice-over, is a key thematic influence and an early example of a documentary that borrows the formal style of the fiction film to frame the technical skill of the artisan.26 The other influence is photographer and filmmaker William Klein, in particular his savage critique of 1960s fashion media. In a volume devoted to the period, Bruno Remaury locates fashion as both an object of consumption and a ritual practice. It was, he argues, precisely the 1960s that gave birth to the idea of fashion as not only the material object, but also a whole “regime of visibility” articulated through the conjunction of design, image, and label. 27 The rise of the popular image culture based around celebrity and consumption, particularly associated in the mid-twentieth century with the world fashion cities was the topic of some of the major artworks, films, and commentaries of the mid to late 1960s. In the realm of thought, Guy Debord’s influential situationist manifesto, The Society of the Spectacle (La Société du spectacle, 1967), caught the zeitgeist of the contemporary image culture. This subversive commentary defined the spectacle

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as not simply “a collection of images” but more “a social relation between people that is mediated by images.”28 The screen production of the 1960s not only reflected the fundamental social changes brought about by the “youth-quake” through the course of the decade, but also contributed to the emergence and dissemination of designer readyto-wear fashions, more accessible and supposedly egalitarian designs than the rarefied production of haute couture. More than a simple mirror image of shifts in the social fabric, fashion arguably acted as a catalyst, an agent of the very changes it seemed more transparently to reflect.29 Television imagery of the period, including the French actuality and entertainment show Dim Dam Dom, broadcast weekly between 1965 and 1971, experimented with innovative ways of framing fashion and the moving image, rather than simply documenting trends, shows, and collections. Mixing journalistic news reports and interviews with artfully staged fashion and beauty features, the program drew on contemporary theater and performance art to add glamour to the editorial business of informing and educating the public about consumer fashion. Dim Dam Dom experimented with the moving image, animating the sensibility of the still photograph to convey the dynamic allure of the world of fashion for mass audiences. The problematic mediation of the fashion object through its projection on the screen—fashionable clothing becoming idealized image through the apparatus of advertising, cinema, and television—is at the core of photographer William Klein’s fierce satire of the fashion and television industries, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?) in 1966. Klein’s debut feature film was a critical and commercial success on its release, winning the prestigious Jean Vigo prize in 1967. Before Polly Maggoo, Klein’s preoccupation with the consumer spectacle had been more neutrally reflected in his earlier short pieces of reportage, The Fashion Business (Le Business de la mode) in 1962. His subsequent longer piece, At the Department Store (Aux grands magasins) in 1963, was an observational piece, in which he followed film star Simone Signouret around a Parisian department store, while she mused on patterns of consumption and interrogated ordinary shoppers about their daily lives. Klein is known as one of the twentieth century’s subversive image-makers, one who questions aesthetic and political hierarchies through an artistic and commercial output that spans photography, drawing, painting, graphic art, film, and moving-image advertising. The playful experimentation of his first pop art film, Broadway By Light in 1958 was apparent in both Klein’s early experiences with feature filmmaking and his parallel editorial photography of the late 1950s and early 1960s, principally for the fashion magazines Vogue and Harper’s


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Bazaar. Klein had been spotted by Alexander Lieberman, Vogue’s art director, back in 1954; his often ironic photography for the magazine dispensed with the formal austerity of the studio conventions, established by the recognized masters of the art, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Indeed, his images form a critical commentary on the norms of fashion photography of the era. However, rather than rejecting the existing rules altogether—the clichéd poses (hands placed on hips; feet imitating ballet positions) and routine fixed, vacant, and disdainful gazes—Klein denaturalized them through exaggeration and parody. Fashion was the arena in which Klein perfected his craft. Although disinterested in the content, he was impressed by the technical mastery of fashion photographers and saw his editorial work as an opportunity to experiment as an image-maker: he has been credited as pioneering the use of long focal lenses (the Hasselblad 500-mm telephoto lens), wide angles, and the open flash.30 After subsequently taking Diana Vreeland, by then editor of the magazine and the doyenne of high fashion, as a target for satire in Polly Maggoo, Klein was dropped from Vogue, henceforth relying on income from advertising work in order to finance his own more political projects. Klein never rated his commercial imagery in stills or on film. “I only ever had mixed feelings about fashion photography,” he remarked retrospectively.31 Yet, by refusing, at the time, to take fashion seriously as an aesthetic and commercial

Figure 2.2  William Klein’s satire of Paris fashion, Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) (1966). Credits: William Klein (director) and Robert Delpire (producer).

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practice, Klein reproduced the familiar modernist hierarchy of value with regard to fine art and popular culture. He tempered this elitism years later with his exploratory made-for-television film Fashion in France (Mode en France, 1984), which combined faux-documentary performance, through which Klein was able to revise his trenchant position on the milieu by filming the emerging generation of more directional fashion designers. His stance on advertising, however, remained unchanged: asked by the film magazine Cinématographe in 1982 to comment on the increased formal effects of advertising on narrative cinema, Klein claimed to find no artistic merit or personal satisfaction in the hundreds of commercials he had made through the 1970s, in particular the fifteen adverts he had made for Dim stockings that had become classics of the genre. As the maker, in spite of himself, of enduring fashion imagery, Klein felt uneasy with the entrenched elitism of midcentury Paris fashion, judging it mediocre. His muted critique of the industry was more forcefully articulated in the film Polly Maggoo, conceived as a valedictory address to the fashion world, interweaving animation, fiction, and actuality. The film’s generic hybridity provides for an intriguing mix of enchantment and cruelty, of “sophisticated design and sour documentary,” in the words of one critic, who saluted Klein’s precarious balancing act between, on the one hand, the artificial constructions of commercial art, fashion and celebrity, and, on the other, art cinema’s formal inventiveness and deconstruction of subjectivity.32 Dissecting the mediation of glamour—turning fashion against itself—the film translates Klein’s own ambivalent attitude toward the industry. As Alistair O’Neill observes, the film’s title “is just the kind of accusatory question that strikes at the heart of how fashion as an industry inevitably fails itself when it is investigated by film. Klein’s film relays how the media’s obsession with a fashion model is unable to penetrate beyond the surface attributes of the industry she works in.”33 In effect, the film parodies its wilder excesses while paradoxically relying on and contributing to the same aesthetic that it seeks to dismantle.34 The de-structured narrative, resembling a mosaic, revolves around the eponymous American model, figured as a pop cipher, played by cover girl Dorothy McGowan, who naively navigates the world of Paris fashion. She is the one-off subject of a voyeuristic TV documentary (this was Klein’s sly take on the actuality format of Dim Dam Dom that had begun the previous year) that seeks to unearth the real personality behind the mask, thereby intending to lay bare the emptiness and decay of the consumer spectacle. The extravagant photo shoot filmed in a cemetery that positions Polly as a corpse contained within a coffin translates these concerns through the visual language and stylistic grammar of fashion.


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Klein sets up an empty hall of mirrors by filming the meretricious producer, Grégoire (Jean Rochefort) tracking Polly, an intrusive inquiry supplemented by the use of factual evidence documenting McGowan’s own background, such as the inclusion of photographs of other photographs. Klein sought to question the representational tropes of reality, but, despite the satirical intent, the film does ultimately suggest, quite earnestly, that Polly is able to retain her own sense of identity and personal freedom despite the attempts from all sides to capture her. (The film’s interrogative title neatly frames this inquiry into identity.) Klein rejects the realist mode by denaturalizing reality through performance, drawing on the traditions of Dadaist and absurdist theater—the dinner sequence late in the film introducing Polly to the producer’s family draws on a string of nonsensical verbal gags and visual tricks for its effect. The film also includes an element of fairy tale, under the aesthetic influence of Jacques Demy, in which the prince charming, played by Sami Frey, searches for the actual Polly, after having fallen in love with her image. As Alison Smith remarks, linking Klein’s “detached and critical spectacle-parody” to the contemporaneous work of JeanLuc Godard, he “is concerned with producing a construct based on reality rather than a reproduction of reality.”35 Engaging in a conversation between theater and cinema, Klein’s intermedial critique is well suited to the representation of the catwalk show, with its particular combination of live performance and editorial judgment, mixing design, commerce, and spectacle. His disdain for the cult of fashion is personified through the character of Miss Maxwell (Grayson Hall), an obvious parody of Diana Vreeland, who dictates her nonsensical copy down the telephone and works surrounded by compliant assistants, who are eager to satisfy her every whim. In the end, she decides that Polly simply has the banal features of a Cinderella figure rather than those of a futuristic space rocket, and is therefore no longer in tune with the forward motion of fashion. The contemporary fad for futuristic styles is explored in the film’s memorable opening scene that depicts the alienating fashion show, filmed, in part, in cinéma-vérité style inside one of André Bloch’s habitable sculptures, employing a group of actual fashion editors and trade representatives, who are all seated on top of one another and were commandeered from the Paris couture shows to play themselves attending the mock event. Backstage, the models are bolted into vast plates of metal that are molded into dresses conceived by the costume designer, the director’s wife Jeanne Klein, and the conceptual artists François and Bernard Baschet. The inarticulate designer physically resembles the couturier André Courrèges, who was seen at the time as revolutionary in his ultramodern reimagining of women’s

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wear. The real target, however, was Paco Rabanne, who ironically appeared in the scene as one of the dressers, and whose designs were renowned for their use of materials such as metal and plastic—the metal minidress worn by pop star Françoise Hardy was particularly famous at the time. Despite the injured

Figure 2.3  Grayson Hall as Miss Maxwell, the overbearing fashion editor in Qui êtesvous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) (1966). Credits: William Klein (director) and Robert Delpire (producer).

Figure 2.4  The absurd futuristic fashion show in Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?) (1966). Credits: William Klein (director) and Robert Delpire (producer).


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models, who are shown in a series of artificial presentational shots floating mechanically down the runway, the collection is euphorically received following Miss Maxwell’s prophetic approval (“Divine! He has recreated Woman!”), which is supported by the fawning gobbledygook of the attendant celebrities, which include the celebrated novelist Violette Leduc (“you are a galvaniser and I was galvanised!” she gushes). This contrived intermingling of fact and fiction in Klein’s recreation of the fashion show built on the style of his earlier documentary, The Business of Fashion, an oblique backstage report on couture, for which he had filmed the presentation of Yves Saint Laurent’s second collection under his own name. Following a disappointing debut, the young designer is under pressure to prove his worth as Christian Dior’s heir. Klein’s camera roams backstage, naturalistically capturing interaction between the designer’s impatient business partner, Pierre Bergé, and his star model, Victoire Doutreleau. The abrupt montage of jerky, handheld shots of Saint Laurent dressing the models emphasizes the urgency of the backstage procedure by positioning the camera in the thick of it, while the more classically staged shots of the assembly of critics and editors are accompanied by a disjointed, post-synchronized soundtrack, thereby underscoring the filmmaker’s own selfconscious mediation of the event. Klein’s sociological gaze was expressed at times subjectively and self-reflexively (the extreme close-ups and inquisitorial questioning of the American tycoons and textile industrialists in The Business of Fashion); but elsewhere it is more neutral (the use of a telephoto lens to observe multiple scenes simultaneously, filming Simone Signoret against the hectic backdrop of the ladies’ paradise in At the Department Store). However, Klein parodies the sincerity of this type of documentary method in Polly Maggoo by inserting a mock report on consumerism, showing the opportunistic crew interviewing a store manager, whose pompous commentary is undercut by the background animation of the hysterical shoppers; this formed part of the film’s vicious attack on the perceived poor quality of contemporary television journalism. Despite a clichéd demystification of the sociological discourses of consumer culture, the film did more than simply reflect fashion of the time as a “futile game of appearances.” 36 It carried a broader remit by bearing witness to the society of 1960s, albeit in a non-realist mode, and by contributing to the complex dialogue between art and fashion. By the time he returned to filming fashion almost twenty years later on television with Fashion in France in 1984, Klein’s directorial experience led him to conclude that the classical documentary mode was inherently compromised— neither realistic nor objective.37 Fashion in France was a television commission,

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coproduced by the private channel TF1 and the Ministry of Culture. To prepare for its production, Klein shot a series of behind-the-scenes stills of early 1980s shows entitled Backstage (Coulisses), freezing the off-stage drama and motion through the use of blurred imagery. This series morphed into his television investigation of French fashion history, which included fake documentary sequences and humorous educational sketches tracing national history through changes in fashion. This was an ambitious attempt to promote contemporary design by seamlessly mixing backstage actuality with stylized performance. Fashion in France began with fragments of footage taken from the runway shows of some of the emerging talents of the early 1980s, particularly those, such as Jean-Paul Gaultier, Claude Montana, and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, whose work was embedded in street style and pop culture. This more relaxed sensibility, with its ironic sense of humor—take for example Castelbajac’s graphic recycling of pop iconography and Gaultier’s career-long love affair with British subcultural styles—suited Klein’s own playfully unorthodox approach to filmmaking. Dividing the film into twelve scenes that artificially recreate and reference different screen modes and genres (documentary, advertising, art video, romantic comedy, film noir, drama, and performance art), Klein captured the spirit of the fashion culture of the period as a fragmented puzzle drawing on various sources of inspiration. Gaultier was asked to dress up iconic models such as Farida Khelfa along with local passers-by at a Paris street market, presenting the models as chic hookers lurking in doorways; Claude Montana’s collections were used to costume a docu-fictional sketch about a cocktail party; and Azzedine Alaïa dressed the models Grace Jones and Linda Spierring while they rehearsed scenes from Marivaux’s play The Game of Love and Chance. With its naturalistic backstage setting and constant recourse to ironic markers of illusion, performance, and script, Fashion in France not only provided a summative snapshot of 1980s French designer fashions; it also demonstrated Klein’s renewed interest in framing and filming fashion itself and a continuing investment in undressing the fiction of documentary representation.

Backstage with Loïc Prigent By way of comparison, let us return to the contemporary example of Loïc Prigent, whose work in television and online documentary and reportage is valued for its humor and sympathy, for the director’s knowledge and


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understanding of the intricate workings of the industry. “Television—or the moving image in general—seems better suited to make a statement about fashion” than writing, in Prigent’s view.38 Profiled by journalist Jan Kedves in 2013 for a collection of interviews with a cross section of figures from the fashion industry, Prigent was described as “the leading contemporary maker of documentary films about the world of fashion—an expert who does not succumb to the lure of glamour and excitement but instead probes more deeply in order to understand exactly what people are doing and how they do it.”39 His documentaries aim to compose the bigger picture of fashion—less a predictable dissection of celebrity culture or artistic grandeur than a collective portrait of a professional milieu. Prigent’s eye for otherwise insignificant detail captures the process of creating and displaying fashion, attending to the intricate handiwork and craft, but also to the backstage drama surrounding the catwalk show. Fellow journalists have praised Prigent’s measured approach to a domain that is often considered frivolous or histrionic: in an otherwise critical profile documenting Prigent’s own emerging celebrity and questionable proximity to the milieu he observes, the newspaper Le Monde confirmed his status as one of “a rare breed of journalists who can claim to have radically and durably altered the public opinion of their discipline.”40 Prigent’s television work, financed by the Franco-German channel ARTE and the US Sundance Channel, is a sort of pop journalism that mixes information and observation with more self-reflexive and performative modes, combining the standard observational mode laced with ironic nods to formatted factual entertainment. (The pointed homage to the aesthetic of reality shows is in part meant to satisfy the US sponsor.) Curiously, following the success of The Day Before (Le Jour d’avant), Prigent chose not to migrate from television to cinema as part of the early-twenty-first-century-century renaissance of the cinematic feature film mode of documentary production. The purpose of his television work is to engage with the immediacy of the world of fashion while taking it seriously as artisanal endeavor and creative practice. The documentarian, however, comes at his subject from an oblique angle, his knowing distance making it clear that he is not ready to take the industry’s absurdities at face value. To that extent, Prigent’s work is in keeping with the broader focus of contemporary documentary production “on the conditions of ‘representational’ truth,”41 which questions the conventional didactic ambition to transmit factual knowledge to the audience with an ironic and artificial elaboration of narrative and dramatic tension.

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Prigent was born in rural Brittany in Western France in 1973, far from the privileged and idealized Paris fashion scene. His early pop fanzines caught the attention of the daily newspaper Libération, where he was then employed as a freelancer. It was his television work, however, for the cable channel Canal Plus that gained him critical attention, particularly the mock-reportage series Dressed Up For . . . (Habillées pour . . .). Presented by the witty Agnès Boulard (known as Mademoiselle Agnès), the series is composed of summative accounts of each season’s fashion shows, capturing the exhilaration, repetition, and exhaustion involved, establishing Prigent’s style as a director. The tone is informal, the delivery ironic, and the purposefully amateur photography intended over time to mirror the style of online video blogs—the show’s overall tone shifted following the rise of social media during the 2000s, jettisoning a more traditionally pedagogical point of view, emblematic of the professional authority of the “old” media, in favor of the amateur sensibility and DIY aesthetics of online video content. With the increased access to digital fashion news, the more academic approach traditionally adopted by the fashion journalist appeared out of step with the speed and instantaneity of social media, capturing snapshots of juxtaposed moments, rather than attempting to contextualize or situate them within a broader historical continuum. Dressed Up For . . . not only captures the zeitgeist of early-twenty-first-century fashion by documenting the massive expansion of the global luxury brands and the widening economic gap between the mighty conglomerates and the small-scale, independent designers; it is also in tune with the ironic sensibility, fragmented aesthetics, randomized content, and instant opinion-making of social media culture, in which an influential celebrity’s Instagram or Twitter feed potentially has more quantitative impact than a journalist’s considered review of a collection. Alongside his more recent incursion into social media—his own Twitter account has a modest forty thousand or so followers and contains sly tweets repeating the outlandish comments supposedly overheard on the Paris fashion scene—Prigent’s later reportage show Ready-to-Wear Right Now (Prêtà-porter tout de suite), produced from 2012 for the specialized cable channel Stylia, also combines a serious investigation of contemporary fashion with a cautious eye for its absurdities, including its current obsession with celebrity endorsement. Prigent is most celebrated for his backstage series The Day Before, which follows the build-up to the catwalk show, emphasizing the drama of events and adopting a tone resembling contemporary reality TV formats—the vernacular is


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gossipy, masking the industry’s willing collusion with celebrity and flaunting the illusion of proximity. Prigent encases a serious journalistic inquiry in an episodic parody of the prepackaged television formats, complete with mock narrative suspense, dramatic intrigue, melodramatic music, and catch-up segments at the start of each episode, thereby transposing the style of popular television to the rarefied world of high fashion. This results in a sharp juxtaposition through montage between the branded fantasies of luxury fashion and the mundane, everyday nature of garment production. Although Prigent’s work does occasionally favor the hagiographic—his portrait of Marc Jacobs in 2007 borders on the sycophantic—his work overall bears a sociological inflection. It is relatively skeptical about the workings of the industry, a bias shown through the emphasis on the production process more than on image consumption. Prigent’s journalism bears circumstantial testimony to a milieu through snapshots of collaborative endeavor rather than focusing on the life and work of designers, or the more immaterial contribution of stylists. Documentary as a filmic mode is clearly structured around the two distinct poles: observation and editing; the formal shape of the project only emerges after the shoot through the creative process of selecting and editing the footage. So, what Prigent captures on camera might be relatively random or context-dependent, but the pace, style, and rhythmic patterns give a formal shape to the material in the postproduction stage. He chooses to include technical mishaps and mistakes in the final cut to retain the original sense of spontaneity, showing the process of making fashion to be as potentially mundane as it is creative. This question of exposing the everyday nature of the design process is key to understanding the accessibility of the series and its origins in Prigent’s fanzine mentality, which combines the excitement of the amateur enthusiast with the critical questioning of the professional journalist. In sum, his style is both popular and critical, without being sarcastic—this is not the type of documentary inquiry where the subject is devalued through the camera’s ironic glare, pointing to the disjuncture between a subject’s fantasy life and a construction of factual reality. Prigent’s inflection of backstage drama also reverses the traditional point of view, so that instead of glorifying the subject by focusing on celebrity glamour, he films its methods of material elaboration, a carefully contrived tribute to the craft of fashion. Though this approach could easily appear worthy, Prigent injects his footage with a touch of insolence. The rapid-fire delivery of his ironic voiceover narration complements the imagery with an upbeat rhythmic soundtrack, orientating the audience via a subjective viewpoint that guides us through the

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phases of the creative process. His witty asides are accompanied by visual gags (the use of arrows, for instance, to point out a peculiar look or surprising turn of events) and accelerated imagery to cut through dead time or potentially boring passages. Even though the decision to film the assistants, patternmakers, seamstresses, and interns, as much as the designers and stylists, points to a more sociologically inflected inquiry, Prigent is careful not to make the final cut overly dry or academic in tone. The ironic, self-reflexive tone, embedded in admiration for the technical expertise in assembling each piece for a collection, situates Prigent’s work within the hybrid landscape of contemporary documentary practice, described by Bruzzi as signaling a move away from the reliance on classic observational techniques toward acknowledgment of the built-in performance and inherently performative act of filming, the tension between artificial staging and the presentation of reality. 42 Despite not appearing in front of the camera in person, Prigent nonetheless draws on the work of contemporary practitioners whose films foreground the reflexive presence and the authorship of the filmmaker.43 The filmmaker’s own acknowledged dramatic manipulation and aesthetic shaping of his material is evident in the temporal framing of the show—the capture of the preparation, the anticipated mishaps in the forty-eight hours before the show. The serial format of The Day Before accentuates acceleration and immediacy, transferring the instantaneity characteristic of the social media sensibility to the format of the documentary series. Prigent’s contrived amateurism is sharply juxtaposed with the aura of sleek perfection associated with the luxury brands that he films. He favors visual quirks and gimmickry over the constructed authenticity and staged naturalness of traditional observation, combining techniques such as fast cutting and stop motion to break up his rough and ready framing that works as self-conscious homage to the codes of reality TV. The episodic format of Signé Chanel, for example, parodies its clichéd vernacular, including the ironic use of ad-break teasers to build up dramatic tension as each show culminates predictably enough with the successful climax of the show, the aftermath of which is filmed as a release to the previous weeks of relentless work. The serial format suits both the playful tone and the development of narrative suspense, establishing a collusive relationship between the audience and the creative process. The thematic structure of the Chanel series allows Prigent to establish the internal workings of the couture house and specific rites of the atelier first, before ramping up the tension and hysteria around the fashion show in the final episode.44


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Reframing fashion history Prigent’s preference for material process over creative inspiration is, he claims, linked to the visual question of how to capture fashion on film. Without underestimating the creative contribution and importance of the stylist, Prigent pays more attention to the heads of atelier simply because their work is manual and can be shown on film, whereas the conceptual vision of the stylist is more often communicated through pose, attitude, and concept.45 Creativity, in Prigent’s vision of fashion, is the product of a dialectical relationship between the manual workers (designers, seamstresses, patternmakers) or artisans (embroiderers, lace makers, leatherworkers) in the case of haute couture, and the label’s overall creative director in the context of the global brands. Prigent’s account of JeanPaul Gaultier’s haute couture “cinema” collection (Autumn/Winter 2009–10), part of the first series of The Day Before in 2009, illustrates the documentarian’s ambition to showcase the illustrious designer through the creative work of his house, particularly the input of the atelier directed by the meticulous Mireille Simon, whose discreet contribution was further underlined in Prigent’s later portrait of the designer at work, Jean-Paul Gaultier At Work (Jean-Paul Gaultier travaille) in 2015. Gaultier’s appreciation of Prigent’s technique extends to scenes cut from The Day Before, in which he praises the documentarian’s approach as less academically descriptive, less preoccupied with the details of dress history than is the case in more pedagogical forms of fashion documentary, and more attuned to the social dynamics of the milieu—both its intricate working practices and its mediation through spectacle. Gaultier emerged through the late 1970s and early 1980s during a period that witnessed the decline of couture as the cultural prestige and commercial centrality of Paris fashion began to be challenged by Milan and New York. He famously took inspiration, however, from the street styles and youth subcultures of London (punk, in particular), radically transposing them to the Parisian catwalk using an intricate knowledge and precise understanding of the cut of the garment. Beyond the breadth of technical expertise and the eclecticism of his ideas (particularly the celebrated cross-gender and cross-cultural frame of vision), Gaultier’s contribution to late-twentieth-century design came from his reinvention of a particular Parisian dégaine—the nonchalant attitude characterizing an aesthetic, in which the peripheral elements of clothing became the key focus of attention.46 Prigent’s pedagogical exposé of Gaultier at work aimed to assess the designer’s legacy by following his creative process from

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sketches to designs draped in situ on the model’s body. The film’s brief involved him recreating twelve of his most emblematic designs, which include the conical bra, the sailor T-shirt, the men’s skirt, or the re-functioned corset. In the Dadainspired collection (Spring/Summer 1983), for example, the corset reemerged as an evening dress, launching his inquiry into gesture and attitude, as much as technique and cut, into how to present clothing in motion. He was not the first designer to cross-gender boundaries (Chanel and Saint Laurent had famously borrowed items from menswear), but he was, in the androgynous climate of the early 1980s, the first to systematize such borrowings in both directions, a clear influence on the unisex and post-gender fashions to emerge later in the early twenty-first century. As curator Olivier Saillard comments, by the time of his Spring/Summer 1988 collection that staged his insolent brand of provocation, he had become “the yardstick by which to measure contemporary tastes, directing and contradicting fashion with a natural flair for synchronicity that saw his work positioned among that of the great fashion designers.”47 Jean-Paul Gaultier At Work is structured as a highly edited master class, reliant on the designer’s affable personality and natural ease in front of the camera. Addressing the viewer directly, he retraces the various stages of his work stepby-step, delving into the house’s archive to reedit the design process. Prigent’s film fetishizes the creative process through mise-en-scène by erecting a mock-up studio within the label’s premises. Mireille Simon is shot conscientiously working in the background, called on by Gaultier to assist with the recreation of each garment. As with The Day Before, the self-conscious editing pattern sets a dynamic pace for a film that is otherwise highly staged and statically shot, fastforwarding through the dull passages but leaving in mistakes to maintain the illusion of spontaneity and the naturalness of the designer’s performance. Intercut with archive footage of iconic looks from various collections, this dynamic but artificial restaging of the past reframes the designer’s legacy through movement; it also crystallizes the seemingly schematic gendered division of labor in the fashion industry, visible elsewhere in Prigent’s documentaries, in which the prestigious (most often male) designer articulates a creative vision, invariably supported by the labor of his (most often female) employees. In 1997, Gaultier celebrated his twenty years in the industry by launching his own couture house, presenting some seventy-odd models in a show conceived as a hymn to the French classical tradition of couture. Having initially worked for Pierre Cardin and Jean Patou, Gaultier is seen as a “master craftsman” with a technical brilliance that is often overshadowed by his reputation for outrageous


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spectacle.48 The combination of technical skill and creative originality characteristic of Gaultier’s couture is showcased in the episode from The Day Before, in which Prigent follows the preparations for his Fall/Winter 2009/2010 collection, conceived as a homage to cinematic glamour, the inspiration for which comes from enigmatic stills of screen stars such as Greta Garbo, Brigitte Bardot, and Lauren Bacall. Explaining that his first encounter with couture was the behind-the-scenes drama Paris Frills (Falbalas, Jacques Becker 1945), Gaultier creates a camp tribute to cinema culminating in the appearance of the couture-wedding gown, for which moving images are projected onto a veil covering the model’s face. Another piece has strips of celluloid inscribed as decoration, literally inscribing the moribund technology of cinema onto the fabric. Prigent’s own focus throughout complements the material slant of the collection, highlighting the parallel waning techniques of couture such as crochet. As usual, he homes in on the women’s work and the complexity of the designs. The images of the runway alternate between shots of the attendant celebrities and clients, and the last-minute alterations backstage—Gaultier is known to edit his designs right up to the final moment. As each look is displayed for the first time, the camera cuts back and forth between images of the catwalk and the artisans’ proud reactions, demonstrating their personal, affective investment in the fabrication process. The film’s closing shots film the backstage celebrations as the designer provides his own summative statement on the collection as a collective, rather than an individual effort, celebrating the labor of his assembly of artisans. “Vive l’artisanat! Vive la mode!” is his salutary gesture to the camera. Jean-Paul Gaultier At Work was first broadcast in France in April 2015 by Arte as part of a tie-in with the Grand Palais museum, which cofinanced the film as part of the promotion for the Paris-stop of the global touring exhibition of the designer’s legacy, The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. The extent to which such documentaries in fact work as covert promos for designers and brands is a moot point and one that has also been raised in relation to Prigent’s work. In response to criticisms of the lack of objectivity in his portrait of Marc Jacobs, filmed while in tenure at Louis Vuitton (Marc Jacobs—Louis Vuitton, 2007), Prigent highlighted his personal affinity with the designer, close to his own generation, milieu, and sensibility, but claimed that they were not close friends. His role as documentarian was to bear testimony to the designer at work; his viewpoint remained independent.49 However, rather than adopting a standard observational perspective, the film

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lays bare the filming process to avoid the pretense of objectivity—for example, Jacobs frequently acknowledges the presence of Prigent’s reduced crew consisting simply of a sound engineer and a camera operator. Similarly, the Fendi episode from The Day Before recognizes Lagerfeld’s celebrity lifestyle and follows his creative process, but retains the stance of relative neutrality and ironic skepticism characteristic of the series as a whole. In terms of professional ethics, Prigent’s subsequent commercial work for Fendi is, however, more questionable because it blurs the lines between journalism and advertising by transposing the documentarian’s trademark aesthetic to the world of the promotional fashion film. Inside the Mothership was a mini-documentary lasting fifteen minutes, commissioned by the Italian luxury brand in 2014 to articulate its design process (from elaboration to presentation) to online consumers by following preparations for the Spring/Summer 2014 collection in Milan. Prigent’s authorial viewpoint disappears so the film becomes a diluted version of his style—the ironic voice-over, pop montage, mistakes, and comic moments all vanish in the brand’s desire to control every detail of its visual communications strategy. Prigent is effectively employed to lend the brand his signature and his style without the ironic and potentially critical point of view. With the exception of video clips for the record label-cum-fashion house Kitsuné, Prigent’s creative work in advertising is, on the whole, less personally identifiable than his television work, and includes digital promos for Chanel, Roger Vivier, Dior Jewelry, Diane von Furstenberg, and L’Oréal. (He has also complemented these commercial activities by curating a small menswear exhibition, L’Homme par Loïc Prigent, for the Bon Marché department store in 2010.) Prigent openly accepts ethical criticisms of his commercial work from other journalists, given that it blurs the boundaries between journalism and advertising; he accepts his position within the fashion system, while claiming to retain a critical distance and relative independence. The fashion industry’s assimilation of Prigent—whereby he has continued access to the design studios to make his films while the brands recuperate his ironic commentary as part of their own communications strategies—signals a potentially problematic trend, in which the fashion film masquerades in documentary drag. In the case of Prigent’s documentary The Balmain Line (La Ligne Balmain), broadcast by Arte during the Paris Fashion Week in September 2014, the blurring of the lines between the commercial and journalistic formats, between corporate promotion and documentary television, is more opaque still, suggesting that the contemporary fashion brand is able to co-opt audiovisual


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production by allowing the documentarian to access the house’s extensive archive and channel its heritage through the educational format. This covert communications strategy is not formally negotiated with the filmmaker, who is not under contract to publicize or promote specific brands, but fashion houses increasingly want to “educate” consumers and enthusiasts about their heritage by elaborately displaying the craft, skill, and work involved in the production of high-end fashion and couture. (The move is, in effect, a strategy to justify the exorbitant cost of their goods.) The illusion of insider knowledge for the audience relies on a contrived manipulation of transparency. Knowing that Prigent is part of the scene that he is purporting to observe means also acknowledging the independent documentary’s commercial value for a revived house such as Balmain, for example, which is keen to extend its contemporary resonance through an advanced digital presence via social media and its celebrity cachet through the personality of the young designer Olivier Rousteing. Pierre Balmain founded the house in 1945 following the Liberation of Paris the previous year, aiming to make the city and the world dream once again. Prigent draws heavily on archive footage of the designer’s contribution to the reemergence of the fashion industry in the late 1940s, juxtaposing black-andwhite images of past glory with Rousteing’s attempt to connect the house to both contemporary pop culture and digital media.50 The archive imagery of the original Balmain postwar model of ornamental femininity is paralleled by the risky move to appoint a virtual unknown as creative director after the premature departure of Christophe Decarnin, whose successful revival of Balmain from 2006 goes unmentioned following the house’s decision to relinquish him in 2011. The film’s airbrushed account of recent history prefers to single out the younger designer’s links to the founder, revealing stills of whom are juxtaposed with shots of Rousteing at work in the studio, alternating between past and present through the mediums of photography and film. His unorthodox creative approach to design seemingly includes little preparation and consists of photographs of the pre-collection onto which new designs are cut and pasted to ensure a continuation from season to season, so as not to disorientate the client base. Prigent’s focus on the working practices in the atelier spotlights the label’s trademark manipulation of fabrics—particularly the use of leather and passementerie, the military style embroidery—and the continued devotion of the house’s employees, who, in July 1949, during strikes in the couture industry, had all lent a hand to ensure that Monsieur Balmain’s collection was finished on time. The founder’s rise to prominence alongside his more famous contemporary,

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Christian Dior, coincided with the euphoric release of creative energy after the Liberation of Paris in 1944, images of which complement shots of Rousteing’s own contemporary social activities and celebrity connections. His use of a new generation of social media models such as Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner has seen him linked to the rise of the so-called instagirls.51 Much airtime is given to the designer’s starstruck devotion to his muse, the pop star Rihanna, whose social media profile ensures the label an extensive digital reach, and whose missed attendance at the runway show is much anticipated by the designer, though more skeptically viewed by the filmmaker, whose own take on the relationship between celebrity and fashion is considerably more measured. Unlike the more educational staged portrait of Gaultier at work, creatively refashioning the designer’s creative history, The Balmain Line is illustrative of the compromised position of the documentarian in the world of high fashion, a milieu notoriously secretive about its working practices and difficult to penetrate. Prigent has crafted a career unpacking the artisanal techniques and creative processes involved in the design and fabrication of fashionable clothing, attending to the practical hurdles to be overcome to assemble a collection on time. In its hybridization of traditional observation with a reality entertainment aesthetic and social media sensibility, a film like Prigent’s investigation of Balmain raises the ethical issue of the brand’s collusion with the presumably independent filmmaker, obliged to comply with, or at least to be seen to accommodate the former’s communications strategy to gain access to the atelier. The global fashion houses see behind-the-scenes documentation as passive communication, as a means of appearing to be transparent without having to commission an advertising film. An indirect communications tool such as a supposedly impartial film or television documentary is a convenient way of covertly collaborating with a filmmaker without having to promote the brand— they can risk the odd off-message comment at their expense (Rousteing’s cutand-paste method, for example, is shown to consist of little more than designby-mood board) if it means viewers—conceived primarily as consumers—are exposed to an account of the processes involved in making fashion. In the age of advanced luxury, the ubiquitous behind-the-scenes access of the process film is simply added value—a contrived way for high-end fashion brands to justify their markup by revealing the technical expertise and creativity involved in the fabrication process of designer fashions. Given his insistent sociological focus on method, on work and skill, it is ultimately ironic that the fashion industry


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should be able to neutralize Prigent’s filmmaking quite so readily. His pragmatic compromise between critique and collusion, between independent inquiry and commercial collaboration, also illustrates the broader ethical questions of journalistic practice in relation to the fashion industry of the twenty-first century, where criticism or judgment of the globally dominant luxury brands is considered a precarious move.

Filming everyday fashion Beyond images of the catwalk and backstage, filmmakers have also framed the practice of fashion photographers and the performance of fashion models, which I consider now through analysis of documentary and “documentaryfiction” films. Before investigating cinema’s representations of the studio photo shoot, it is worth considering the staging of the street, “as conspicuous a context for fashion as the space of the photographer’s studio or that of the catwalk.”52 Discussing the historical role of the journalist not only in editing and selecting what is deemed fashionable but in making sense of the city through the use of the “straight-up” shot of street styles in traditional print publications, Agnès Rocamora and Alistair O’Neill comment on the aesthetic shaping of the “real” through such photographic practice, presenting supposedly ordinary people “as representatives of metropolitan life, of the city they incarnate, as if the city had been styled by the people’s inventive power, whose source, in turn, lies in the street itself, the true origin of fashionable creativity.”53 The late journalist and photographer Bill Cunningham is now widely celebrated as the godfather of street style photography, known for his two weekly columns, “On the Street” and “Evening Hours” for the New York Times. Cunningham’s anthropological vision of the city’s evolving styles makes him an important precursor to the digital dissemination of street style imagery by the influential fashion bloggers who emerged through the 2000s, including, among many others, Garence Doré, Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist), and Yvan Rodic (Facehunter).54 As Richard Press’s 2010 film portrait, Bill Cunningham New York, illustrates, the late photographer is also recognized for having been ethically irreproachable, declining invitations that might have compromised his code of honor or the integrity of his employer. The uncritical embrace of the corporate values of fashion branding emerging in contemporary screen documentary, in which the documentarian is obliged to balance a neutral or

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potentially critical point of view with the commercial demands of the industry, was anathema to an impartial enthusiast and visual scholar of fashion such as Cunningham. Cunningham’s innovative framing of the self-fashioning of everyday New Yorkers and the denizens of high society appeared in the digital and print versions of the newspaper, the online version of which included his video commentary, where he explained his stills through a motion-image slideshow. In Press’s account of Cunningham—a rarity in fashion documentary in that it sidesteps editorial photography—the film functions as a biographical portrait, problematized by the fact that its subject was an intensely private man, one whose personal life was seemingly entirely dedicated to his work. This biographical focus provides the film with its central enigma. Filmed over the span of a year without the intrusion of a film crew (present were the director and Tony Cenicola, a photographer from the newspaper, who acted as the film’s cinematographer), the film traces Cunningham’s gradual process of opening up, illustrating how the subject slowly feeds information or shows different facets of his work and life to the camera. The subtle tracking of Cunningham—Press and Cenicola appear by surprise at public events to shoot him on the job, mirroring his own adaptable practice as a photographer out on the streets—establishes a sense of mystery around the subject’s personality, accompanying him at work rather than presenting him didactically to the viewer as an accessible package. Likewise, the talking-head interviews with commentators ranging from Iris Apfel to Harold Koda contribute to the enigmatic portrait of a widely admired photographer but little-known individual. This biographical focus on the man was, however, criticized for limiting a potentially more politicized critique of the fashion industry, essentially falling back “on the hierarchical structures of social and class divisions that colour the modus operandi of haute couture runway shows and the visual culture surrounding high fashion.”55 The film fleshes out its subject almost entirely through his method, through his work, jumping between Cunningham’s bohemian lifestyle—at the time the film was shot, he was one of the last remaining tenants of the famous Carnegie studios, where he stored his vast archive of negatives—and his dynamic movements across the urban stage, where he captured fashion in motion, fashion as it is performed and interpreted in the everyday. His tendency to zero in on the obvious and potentially insignificant details of a garment or a look aligns him with Roland Barthes, who conceived of fashion and the quotidian as a formative backdrop to the lived experience of the present. Tracing the intellectual’s vision of fashion back through a theoretical


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lineage that includes writings by Charles Baudelaire, Walter Benjamin, and Georg Simmel, literary critic Michael Sheringham explained how fashion can capture the mood and feel of the present and thus heighten our sense of the present; “temporality,” he explains, “is at the heart of fashion’s unstable—yet strangely permanent—present, which is linked existentially both to the past, which it incorporates, and to the future, which it anticipates.”56 Cunningham’s street photography testified to the spontaneity and originality of popular urban fashions, teasing out the trends and patterns, documenting the colors and styles, as they emerged across New York’s public stage. This ostensibly democratic method of image-capture, drawing on the raw material of urban creativity, is, however, potentially questionable, since the film denies agency to the objects of Cunningham’s gaze in its biographical attempt to sketch the city through the unique vision of the individual.57 Cunningham’s parallel columns, which alternated between street style and high society, revealed his ethnographic bias; his reportage of the changes in fashion history over a half-century documented the creative impulses of urban life against the codification and status-ambitions of the rich and powerful. Uninterested in the celebrities attending the charity events that he shoots, Cunningham viewed street and society photography as a social leveler. The latter stages of the film follow his eviction from the art studios, figuring its inhabitants as archaic in the surrounding context of neo-corporate Manhattan. The filmmaker appears to sympathize with their fight against financial imperative by including shots of Cunningham cycling home alone, set apart from the wealthy socialites and philanthropists and out of sync with the financial march of the creative and cultural industries. Despite his own functional uniform of blue utility overalls, Cunningham is shown to have taken high fashion seriously—particularly its artistic incarnations in haute couture on the runways of Paris, the place that educates his eye. The end of the film is composed of an intensely moving sequence, in which Press asks him openly about two unresolved issues—romance and religion, both intimate topics that elicit an emotional response from the interviewee. Cunningham infers that Press is asking tactfully whether he is gay, which he admits was a thorny issue for his parents when he announced that he wanted to start out as a milliner in the 1940s. Pointing to the absence of romance, despite living a life filled with friendship and collaboration, their exchange moves on to his religious convictions, a point that troubles Cunningham, making him tentative and inarticulate. Following this emotional hiatus, the film concludes on a more joyfully collective note, capturing Cunningham’s surprise birthday

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celebrations at the newspaper’s offices, surrounded by trusted colleagues, who all wear Cunningham facemasks to pay tribute to one of fashion’s most idiosyncratic image-makers.

The fashion photographer on film The profile of the street photographer as a visual anthropologist, seemingly unbothered by the superficial gloss of the industry or the trappings of wealth and fame, is not, however, typical in the wider cinematic history of fashion photography, in both fiction and nonfiction settings. This is particularly the case in fictional representations of studio photography, which tend to emphasize the attractive clichés of glamour and sex appeal, rather than the more mundane questions of labor, method, or process; or the active collaboration and affinity between not only photographers and models, but also stylists and hair and makeup artists. Take, as examples, the two most famous fictional representations of the fashion photographer at work: Funny Face (Donen, 1957) and Blow-Up (Antonioni, 1966). In his book Photography and Cinema, David Campany mentions both films in the context of a discussion of the screen pose as a bodily performance and of the immobilized image—the freeze-frame—that plays with both stillness and motion. In the satirical musical Funny Face, a film that “exploits relentlessly the freeze-as-photograph,”58 the photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) was based on Richard Avedon, who collaborated as visual adviser to the director, designed the opening credits, and provided the stills used in the film, including the intentionally overexposed close-up of Audrey Hepburn’s face. The narrative structure is framed around a sequence of stylized location shoots that each provides an editorial image for Quality magazine (a transparent version of Vogue), steered by the formidable editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson)—an affectionate take on actual editors Carmel Snow and Diana Vreeland. The inclusion of a real-life model, the iconic Dovima, was also a feature of Antonioni’s critical rendition of 1960s London. Blow-Up included a fiveminute cameo appearance by Veruschka during one of the film’s early shoots documenting the manipulative behavior of the protagonist (David Hemmings), a character based on the reputation of the celebrity photographer David Bailey.59 As Campany comments, “Among other things Blow-up signals the beginning of fashion’s cultivated boredom,”60 characterized by the vacant demeanor of the


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model and the amoral behavior of the photographer, who, as film historian Sarah Street also observes, “attempts to control reality by making phoney images of it.” Blow-Up, she continues, “points to the modernist project exactly: the revelation that representations are not reality but particular versions of it.”61 Beyond the cinematic modernity routinely ascribed to Antonioni, what is striking for a contemporary audience is precisely the enduring contemporaneity of his 1960s cinema—the mood, tone, and feel created by the architecture, fashion, and design of the period, which are figured as both the reflections and the causes of the characters’ existential troubles. Given the reinterpretation of 1960s mod fashion by early-twenty-first-century menswear,62 the photographer’s signature look of straight white jeans, black Chelsea boots, and disheveled hair in Blow-Up still appears in tune with contemporary men’s fashion. The photographer’s attractive look is a shell for his arrogant sexism—the shoot with Verushka amounts to sublimated sex and his subsequent treatment of other models is sadistic, illustrative of how the film demystifies the seductive allure of the fashion image. In effect, Blow-Up envisions a sexual economy in which fashion imagery is conceived as the purest commercial expression of gender and power, positioning models as passive mannequins, to be humiliated in the spectacle and process of image-making. As David Forgacs explains, the enigmatic behavior and aestheticized poses, routinely associated with Antonioni’s cinema of the period, are part of his broader artistic figuration of female sexuality through space. Blow-Up’s critique of the fashion image literalized his aesthetic interest in enveloping the model’s pose within the actor’s movements through the frame. The shots of female protagonists “because they are not obviously subordinated to or functional to narrative, become similar to still photographs and allude to common forms of representation in commodity culture: fashion photographs, pin-ups, advertising.”63 The extent to which the pointed satire of the image process included in Antonioni’s caricatured staging of the editorial shoot had any critical impact is unclear, given that “fashion photography, like the visual culture of capitalism in general, had developed [by the late 1960s] a carapace of irony and self-parody that seemed to head off or absorb any critique,” as Campany observes,64 further explaining how Altman’s later satire of Paris fashion, Prêt-à-Porter, fell flat because it “underestimated just how well inoculated from criticism the industry had become” by the 1990s.65 There are, however, examples of fiction films that manage to poke fun at fashion and pop culture such as Ben Stiller’s Zoolander (2001) with its memorable clichés of male narcissism and industry histrionics, although the sequel, Zoolander 2,

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released fifteen years later, included an unfunny set piece shot with holograms of celebrity models, designers, and editors (Kate Moss, Tommy Hilfiger, Anna Wintour) illustrative of the extent to which global fashion can so easily recuperate satire simply by being “in” on the joke. The big-screen outing for enduring UK television sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, 2016), which included an excessive host of celebrity cameos, over-thetop product placement and brand integration, and an outlandish plot centering on the accidental killing of Kate Moss, was emblematic of the incorporation of designer fashion into the global entertainment industry including the drive toward digital communications strategies and the increasing redundancy of traditional top-down public relations.

The fashion model on film Criticism of the branded designer fashion industry is also central to a cluster of films that explore the myths of cruelty and exploitation surrounding the production of fashionable clothing, documenting the apparent symbolic violence hardwired into its processes of image-making. The dialectical opposition between the power of the photographer and powerlessness of the model—though clearly, in practice, a gross exaggeration, one that excludes all other creative input to isolate one central relationship—is a common feature of the following films, two of which are fictional, Puzzle of a Downfall Child (Schatzberg, 1970) and Frankie (Berthaud, 2005), and the other two factual, Model (Wiseman, 1980) and Girl Model (Redmon and Sabin, 2011). Despite stylistic, generic, and historical differences, all four films paint critical portraits of the industry: Puzzle, Frankie and Girl Model tend to underscore the personal damage and individual cost involved in producing the fashion image, and Wiseman’s pioneering film Model is a penetrating investigation of the labor and energy expended in the pursuit of aesthetic promotion. Sociologists Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wissinger have argued for the practice of modeling as integral to the development of a modern consumer culture, illustrative of a fascination with idealized forms of glamour and modern fictions of femininity.66 As fashion historian Caroline Evans observes, models were traditionally figured passively, as characteristic of modernity and as aesthetic embodiments of early-twentieth-century industrial production—as mechanical objects, originally defined as inanimate dummies (the French mannequin retains


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both meanings of the term).67 “Modelling,” Evans avers, “is about the relationship between reality and representation and the first mannequins foregrounded the way in which visual identity can be socially constructed through the power of self-representation.”68 Defining the female model since the early twentieth century as a visual icon, Evans positions her as “a touchstone for concerns about femininity, nationhood, class, status and sexuality,” troubling because of the selfimposed commodification.69 Rather than view models purely as reified objects, contemporary sociologists have also sought to redefine the activity of modeling as an embodied technique involving the willing commodification of the self, relocating the model as an intermediary between the processes of production and consumption,70 or as an “assemblage” of image, practice, relationship, and setting— in an attempt to provide a more socially variegated vision of the profession.71 As Elizabeth Wissinger also argues, models do not simply display desirable images of fashion; rather they actively “mediate our experience of commodities” by framing how we as consumers encounter fashion.72 However, although models actively collaborate to produce the fashion image (rather than simply passively offer up their bodies for consumer pleasure), they also have less agency, “less control over the terms under which they are represented,” pointing to widespread precarious working patterns and ethically dubious practices, such as scouting for young talent in Russia, a method exposed by the documentary Girl Model. The creation of the look as central to the corporeal technique of modeling emerged through the gradual professionalization of the activity, which followed the imperatives of fashion marketing in pronouncing certain female physical attributes as essentially desirable.73 Whereas runway modeling cements the relationship between the model and designer or stylist, studio models negotiate their activity through the vision of the photographer, who coordinates the interaction between model, setting, and image; as Jennifer Craik explains, in the staging of the necessary creative tension, “models are important for their ability to project moods and create an image as well as their ability to be transformed by makeup, clothes and the camera.”74 However, as Craik also observes, working as a model has historically been “an insecure and volatile business with long periods of inactivity and boredom.”75 This parallel focus on the laborious process of modeling provides the historical backdrop for the following films, concerned not only with work, but also with the subjective and interpersonal effects of the fashion system’s manipulation of the female body. In 1978, actress Faye Dunaway starred as a celebrated fashion photographer in the popular thriller Eyes of Laura Mars (Kershner, 1978), which transposed to the screen the print editorial and advertising style of the day, focusing in

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particular on death, violence, and sexuality—characteristic of the work of Helmut Newton, whose stills were used in the film.76 Dunaway had already acted in an earlier film centered on the fashion industry, Puzzle of a Downfall Child, which also recorded the process of framing fashion through the elaborate reenactment of photo sessions. Jerry Schatzberg’s debut film, though highly regarded for a time after its release, lay forgotten until its recent critical reevaluation by the cinéphile press in France. 77 Puzzle traces the life of a former model, Lou Andreas Sand (in an act of self-fashioning, the character reinvents herself in homage to the psychoanalyst Lou Andreas–Salomé), who retreats to her isolated beach house after a breakdown, where she recounts her downward spiral—the titular puzzle—to a friend, Aaron (Barry Primus), who records her confession to prepare for his own film project about a model who loses grasp of reality. Puzzle’s subjective and fragmented structure (including both temporal flashbacks and psychotic fantasies of events) mirrors Schatzberg’s own directorial method, since the film was originally inspired by a conversation with friend and former model Anne Saint-Marie, who suffered from depression following her professional decline. What is particularly intriguing about Puzzle from the perspective of fashion film is the fact that the director drew inspiration from his background as a commercial photographer in the 1960s. He transposed the style and techniques of the still to the moving image and in so doing contributed to the hybrid mode of documentary fiction. Schatzberg was known principally for his fashion editorials, reportage, and celebrity portraits, including famous naturalistic shots of Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa, and Bob Dylan for the cover of his Blonde on Blonde album in 1966; his work appeared in many of the leading print publications such as Vogue, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, and Life magazines. The spontaneity of Schatzberg’s celebrity portraits and the naturalism of his fashion imagery (his online archive includes images from his assignment for Esquire in 1962, when he was sent to Paris to shoot a behind-the-scenes series about haute couture at the houses of Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent78) was transferred to his debut feature, which, with its distorted image of a broken soul, transposed the photographer’s idea of portraiture to film—indeed, the French version of the title opted for the term “portrait” rather than “puzzle.” Screenwriter Carole Eastman transformed the original transcript into a complex screenplay by fragmenting the narrative and foregrounding the themes of identity and image within the account of the model’s disturbed personal relationships and troubled trajectory through the industry. The film’s take on fashion is ambivalent in that it simultaneously presents the


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industry, predictably enough, as vacuous and superficial—the model is figured as the incarnation of the female object as consumer product—but also suggests that fashionable style is in itself aesthetically valuable and highly desirable. Despite the fact that Schatzberg chose not to make a static film, thereby avoiding a literal reproduction of still photography to the moving image, and despite

Figure 2.5  Faye Dunaway as Lou Andreas Sand, the fading fashion model in Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970). Credits: Jerry Schatzberg (director) and John Foreman (producer).

Figure 2.6  Faye Dunaway as Lou Andreas Sand, the fashion model as prey in Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970). Credits: Jerry Schatzberg (director) and John Foreman (producer).

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the documentary aspect of the scenes shot in the present, intended to give the illusion of a 16-mm camera filming a cinéma-vérité style confession, critics like Pauline Kael nevertheless criticized the film for being overly decorative.79 From the establishing shots at the beach house and the first sequence documenting the technology used to record Lou’s testimony, underlining her subjective framing of the story, we jump back in time to a fashion shoot in New York in 1954. The extreme close-up of bright red lips translates the language of postwar fashion photography to the narrative film, gesturing in particular to the recognizable style of the influential photographer of the period, Irving Penn. Puzzle switches throughout between illusion and reality, between the artifice of fashion imagery of the past and the realist aesthetic of the recorded interview in the present. The shoot sequence uses fashion lighting rather than cinema lighting to create a credible on-set mood as close to the director’s own experience of studio photography. Unlike the overblown aestheticized shoots in Blow-Up, Schatzberg’s version, although just as cruel, emphasizes the model’s emotional response to the situation. This is achieved through a series of confrontational close-ups of Dunaway that chart the model’s reaction to the arrogant photographer, who humiliates her by dressing her in a feathered hat and placing a bird of prey on her arm for the Vogue cover shot, the final edit of which ironically cuts her face out of the frame altogether, thereby reinforcing her alienation. The pre-edited image, captured as a freeze-frame, is emblematic, condensing the film’s larger investment in the psychological damage done to the model—she is told that her career is over by the age of twenty-five. Despite the director’s claim that the fashion industry was not his specific target, but rather simply the professional milieu he knew the best,80 the film’s complex attempt to examine the ephemeral existence of the cover girl, and to expose the ambient aggression and inflexibility of modeling, is channeled through this threatening yet alluring image. Alongside the film’s fluctuation between staging and reality, it also investigates how the still image is effectively employed to capture and confine the model— the black-and-white freeze frames of Dunaway in Central Park punctuate the colorful sequence in which Lou, dressed to the nines, poses on a bench with two local men, underscoring the visual contrast between their shabby realness and her staged artifice. Like the documentary fictions and fashion photography of William Klein, Schatzberg’s method locates the productive tension that arises when fashion is artificially placed in a naturalistic setting. Emphasized by the disorientating soundtrack, the film employs flashback in a psychological sense to trace the model’s kaleidoscope of fantasies, rewinding


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Figure 2.7  Between performance and reality: Faye Dunaway as Lou Andreas Sand, in Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970). Credits: Jerry Schatzberg (director) and John Foreman (producer).

through traumatic episodes of abuse at the hands of her threatening lover Mark (Roy Schneider). Rather than situate the model simply as a passive object, devoid of agency, the fashion shoot is conceived subjectively as a way of exploring her own paranoia: Lou poses half-naked on a beach at night, shot by the predatory photographer Pauline (Viveca Lindfors), who is replaced in the model’s hallucination by the aggressive Mark, shown in reverse shot pointing a gun at her. Lou is in constant disguise, hiding things and feeling ashamed— she turns up for a job wearing an extravagant red wig, only to be dismissed for being too old, learning that she was only booked out of pity. The fashion image, the film suggests—paradoxically, given the filmmaker’s provenance—is the visible symptom of a bankrupt society, obsessed with status and success, one that promotes and then jettisons its idealized models. The latter stages of the film contain an aestheticized memory of confinement when Lou is sectioned in a psychiatric unit, filmed in a bleached-out studio interior, the images of which bleed into one another to trace the contours of her psychotic decline. Frankie begins where Puzzle ends, with scenes of the eponymous heroine’s incarceration. The central character is played by former model turned actress, Diane Kruger. Like Puzzle, Frankie toys with documentary method in a number of ways: the film style is low-fi, captured on cheap, handheld digital video, which involves approximate framing and the extensive use of natural light, a mix of professional and non-professional actors in scenes that resemble reportage

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of the fashion industry—including footage shot at the Paris modeling agency Elite.81 The film’s most pertinent sequences are those that abandon conventional narrative realism (the plot follows the model’s breakdown and recovery) and opt for the naturalism of a mode of fictional documentary. The casting of Kruger was opportune in this respect, since she was able to work from her own situated experience as a model, adding personal insight to the dramatic performance, which is apparent in the improvised sequence staging a dysfunctional photo shoot—a scene used to signal the start of the model’s breakdown. Real-life photographer Christian Wiggert plays an overbearing version of himself; the director fed him key information, intended to provide some structure for the lengthy improvisation. The initial shots follow the crew setting up the shoot by transforming a Parisian apartment, while the model is being dressed and made-up. Berthaud’s camera tracks the various stages of the process including discussion of her physical defects, which objectifies the model by denying her any creative input. Frankie’s attempts to display the Dice Kayek designs are frowned upon by the fractious photographer, who ignores her professional contribution, focusing instead on technical minutiae. The scene gradually builds up to the confrontation between the model and photographer, capturing the poisonous atmosphere of a bad shoot, which culminates in the model’s imposed submission when she is ordered to perform sexually provocative poses for the camera. The imbalance of power between the male photographer and the female model, although simplistically formulated in the case of these narratives, is also investigated through a more sociological lens in nonfiction representations of the process, despite assurances from former models such as Kruger that her own personal experience was far more positive than that of her fictional double.82 The potential manipulation and loneliness of the young girls recruited to modeling is the subject of Girl Model, David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s somber documentary, which develops a scathing critique of the exploitative practices of the globalized supply chain. The film focuses on two intertwining lives: that of an American scout, Ashley, and a promising thirteen-year-old Russian girl, Nadia, spotted in Siberia and sent to work in Japan, where she is manipulated by unscrupulous agents and bookers. Ashley is herself a damaged former model, who despises the industry, but is unable to escape its financial grip. Girl Model is presented as an insider exposé that while observational—there is no in-front-of-the camera performance or voice-over framing and limited use of subjective testimony—is not neutral in its point of view; it questions the ethics


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of the modeling business by juxtaposing the two women’s trajectories, jumping between their situated experiences of work, between expository scenes of Nadia’s poor upbringing in Siberia (her family naively packs her off to Japan to earn money) and others demonstrating Ashley’s underlying insanity, shot at her soulless Connecticut villa. Despite the film’s lapidary conclusion, which effectively equates modeling to prostitution, it does nonetheless attempt to provide some empathetic insights into the origins of the scout’s psychological damage through her video diary and archive footage from her time as a model in the 1990s. The film’s grimly efficient focus is maintained throughout to expose, through a combination of oppositional editing and low-key observation sequences, a cycle of abuse and alienation for the young models, who are figured as no more than children, victims of commercial greed and exploitation at the hands of ruthless intermediaries. This pointed vision of the image-making process (Girl Model is evidently thesis-driven, articulating a partial critique of one facet of the industry) is not one adopted by more nuanced documentarians such as Frederick Wiseman, a filmmaker known for his carefully crafted investigations of US public institutions. Model, his first look at cultural production, released in 1980, came at the tail end of a string of materialist films examining state apparatuses; the film “selfreflexively examine[d] the codes and conventions of cinematic and photographic representation.”83 Some thirty years separate Model from Girl Model, a period in which the fashion industry was radically reconfigured by the intertwined processes of celebrity, globalization, and financialization, that is to say the financial incorporation of fashion by the luxury industry. Looking back on Model from the contemporary context requires an acknowledgment of the historical, cultural, and geographical chasm that separates these two factual representations of image-creation. Model is pre-global; it is firmly anchored in New York City—in setting, ambiance, and tone. Its stylized black-and-white cinematography both celebrates and interrogates the importance of urban iconography to fashion imagery, framing through recurring exterior shots the iconic billboards along with the commotion, promiscuity, and hardships of life out on the street. The main business of Model follows the work of the Zoli modeling agency: interviewing prospective models, providing career counseling and managing bookings ahead of the shoots. However, Wiseman employs the agency as a device to investigate the various creative methods used to promote fashion. In that respect, the film is multilayered in that it does not follow a linear narrative or chronological organization, but juxtaposes a variety of images, including

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photographs, commercials, and a documentary-within-a-documentary. Wiseman’s camera follows models at work on television commercials, fashion shows, print advertising, posing for magazine covers, editorials, and ads for a variety of products—from underwear and fur coats to sports clothes and cars. Wiseman described Model as “dead center in what I’m all about because it has to do with how images are created.”84 The photographic scenes emphasize the fabrication of glamour through the manipulation of personality and physical allure, but also the more mundane creative skills involved in obtaining the perfect look or ideal pose, concentrating not only on the on-set work but also the contributions made by stylists and makeup artists. At the same time, Model suggests that fashion advertising inevitably constrains the model as a living image, defined in essence by consumer culture for her/his status-value as a desirable object—a fact supported by Wiseman’s shots of a female photographer photographing a male model, encouraging him to adopt a submissive gaze by raising his arm defensively. The filming of a commercial for Brut aftershave includes footage of the casting process, which involves the director’s attempt to conjure up the staging of seduction, denaturalized when distanced by Wiseman’s unobtrusive observation of the event. While Wiseman’s recording of unscripted events as they occur would ostensibly place his practice within a conventional observational approach, it is precisely his shaping of the footage through the process of editing that ensures that the end result carries his signature as a director—his films are recognizable from their complex internal rhythms and editing patterns in so much as they “require particular attention from the viewer to perceive meaning beyond the random presentation of a series of loosely related events.”85 Using roughly 3 percent of the recorded footage, which he considers found rather than staged, Wiseman’s editing creates the illusion of chronological organization and dramatic structure, even a narrative script of sorts: “The film is finished when, after editing, I have found its ‘script.’ If a film of mine works, it does so because the verbal and pictorial elements have been fused into a dramatic structure. This is the result of the compression, condensation, reduction, and analysis that constitute the editing process for me. .  .  . In this way, the form of my documentaries can be called fictional because their structure is imagined.”86 In the description of the film taken from the Wiseman’s production catalog, Model is presented as “a view of the intersections of fashion, business, advertising, photography, television, and fantasy,”87 a view that is, at times,


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ironic, critical, and self-reflexive, in so far as the filmmaker’s own documentary practice is presented as an integral part of the examination of the ideological underpinnings of image-making. Indeed, the reiterative shots of the “real life” and street styles of New York provide a pointed commentary on the artificial studio construction of fashion and the fantasy mechanisms of advertising. As Barry Keith Grant argues, Model was one of Wiseman’s “most overtly Brechtian films,” didactically dismantling the illusion of reality; not merely a straightforward investigation into the fashion image, but rather “a blueprint for a kind of documentary cinema that seeks to situate itself outside the dominant tradition of unproblematic observational empiricism.”88 It does this by asking the viewer to question the filmic staging of reality throughout by focusing on the social fabric of New York fashion of the era and by including the mechanical apparatus of filming within the frame. (Wiseman not only includes cameras, mikes, booms, and cameramen, he also fleetingly appears on screen with the crew.) The film’s performative emphasis on modeling as an active technique rather than a passive state of being, which would somehow be reliant on a “natural” physique or the cultivation of glamour, is underscored by the inclusion of footage of Andy Warhol being interviewed for a parallel television documentary. Warhol, who perversely played down his own features—“I look really awful, and I never bother to primp up to try to be appealing because I just don’t want anyone to get involved with me,”89 he claimed—is shot discussing the instrumental role played by fashion models in the visual spectacle of consumer culture, a prominent feature, needless to say, of his own artistic exploration of fashion, celebrity, and consumption. Acknowledging that it is models who work to look great in designer clothes rather than the masses, Warhol comments that they get tired of performing and so often look functional or poorly dressed in real life; the two male models then discuss their shaving routine while the all-knowing Warhol nods silently at their exchange. Wiseman includes a subsequent scene from the television documentary that appropriates the style of gay pornography, with the male models shot in their underpants in the shower, quizzed about their earning potential and reluctance to accept their status as passive objects of desire. With the modeling agency acting as the film’s nexus for an array of cultural productions, Wiseman’s controlled distance arguably invites the viewer “to participate in the process of constructing meaning,”90 through the layering of different forms of fashion imagery and through the filmmaker’s intricate mapping of the creative process—the laborious lengths to which the photographers and

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directors will go to make a still or a commercial appear simple, including shots of one model who tirelessly holds her leg out to be sketched. This is apparent in the filming of a hosiery ad for Evan Picone, which Wiseman uses to flick back and forth between the contrived construction of the commercial and the surrounding reality, lingering on the machinery used to mediate the model’s performance. The filmmaker attempts to capture fashion in motion through the model’s dramatic movements, to display the product (the panty hose) without recourse to the still poses of fashion photography, while Wiseman’s own camera roams freely around the set in counterpoint, taking in the fascination of passers-by and indicating the surrounding atmosphere as a social backdrop to the artifice of the shoot. Surprisingly, given the film’s investment in advertising imagery, Model ends with scenes of the atelier and the runway show. Wiseman’s editing makes the link between image-creation and the material process of production, juxtaposing shots of dresses being run-up and faces being made-up. Wiseman’s recording of joyful scenes backstage, in the audience and on the catwalk at an Oscar de la Renta show, demonstrates his desire to open out the film toward the end—to record the broader social dynamic by documenting the bigger picture of New York fashion culture of the period. Wiseman followed Model three years later with a further materialist inquiry into patterns of consumption, The Store (1983), which filmed the action at the Neiman Marcus flagship department store in Dallas, Texas. His critical investigation of retail was structured through the commercial exchange between rich and poor, and captured the outlandish social performance of a number of local “society” housewives, shot in ironic counterpoint to the store’s sales assistants, buyers, and managers. In contrast to the timidly reverential tendency of much twenty-first-century documentation of fashion, evident in the example of vanity projects such as the infomercial Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf ’s, Wiseman’s critique of consumer culture of the early 1980s illustrates not only the vast conceptual and technological shift in the production of moving-image culture since then, but also the seemingly limited space for critical reflection and the compromised position of the contemporary filmmaker in filming the process of fashion. In the next part, I turn to screen representations of designers to address questions of fame, personality, and authorship. In this context, it is worth considering the absence, within the contemporary practices of documentary fashion film, of the sort of critical vision of a filmmaker like Wiseman, who balances an ironic sensibility with a materialist viewpoint on the entertaining spectacle of social interaction.


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Notes 1 Nick Knight, quoted from the photographer and filmmaker’s personal website,, accessed May 15, 2015. 2 British Fashion Council and Oxford Economics, “The Value of the UK Fashion Industry” 2012,, accessed February 19, 2015. 3 Associated Press, “London Fashion Week Kicks Off With A Digital Drive” Business of Fashion, September 13, 2013, london-fashion-week-kicks-off-with-digital-drive.html, accessed February 19, 2015. 4 See Ulrich Lehmann, Tigersprung: Fashion in Modernity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001). 5 Joanne Entwistle, The Aesthetic Economy of Fashion: Markets and Values in Clothing and Modelling, Oxford: Berg, 2009, pp. 9 and 8. 6 Marketa Uhlirova, “The Fashion-Film Effect,” in Djurdja Bartlett, Shaun Cole, and Agnès Rocamora (eds.), Fashion Media: Past and Present, London: Bloomsbury, 2013, pp. 118–29. 7 Thomas Austin and Wilma De Jong, “Introduction: Rethinking Documentary,” in Thomas Austin and Wilma de Jong (eds.), Rethinking Documentary: New Perspectives, New Practices, Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2008, 1–10, at p. 1. 8 Prominent examples of the genre include Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton (Prigent, 2007), Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (Sudler-Smith, 2010); five different takes on Saint Laurent: Yves Saint Laurent, tout terriblement (de Missolz, 1994), Yves Saint Laurent: 5 avenue Marceau 75016 Paris (Teboul, 2002), Yves Saint Laurent: Le temps retrouvé (Teboul, 2002), Célébration (Meyrou, 2007) and L’Amour Fou (Thorreton, 2010); and two commercially successful portraits of Valentino (Valentino: The Last Emperor, Tyrnauer, 2008) and Karl Lagerfeld (Lagerfeld Confidential, Marconi, 2007). 9 Andy Webster, “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf ’s,” New York Times, May 3, 2013, section C10. See also Brooks Barnes, “Attention, Audience; Attention, Shoppers,” New York Times, April 29, 2013, section C1, in which the journalist examined the fusion of documentary filmmaking and advertising in the context of the fashion industry. 10 Michael Renov quoted in Stella Bruzzi, New Documentary, revised second edition, Abingdon: Routledge, 2006, p. 5. 11 Bruzzi, New Documentary, pp. 6–7. 12 Ibid, p. 252. 13 Austin and De Jong, “Introduction,” p. 2. 14 Ibid.

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15 Adam Szymanski, “Bill Cunningham New York and the Political Potentiality of the Fashion Documentary,” Film, Fashion and Consumption, 1(3), 2012, pp. 289–304, at pp. 293–94. 16 Church Gibson, Fashion and Celebrity Culture, pp. 132–35. 17 Florence Müller quoted in Nathalie Crom, “La Littérature de poulettes,” Télérama, 2959, September 30–October 6, 2006, p. 26. 18 Diana Vreeland, D.V., New York: Da Capo Press, 2003 [1984]. 19 Cecil Beaton, The Glass of Fashion, New York: Rizzoli, 2014 [1954], pp. 365, 370, 365. 20 Lucy Norris, quoted at, accessed May 11, 2015. 21 Eugenio Renzi, “Sisyphe heureux,” Cahiers du cinéma, 631, February 2008, p. 33. 22 Jia Zhangke, Dit et écrits d’un cinéaste chinois 1996-2011, trans. François Dubois and Ping Zhou, Paris: Capricci, 2012, pp. 205–206; pp. 214–19. 23 Juanjuan Wu, Chinese Fashion from Mao to Now, Oxford: Berg, 2009, pp. 155–56. For a critique of Ma Ke’s contradictory positions, see Antony Fiant, Le Cinéma de Jia Zhang-Ke: No Future (made) in China, Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009, pp. 131–38. 24 Agnès Rocamora and Anneke Smelik, “Thinking Through Fashion: An Introduction,” in A. Rocamora and A. Smelik (eds.), Thinking Through Fashion: A Guide to Key Theorists, London: I.B. Tauris, 2015, pp. 1–27, at p. 12. 25 Rocamora and Smelik, “Thinking Through Fashion,” p. 13. 26 Kedves, Talking Fashion, pp. 46–53. 27 Bruno Remaury, “Rituel de mode et objet de consummation,” in Dominique Veillon and Michele Ruffat (eds.), La Mode des sixties: L’entrée dans la modernité, Paris: Les Editions Autrement, 2007, pp. 155–62, at p. 159. 28 Guy Debord, The Society of The Spectacle, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, New York: Zone Books, 1995 [1967], p. 12. 29 Nicole Janin, “Mode et médias: les années 1960,” in D. Veillon and M. Ruffat (eds.), La Mode des sixties: L’entrée dans la modernité, Paris: Les Editions Autrement, 2007, pp. 104–109, at p. 109. 30 Martin Harrison, “Postface,” in William Klein: Mode In and Out, Paris: Seuil, 1994, pp. 248–54, at p. 251. 31 William Klein, “Preface,” in William Klein: Mode In and Out, Paris: Seuil, 1994, p. 7. 32 Frederic Strauss, “Reflets dans l’oeil de William Klein,” Cahiers du cinéma, 522, March 1998, p. 14. 33 Alistair O’Neill, “Festival Review: Fashion in Film Festival,” Fashion Theory, 12(2), 2008, pp. 271–76, at pp. 271–72. 34 Hilary Radner has also made the same point observing that the film’s “vicious parody of the fashion world” depends “on the same aesthetic that it critiques for its effect.” Hilary Radner, “On the Move: Fashion Photography and the Single Girl


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in the 1960s,” in Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church Gibson (eds.), Fashion Cultures: Theories, Explorations and Analysis, London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 128–43, at p. 142. 35 Alison Smith, French Cinema in the 1970s: The Echoes of May, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005, pp. 207 and 208. 36 Nicole Janin, “Mode et médias: les années 1960,” p. 106 37 William Klein quoted in Smith, French Cinema in the 1970s, p. 215. 38 Kedves, Talking Fashion, p. 47. 39 Ibid, p. 46. 40 Laurent Telo, “Loic Prigent, l’homme qui taillait la mode,” Le Monde, M Magazine, July 4, 2014,, accessed April 28, 2015. 41 John Corner, “Documentary Studies: Dimensions of Transition and Continuity,” in Thomas Austin and Wilma De Jong (eds.), Rethinking Documentary: New Perspectives, New Practices, Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2008, pp. 13–28, at p. 20. 42 Stella Bruzzi, “The Performing Film-maker and the Acting Subject,” in Brian Winston (ed.), The Documentary Film Book, London: BFI Publishing/Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 48–58, at p. 48. 43 Bruzzi, New Documentary, p. 197. 44 Prigent has openly acknowledged this debt to reality television and its reconfiguration of traditional serial formats in an interview for TV channele ARTE: Yvonne von Zeidler Nori, “Interview du réalisateur Loïc Prigent,” http://, accessed April 13, 2015. 45 See Maya Singer, “A Conversation with Loïc Prigent, Fashion Geek,” http://www. html, accessed May 16, 2015. 46 Olivier Saillard, Histoire idéale de la mode contemporaine, Paris: Editions Textuel, 2009, p. 63. 47 Saillard, Histoire idéale de la mode contemporaine, p. 181. 48 Caroline Cox, “Gaultier, Jean-Paul,” in Taryn Benbow-Pfalzgraf (ed.), Contemporary Fashion, Farmington Hills: St James Press, 2002, pp. 261–63, at p. 262. 49 Loïc Prigent quoted in Katell Pouliquen, “Loïc Prigent: ‘Je rêverais d’être une caméra de surveillance’,” L’Express,, accessed May 16, 2015. 50 On Balmain’s use of digital media, see Imran Amed and Robin Mellory-Pratt, “Inside Balmain’s Digital Revolution,” Business of Fashion, March 19, 2015, http://, accessed April 15, 2015.

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51 See Chrissy Rutherford, “The Era of Social Media Models,” Harper’s Bazaar, November 16, 2014,, accessed November 7, 2015. 52 Agnès Rocamora and Alistair O’Neill, “Fashioning the Street: Images of the Street in the Fashion Media,” in Eugenie Shinkle (ed.), Fashion as Photography: Viewing and Reviewing Images of Fashion, London: I.B. Tauris, 2008, pp. 185–99, at p. 185. 53 Rocamora and O’Neill, “Fashioning the Street,” p. 191. 54 On the rise of blogs as digital self-portraits, see Agnès Rocamora, “Personal Fashion Blogs: Screens and Mirrors in Digital Self-Portraits,” Fashion Theory 15(4), 2011, pp. 407–24. 55 Szymanski, “Bill Cunningham New York and the Political Potentiality of the Fashion Documentary,” pp. 289–304, at p. 290. 56 Michael Sheringham, Everyday Life: Theories and Practices from Surrealism to the Present, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 181. 57 As Szymanski argues, following a traditional top-down distribution of power, it is still the journalist and photographer who wields the power to select what and who is stylish. Szymanski “Bill Cunningham New York and the Political Potentiality of the Fashion Documentary,” p. 296. 58 David Campany, Photography and Cinema, London: Reaktion, 2008, p. 54. 59 In the early 1970s, David Bailey made three UK television documentaries for the ITV channel on photographer Cecil Beaton (1971), film director Luchino Visconti (1972) and artist Andy Warhol (1973). 60 Campany, Photography and Cinema, p. 55. 61 Sarah Street, British National Cinema, London: Routledge, 1997, p. 206. 62 On the mod revival in twenty-first century menswear, see my article on designer Hedi Slimane: Nick Rees-Roberts, “Boys Keep Swinging: The Fashion Iconography of Hedi Slimane,” Fashion Theory, 17(1), 2013, pp. 7–26. 63 David Forgacs, “Antonioni: Space, Place, Sexuality,” in Myrto Konstantarakos (ed.), Spaces in European Cinema, Bristol: Intellect Press, 2000, pp. 101–10, at p. 101. 64 Campany, Photography and Cinema, p. 112. 65 Ibid, p. 152. 66 Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wissinger, “Introduction,” in Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wissinger (eds.), Fashioning Models: Image, Text and Industry, London: Berg, 2012, pp. 1–14. 67 Caroline Evans, “The Enchanted Spectacle,” Fashion Theory, 5(3), 2001, pp. 271–310. 68 Caroline Evans, The Mechanical Smile: Modernism and The First Fashion Shows in France and America, 1900-1929, London: Yale University Press, 2013, p. 8. 69 Evans, The Mechanical Smile, p. 8.


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70 Elizabeth Wissinger, “Modelling Consumption: Fashion Modelling Work in Contemporary Society,” in J. Entwistle and E. Wissinger (eds.), Fashioning Models: Image, Text and Industry, London: Berg, 2012, pp. 157–73. 71 Joanne Entwistle and Don Slater, “Models as Brands: Critical Thinking about Bodies and Images,” in J. Entwistle and E. Wissinger (eds.), Fashioning Models: Image, Text and Industry, London: Berg, 2012, pp. 15–33. 72 Wissinger, “Modelling Consumption,” p. 173. 73 Jennifer Craik, The Face of Fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion, London: Routledge, 1993, p. 75. 74 Craik, The Face of Fashion, p. 81. 75 Ibid., p. 76. 76 Newton was also the subject of a documentary portrait, Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge by Adrian Maben (1989), who accompanied the photographer to photo sessions to understand his work in progress. 77 Michel Ciment, editor-in-chief of the film magazine Positif, recognized the film immediately as an impressive debut and campaigned tirelessly for the film to be acknowledged as more than a cult classic; it was subsequently re-released as a Cannes Festival classic in 2011 and shown at Diane Pernet’s A Shaded View On Fashion Film Festival in Paris in 2014. See Michel Ciment, “Connaissance par les gouffres,” Positif, 132, November 1971, pp. 17–23, followed by a lengthy interview with Jerry Schatzberg in the same issue, pp. 24–37. 78 See, accessed April 29, 2015, and Jerry Schatzberg, Paris 1962: Yves Saint Laurent and Dior, Christian Dior, The Early Collections, New York: Rizzoli, 2008. 79 Michel Ciment, “Entretien avec Jerry Schatzberg,” Positif, 132, November 1971, pp. 24–37, at p. 25. 80 Ciment, “Entretien avec Jerry Schatzberg,” p. 28. 81 The Elite modeling agency is the focus of Hubert Woroniecki’s hagiographic documentary portrait of John Casablancas, the famous agent and scout, John Casablancas: l’homme qui aimait les femmes (2015), which glossed over the subject’s more controversial treatment of his models in its attempt to position Casablancas as instrumental in the rise of the late-twentieth-century global supermodels. 82 See DVD bonus, Portrait d’une jeune femme: entretien avec Fabienne Berthaud and Diane Kruger. 83 Dan Armstrong, “Wiseman’s Model and the Documentary Project: Toward a Radical Film Practice,” Film Quarterly, 37(2), Winter, 1983–84, pp. 2–10, at p. 2. 84 Wiseman quoted in Daniel Asa Rose, “Frederick Wiseman Takes His Camera to the Races,” The New York Times, June 1, 1986, movies/frederick-wiseman-takes-his-camera-to-the-races.html, accessed May 16, 2015.

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85 Barry Keith Grant, “Introduction,” in Barry Keith Grant (ed.), Five Films By Frederick Wiseman, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000, pp. 1–14, at p. 5. 86 Frederick Wiseman, “Foreword,” in Barry Keith Grant (ed.), Five Films By Frederick Wiseman, pp. xi–xii. 87 See Barry Keith Grant, Voyages of Discovery: The Cinema of Frederick Wiseman, Champaign Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992, p. 176. 88 Keith Grant, Voyages of Discovery, 188. 89 Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), London: Penguin, 2007 [1975], p. 113. 90 Armstrong, “Wiseman’s Model and the Documentary Project,” p. 4.


Part 3

Personalities: Designer Fashion Film

Masters of style The public profile of the fashion designer is woven into the narrative of Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary, Dior and I (Tcheng, 2012), which follows the preparations for Raf Simons’ first couture show as artistic director at Christian Dior in 2012. At the heart of corporate communications, the Dior backstage is the ideal setting for the film’s exploration of talent, creativity, and design in contemporary high fashion. Simons is shot in a strategy meeting with his assistant Pieter Mulier and the brand’s worldwide communications director, Olivier Bialobos, who is shown presenting the press campaign to promote the upcoming show, including televised interviews for CNN and high-profile coverage in Vanity Fair, Women’s Wear Daily, and US Vogue, comprising a cover with star ambassador Marion Cotillard and a double-page spread of Simons to appear in the sixtyfifth anniversary special issue in September 2012. The designer admits being intimidated by the camera, thereby reiterating his reputation for shyness. Tcheng intercuts the meeting with an inspection of the elaborate staging arrangements for the show, set in the shell of a Parisian salon, which is covered by curtain walls of flowers—a gesture to the founder’s floral trademark. Simons asks for a brief public appearance at the end of the show, refusing to walk the entire length of the catwalk, but concedes a minimal presence to avoid disappointing Bernard Arnault, the business magnate and CEO of the LVMH luxury conglomerate that owns the house. The film cuts back to the meeting with Bialobos, who is shown presenting the brief for a possible Paris Match story about Simons’ revival of the house’s midcentury couture tradition, proposing to shoot the designer after the show, surrounded by six models and framed by the backdrop of the flower-wall. Simons scowls at the idea of being profiled by a celebrity publication, albeit one as august as Paris Match. Bialbolos argues that the designer’s presence would enable the house to negotiate an extended feature led by the photograph of Simons.


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As well as being the first fashion designer to be illustrated on the cover of Time magazine in March 1953, Monsieur Dior had himself twice made the cover of Paris Match: photographed in vibrant color midway through his tenyear tenure of the house in August 1953, he was figured measuring a hemline, an image that played up to the public perception of the internationally famous designer as the dictator of the silhouette. Dior also made the cover posthumously in November 1957 in a somber black-and-white image of the deceased designer beneath the banner “Paris in mourning for Christian Dior.” In a revealing indication of the breadth of twenty-first century promotional culture, in which the fashion designer now routinely adopts self-presentational media strategies, often assuming the role of public personality, Simons—who in the documentary acquiesces to the feature article only if he is guaranteed the cover—ended up listed on the cover for the issue on July 5, 2012, his name prominently displayed alongside those of other public figures such as the late singer Amy Winehouse and the glamorous princess Charlène of Monaco. Monsieur Dior had previously expressed ambivalence about fame in his memoir, Christian Dior et moi (the nominal inspiration for the film was first published in 1956, a year before the designer’s death), in which he claimed to have been overwhelmed by his sudden rise to prominence. While he took pleasure in the success of his couture house, he disliked “the other side of the picture; the inevitable gossip, true or untrue, and the curious whispers”1 aroused by his public presence. Returning once to Paris after a well-earned vacation, the designer lamented the return of the public figure of Christian Dior to the scene. To be photographed from every possible angle was, he reflected, the price of fame. The ambition of the autobiography was to divide the subject up into the separate public and private figures, into the world-famous Parisian aesthete, who concealed the discreet man from provincial Normandy lurking in the shadows. Aiming to tell the truth about the man behind the name, Dior included revealing insights into his own personal insecurities—notably his portly physique and conventional dress sense—and the gap between the popular image of the flamboyant designer and the actual photographic evidence documenting Dior’s every move that appeared in news reports from across the globe. Apart from his dislike of the business of self-promotion, he claimed: I could not help thinking that I cut a sorry figure, a well-fed gentlemen in the Parisian’s favourite neutral-coloured suit compared with the glamorous, not to say dandified, couturier of the popular imagination. I wondered if I ought to transform myself in order not to disappoint my public. Perhaps I should go on

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a diet, and renounce not only Gourmandise but everything else which made life worth living. I splashed out timidly with a flower in my buttonhole. I ordered several more suits form my tailor, put myself in the hands of a masseur, and then almost immediately gave up.2

This discrepancy between the banal appearance of the closeted midcentury couturier and the more colorful figures represented in popular media is a trope that was updated in director Robert Altman’s ensemble satire Prêt-àPorter (1994), which showcased the perceived futility of the fashion industry by juxtaposing an interview with Gianfranco Ferré, the demur designer for Dior in the early 1990s, with scripted scenes involving the overblown fictional caricatures (cartoon projections of Monsieur Dior’s dandified image) camped up by actors Richard E Grant and Forest Whitaker. Altman’s uneven blending of the dramatic performances of professional actors with cameo appearances by some of the most recognizable figures of Paris fashion of the time—shot in credible settings but in fictionalized situations, including mock interviews with designers Thierry Mugler and Jean-Paul Gaultier—alludes to the hybrid nature of the long-form fictional fashion film that incorporates elements of nonfictional representation to provide a veneer of authenticity, and, in so doing, blurs the lines between the “dramatically structured actuality” of the documentary mode and the dramatic form of narrative fiction. Commenting on John Grierson’s early theoretical articulation of the presence of narrative within the “treatment” of documentary, Brian Winston observes that far from the common wisdom of the documentary as being radically opposed to the fiction film, “it is exactly the fictionalising quality of narrative . . . that is the distinguishing mark of documentary. Because it shared dramatic narrative, however, documentary thus slipped, almost without friction, into the fiction cinema as a species of genre.”3 Here, I consider screen projections of the fashion designer in various forms of biographical film—in both fictional and nonfictional modes, in the dramatizing treatment of designers by both the film documentary and the “biopic”—to assess the historical importance and continued centrality of designer signatures to critical explorations of authorship, creativity, and artistry, and to discourses of fame, myth, and celebrity. This investigation of the “star” designer seeks to contest the accepted idealistic understandings of authorship in the context of fashion, the rhetoric of which still relies problematically on flattering accounts of inspiring individuals and glamorous lifestyles, rather than the more mundane questions of working practice and industrial context, or product design and


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technical skill—the whole field of creative design. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu termed this tendency “the biographical illusion,” by which he meant the ways in which traditional forms of biography artificially construct a life as an a posteriori expression of social existence, as a coherent and intentional project, which is given retrospective meaning by the formal organization and critical orientation of the biographer.4 The traditionally individualistic and artistic approach to investigating the function of the designer has been revitalized in the twentyfirst century by the rise of digital culture, through the online proliferation of presentational social media platforms, which interweave the display of professional and personal identities and spread the image and discourse of the designer virally to promote the brand. This emphasis on the viral presentation of the personality through the nominal label is, of course, bound up in the evolving relationship between fashion, modernity, and mediation. In the context of the rise of late-twentieth-century consumer culture, sociologist Mike Featherstone defines the all-encompassing, in vogue term “lifestyle” as connoting “individuality, self-expression, and a stylistic self-consciousness.” A wide range of factors including the presentation and shaping of the body, adorned by fashionable clothing, homes, and interior designs, showcasing carefully chosen leisure activities are, Featherstone observes, “to be regarded as indicators of the individuality of taste and sense of style of the owner/consumer.”5 Historically, the aspirational appeal of the lifestyles of high-profile designers has always been strong given that many of them have taken their lead from Coco Chanel by seeking to publicize their private lives in order to promote their labels. In his cultural history of glamour, Stephen Gundle discusses the social identity of the fashion designer as emblematic of a concept readily associated with ostentation, theatricality, and sex appeal, and with the alluring images mass-produced by consumer culture. The glamorous individual radiates “an enticing and seductive vision that is designed to draw the eye of an audience. It consists of a retouched or perfected representation of someone or something whose purpose it is to dazzle and seduce whoever gazes on it.” The “new” celebrity of fashion designers of the 1970s, such as Valentino Garavani in Rome, Halston in New York, or Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, gave them “a special purchase on collective motivations and desires,”6 emerging as instrumental figures fashioning exclusive lifestyles, making designer fashions accessible through luxury ready-to-wear diffusion and bridging the divide between high society and pop culture, channeled in particular through the social space of the nightclub.

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Whitney Smith’s documentary Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (2010) uses celebrity talking-heads along with archive footage and interviews with the seminal New York celebrity designer of the 1970s to show how pivotal Halston was in the history of the city’s commerce and nightlife by tracing his professional career through the massive expansion of his label to the doomed co-branding operation with mass retailer JC Penney alongside his checkered personal life. The film includes a voyeuristic emphasis on the subject’s penchant for casual sex and recreational drugs alongside his aesthetic flair for interior design.7 Halston is not the only designer whose lifestyle has been exposed through screen dramatization of some sort. This section delves into the recent proliferation of feature-length documentaries and biopics together with short-form digital films, all of which shape and remold the life and times of three of the most famous designers of the twentieth century: Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent. Beyond this triumvirate of high fashion, a comprehensive list of the corpus of designer fashion film would also include the rise of films, both fiction and nonfiction, that spotlight individual designers: from those celebrated for their longevity such as the famous Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino Garavani; for their austerity (Yohji Yamamoto); for their popularity (Jeremy Scott); for their classicism (Giorgio Armani); for their notoriety (John Galliano and Alexander McQueen); for their particular national affiliation (Paul Smith or Vivienne Westwood); or for their glitzy lifestyle (Halston or Versace). The list of fashion docs also includes portraits of overlooked figures such as Isaac Mizrahi or little-known names—at least from outside the fashion industry—such as Frida Giannini, creative director at Gucci from 2006 to 2014. Commenting on the earlier examples of such films (the portraits of Mizrahi, Armani, and Yamamoto, two of which were directed by Martin Scorcese and Wim Wenders) Stella Bruzzi observes that they were remarkable for their reversal of the expected relationship between the filmmaker and the designer, given that here, the designer becomes the central focus of attention. However, she also criticizes such productions for their often “reverential” or “relentlessly self-congratulatory” address, which tends inadvertently to support the widespread view of designer fashion as both futile and without value.8 The pre-digital portraits of Armani, Mizrahi, and Yamamoto from the late 1980s and early 1990s were, in effect, minor supplements to the more mainstream representations of the fashion industry and celebrity milieu presented in fiction films of the period like Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter. Since then, however, designer fashion films—feature-length documentaries, biopics, and digital shorts—have


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themselves become the main attraction. In light of this, it is worth exploring the cultural context for the expansion of this subgenre of fashion film to account for the productive proliferation of the designer films—particularly the number of biographical and documentary films—in the last fifteen years. Evidently, fashion—understood as the broad conjunction of clothing, style, and beauty— has by now become a topic of wide public interest with major impact on the shape and formation of contemporary popular culture. Beyond the expansion of the fashion spectacle as an integral part of the convergent media entertainment system,9 the recent wave of designer fashion films feeds off the cultural and commercial prominence of the designer label. (The rotation of often high-profile designers at the global luxury design houses would, however, suggest that, at least in contemporary branded fashion, the designer’s own personal profile or status has now been eclipsed by the stronger historical reputation of the brand.) Beyond the considerable commercial value of the individual name or designer label, the strategic deployment of the designer’s own biography, personality or lifestyle is, in the post-private era of heightened online self-branding and selfpresentation, a key asset to a fashion brand’s consumer awareness and potential recognition.

Designer lives The recent wave of films investigating the life and times of famous designers such as Coco Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, who are now elevated to the status of “myth” or “icon” in the self-aggrandizing rhetoric of promotional culture, indicates the importance of fashion history or “heritage” to the renewed critical interest in the biographical film as a transnational film genre. As Hilary Radner observes, with its attendant focus on genius and creativity and with its preference for the celebration of the glamorous individual over the testimony of collective history, 10 the biopic is most often delivered in an accessible and straightforward narrative format, generally perceived as unchallenging by critics, complementing branded discourses of heritage and patrimony. Raphaëlle Moine argues that in the context of an increase in production since the turn of the century of French biopics made for a global audience, rather than deconstructing the fame, reputation, or personality of their subjects, these screen representations are part of a “centripetal genre, which folds memory into the protagonist, reducing the social and historical context to a mere backdrop.”11 This current celebratory

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focus on individual achievement might more obviously be perceived as a sign of the times (put more bluntly, these biographical films—critical or celebratory— are all welcome publicity vehicles for the luxury brands and couture houses) but this popular emphasis on narrating, at least a part of, the designer’s life story—by sketching an individual’s personality and by reducing their lives to amorous intrigue and sexual transgression rather than by attempting to convey the complexities of professional context—has a more complex critical history. To be sure, the tendency to promote the singularity of designers is rooted in the idealized language of aesthetics. Ever since Charles Frederick Worth’s original mid-nineteenth-century conception of haute couture as transcending “mere” artisanship and craft there has been a persistent tendency to elevate the fashion designer to the status of the fine artist. As Gilles Lipovetsky explains, in France under the ancien régime dressmakers were relegated to the perceived inferior status of the mechanical arts; this changed with the social promotion of the couturier. Worth’s fame saw him recognized as an aesthete, an unparalleled tastemaker. The designer was henceforth defined as a type of luxury artist. By 1949, Christian Dior was cited as one of the five most famous international personalities in a Gallup poll.12 Beyond the popular biographical clichés of artistic genius or scandalous notoriety, a more critical attempt to paint a nuanced portrait of the designer would tackle its subject beyond celebrity culture through the interlocking lenses of design practice and cultural history. At times, however, celebrity seems to dominate the agenda. Take Jeremy Scott for example: at the start of the documentary Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer (Yudin, 2015), a film about one of contemporary fashion’s most original figures, who humorously introduces himself as “the boy from the farm with a big dream,” Scott states that he no longer identifies purely as a designer, but also as an artist, communicator, fan, and pop culture icon, suggestive of the more expansive contemporary redefinition of the designer as a branded “creative director.” While capturing the quirky humor and pop idiosyncrasy of Scott’s aesthetic—his first collections presented in Paris in the late 1990s were inspired by cinema, notably the films Crash (Cronenberg, 1996) and Blade Runner (Scott, 1982)—and openly addressing personal issues of sexuality by chronicling his rural upbringing outside Kansas City, the film, however, uncritically embraces his own PR that situates him as a “rebel” or “outsider” despite collaborating with mass sportswear label Adidas, designing for established Italian house Moschino, and dressing a host of global pop culture’s most prominent it-girls including Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Rita Ora, and


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Katy Perry. The film’s willingness to reiterate the stars’ own self-promotional rhetoric quite so readily by playing off popular celebrity against high fashion in fact masks Scott’s own strategic manipulation of pop culture and design, and the key operational interdependence of fashion and celebrity in today’s consumer culture. By contrast, Dries (Holzemer, 2017), a more intimate and academic portrait of independent Belgian designer Dries Van Noten, sheds more light on the design practice of one of high fashion’s most successful colorists by following the sourcing of his materials, the manufacturing process, and commercial negotiations with artisans in India, and by showing the designer’s singular way of styling his collections by radically juxtaposing clashing prints. The film combines professional and personal insights into a meticulous professional and a discreet man, filming him at his resplendent home with his partner in both life and work, Patrick Vangheluwe, thereby tentatively providing a peaceful domestic context of love and companionship, without, however, exploring the possible links between design creativity and same-sex intimacy further. The recent proliferation of designer films, which include this type of “slow” documentary profiling less publicized figures such as Van Noten would indicate an expanding interest in the practices of design and creative direction alongside the more obviously sensational private lives of “stars” like John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, or Gianni Versace, whose personal stories of breakdown, suicide, and murder have lent themselves more readily to forms of dramatization that are often lurid, cartoonish, or voyeuristic. For example, the made-for-television movie, House of Versace (Sugarman, 2013), loosely adapted from Deborah Ball’s 2010 biography, passed over the considerable creative talent and business acumen of Versace in order to lionize his sister and successor, Donatella Versace (Gina Gershon). The film recounts the story of Gianni’s rise and fall: murdered by serial killer Andrew Cunanan outside his Miami mansion in 1997, Versace had risen from humble Southern Italian origins to commercial success and popular glory in Milan fashion through the early 1980s with a brashly sexy style that directly opposed Giorgio Armani’s more muted version of Northern Italian modernity. House of Versace suggests the continued relevance of the brand’s signature glamour by updating it to coincide with a contemporary sensibility of sex, power, and bling, neatly summed up in a line expressed as Donatella Versace’s statement of intent: “you wanna put me on a leash, it’d better be diamond-studded, or you can kiss my ass.” A subsequent episode of the true crime anthology, American

Personalities: Designer Fashion Film


Crime Story, based on an investigative account by journalist Maureen Orth entitled Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History and produced by US cable channel FX in 2018, cast Spanish film star Penélope Cruz as Donatella and reduced (predictably enough, given the generic format) the designer’s historical importance to the all-defining dramatic moment of his murder. The popular fascination with the private lives of fashion designers is not a recent phenomenon, for sure. As Gundle observes in the case of Versace and others, the fame, and in some cases notoriety, of designers of the later twentieth century was most often dependent on the public staging of their lifestyles and the narrative elaboration of their private lives. “They manufactured not just clothing but the contexts in which clothes were to be worn.” Emerging as key “masters of style,”13 fashion designers often stood as incarnations of contemporary glamour, but their aura was in essence a combination of preestablished understandings of charisma—largely derived from earlier periods, such as Max Weber’s sociological definition of charismatic authority in the nineteenth century—which are bound up in postromantic myths of artistry and the enigma of creativity. Through the “personalisation of fashion”14—sociologist Frédéric Godart’s term for the manipulation of the couturier’s artistry and mystique to mask the more mundane processes and structures of production—a host of creative myths emerged to bolster the symbolic capital of the industry by effectively designating couture as a minor art form and the fashion designer as a type of artist or auteur. The legend of the inspired designer has made an important contribution “to the enduring impact of fashion as ‘the’ modern cultural form par excellence,” according to historian Christopher Breward. “The precious and autocratic designer, dictating global skirt-lengths at a whim,” he explains, “may be an overblown caricature most at home in the spectacular context of the Hollywood film or the glossy magazine; but the symbolic importance of such stereotypes in defining fashion as product and process over the past two centuries has without doubt been substantial.” Arguing that designer fashion has historically defined “fashion” for the general consumer public, Breward traces the emergence of the celebrity designer to the massive but uneven transformations in manufacturing and communications that fed into an understanding of modernity, locating the genius of earlier figures such as Coco Chanel less in their artistic legibility and more “in their ability to read the implications of cultural and stylistic change and incorporate it into a characteristic and very well-promoted personal vision.”15 The glorification of the designer as an artist was integral to the original


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aspirational ideal of couture. In Couture Culture: A Study in Modern Art and Fashion, art historian Nancy Troy argues that early-twentieth-century couturiers such as Jacques Doucet, Paul Poiret, and Jeanne Paquin promoted their designs to their elite clientele through an artistic emphasis on uniqueness, authenticity, and authorship.16 Warning against the naïve idealism of traditional literary biographical criticism, caricatured as “the man and his works,” philosopher Michel Foucault argued in 1969 that the notion of authorship supplied a convenient but false sense of cohesion or unity to any signed literary text.17 Replacing the routine questions about an author’s authenticity and originality with a speculative inquiry into the “modes of existence” of authorship, Foucault drew attention to the circulation and control of its discursive framing. So to view the fashion designer as a function of discourse—the designer function, so to speak—rather than simply as a gifted artist allows critics and publics to denaturalize the creative processes involved in design, and to view them in less idealized and individualized terms. Bourdieu’s sociological account of art extended Foucault’s point by accentuating the dynamic space of cultural production rather than the social characteristics of the artist to establish the (relative) autonomy of artistic production as a field: “an autonomy that is established step by step, and under certain conditions, in the course of history.”18 Frequently returning to the example of haute couture as the key locus of “fashion capital”19 in an economy of symbolic exchange structured around domination, succession, and the opposition between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, 20 Bourdieu sidestepped the widespread cultural fetishization of designer labels by insisting on the creator’s habitus—the combination of the producer’s own socialization and the “social demands and constraints inscribed in the position he occupies in a particular, more or less autonomous, field of production.”21 This ambitious attempt to dodge biographical or single-author studies that individualize the creative work of the designer—to look beyond the name and the life—underlines the construction of the field of cultural production itself as the real critical project, from Bourdieu’s perspective, rather than a descriptive backdrop intended to set the scene for reverential or anecdotal versions of social history.22 The tension between the public legibility of a designer’s signature and the overarching commercial ambitions of a brand can also, to some extent, be equated to the opposition in film production that artificially offsets the auteur (traditionally figured as the creative source of personalized projects that are often small-budget and independently financed) against the economic imperatives of

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production studios that favor commercially profitable, generic formula movies. In both fashion and cinema, authorship is clearly a collaborative process: film directors depend on the contribution of producers, cinematographers, screenwriters, editors, and production designers, just as head designers or creative directors depend on the work of teams of anonymous or “invisible” designers, stylists, and artisans—not to mention the seminal contribution of performers (the actors and models) to both sectors. This collaborative understanding of authorship that is at the heart of making both film and fashion is the critical focus of Wim Wenders’ poetic film-essay, a portrait of Japanese avant-garde designer Yohji Yamamoto, Notebook on Cities and Clothes: An Intimate Portrait of Yohji Yamamoto (1989), which teases out the links between fashion cities, postmodern identities, and digital cinema. At the time, Wenders was less interested in fashion as the material object than the designer’s artistic and creative process; indeed, he goes to some lengths at the start of the film to outline his own disinterest in the fashion industry describing how the Pompidou Centre in Paris had commissioned him to make a piece on the place of fashion within contemporary society. The film is loosely structured around the designer’s collection from 1988, but through its philosophical composition it resists reportage in favor of a slow-paced meditation on creative authorship, suggesting that the director was striving to find a means of translating the critical value of fashion to make it appear worthy to a skeptical audience. Choosing to shoot on video enabled Wenders to bypass the static pose and classic look of film in favor of the dynamic and practical advantages of video to document the design process and convey the immediacy of Yamamoto’s work in progress. The latter stages capture the director’s interest in the designer’s signature, which is literalized through successive shots of him reproducing it by hand, alongside a parallel series of late twentieth-century proposals on the imminent demise of cinema in light of the multiscreen expansion of movingimage culture. Wenders’ juxtaposition of fashion and cinema emphasizes the discursive framing of both. Giuliana Bruno has argued that in the interplay of fashion and cinema, directors such as Wenders “have contributed to the discourse of fashion and film as they interweave the two languages in their making of spatial texture.”23 Going beyond a historical or sociological analysis of film costuming, Bruno locates some productive analogies between filmmaking and fashioning. The film portrait of Yamamoto is in fact as much a self-portrait of Wenders the auteur, who even questions the designer about his fears of being trapped by


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a signature style—an attempt to legitimize the director’s own creative process of image-making rather than capturing the essence of one of fashion history’s most revolutionary figures. Celebrated for his groundbreaking interpretation of conventional norms of feminine beauty through sparse, loose, asymmetrically cut garments, his deconstruction of the modern Western wardrobe, his dialogue with Japanese tradition through a radical reinterpretation of the classic kimono and his homage to haute couture and the Parisian archetypes of sensuality, Yamamoto’s reputation was built on an illustrious succession of collections perceived by critics to be “as much a statement of philosophy as they were of design.”24 This reflective approach to design undoes the “natural” link between clothing and body in Western fashion by emphasizing the materiality of textiles: “their ability to ‘embody’ a garment, their ability to lend strength to a fragile form, their ability to allow the shape of the wearer to be imprinted on them, their ability to age gracefully.”25 Since his first shows in Paris in the early 1980s, Yamamoto has been consistently seen as a designer’s designer, so to speak, like Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons label “in absolute rupture with our Western fashion vision.”26 It is therefore ironic that Wenders’ portrait of him sidesteps this more radical envisioning of fashion history in favor of a routine elevation of the designer-as-artist. As Barbara Vinken argues, Wenders recuperates the “timenegating, anti-fashionable” allure of Yamamoto for a postromantic aesthetic vision of genius—in sum, a relatively conventional understanding of creative design embedded in the idealist framework of art-couture history.27 Unlike this speculative portrait of the designer, photographer Douglas Keeve’s more entertaining, though nonetheless artful, account of New York designer Isaac Mizrahi, Unzipped (Keeve, 1995) is a sympathetic attempt to capture the spirit and excitement involved in putting together a collection. At that time a rising star, whose label subsequently folded, Mizrahi gives a charismatic and hyperbolic performance of the designer at work. The film begins with the failure of his previous collection and ends with the triumph of the memorable show that deconstructed the fashion show by simultaneously unveiling the backstage preparations in real time through a transparent curtain. Mizrahi’s on-camera delivery is laced with an accessible camp irony—the inspirations for the wintry looks in the collection included an array of popular US screen myths such as the silent documentary Nanook of the North (Flaherty, 1922) and icons including actress Loretta Young frozen on the tundra in Call of the Wild (Wellman, 1935). The film’s relaxed sensibility is complemented by Keeve’s own inside understanding of the milieu having previously worked as a stills

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photographer for Interview, Italian Vogue, and GQ magazines. His subsequent documentary, Seamless, made a decade later in 2005, coincided with the dominant mode of reality shows of the era by following a group of aspiring young designers in New York as they attempt to break into a highly competitive, finance-driven business. The seemingly more innocent world of Unzipped, captured in elegant black-and-white cinematography, now looks quaint from the vantage point of the twenty-first century. The more intimate focus of the film derives from the filmmaker’s proximity to his subject—he and Mizrahi had been lovers—that in turn, in the words of the New York Times reviewer “heightens Mr. Keeve’s acuity rather than compromising his perspective.”28 Unzipped certainly eschews the romantic myth of the creative genius (often figured as reclusive, inarticulate or tortured) in favor of the subject’s grounded nature and ironic sense of humor, which are enhanced by the documentarian’s attention to the centrality of gossip to his subject’s professional practice. The film’s brisk editing style also underscores Mizrahi’s wit and includes a piece of ingenious intercutting of footage of an actual meeting with singer Eartha Kitt and his later impression of her affected mannerisms. Unzipped is also a valuable social document of the business of fashion of the time through its representation of modeling, particularly the scenes of auditions and fittings with the key 1990s supermodels (Carla Bruni, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss, and Christy Turlington), the true stars of fashion culture of the period. They are all instrumental in assuring Mizrahi’s moment of triumph, in which the designs gel seamlessly with the concept. This focus on Mizrahi’s interaction with his models is indicative of the often-undervalued contribution of models (however famous) to the collaborative authorship of fashion. Catwalk (Leacock, 1995), a documentary from the same period that chronicled a year in the life of Christy Turlington on the fashion circuit also captured the spirit of insouciance and enjoyment in the collaboration between designer and model—it includes rare behind-the-scenes footage of John Galliano at work— absent from the more ceremonial and anonymous runway shows of today, which operate increasingly as glamorous manifestations of the financial consolidation and corporate globalization of designer fashion. Also in the context of the supermodels, Hubert Woroniecki’s more recent portrait of the influential modeling agent and scout, John Casablancas, John Casablancas: L’homme qui aimait les femmes (Woroniecki, 2016) articulates his importance for latetwentieth-century pop culture’s fusion of fashion with entertainment, channeled


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in particular through the fame of the same group of supermodels of the 1980s and early 1990s whose impact was collective. They were launched by Versace, who sent them down the runway together for his Fall/Winter 1991 collection lip-synching to George Michael’s single Freedom! 90, which acknowledged their on-screen appearance in the video. Woroniecki’s film suggests that Casablancas, while also instrumental in the rise of the supermodels, paradoxically heralded their decline in the later 1990s by ushering in the cult of personality so central to contemporary forms of mass-media celebrity, a phenomenon that saw the highmaintenance supermodels superseded on magazine covers and in cosmetics advertising by Hollywood stars and assorted celebrities from the global entertainment industries. In the context of contemporary fashion, the designer now often eclipses the model as the star of the show. The phenomenon of the named designer, effectively figured as a brand, is now central to the communications strategies of the large luxury fashion houses—particularly the presentation of the self through online platforms used by the new generation of social media-friendly designers like Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing—that it is arguably difficult for aspiring designers to resist the protocols of advanced celebrity culture and to challenge its representational regime. Pamela Church Gibson describes how today “designers themselves are in fact expected to feature in the public domain. The new fashion-literate public wants to know about the person, here as in every other sphere.”29 This is true, but it is equally important not to overestimate the pressures and lures of celebrity. In reality, the vast majority of designers, most of whom work invisibly in design studios, are unknown to the wider public. Unlike earlier generations of designers who cultivated star personae or celebrity lifestyles for an eager consumer fan base, many of today’s designers in tenure in the storied couture houses, as opposed to those heading up their own labels, are willing to manage their public profiles by complementing the identity of the brands as long as their private lives are protected at all costs—Hedi Slimane’s strategic distance from both Paris and the international fashion press while in tenure at Saint Laurent (2012–16) is a case in point. Some earlier celebrity designers—take Halston, for instance—personified their own labels by embracing their role as nominal brand ambassadors. Indeed, many were known to court publicity by staging enticing narratives of their private lives. Matt Tyrnauer’s insightful portrait of the Italian designer Valentino Garavani, Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008), is a revealing testimony to his professional achievement as Rome’s premier couturier, famous for designing

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ornamental gowns for glittering Hollywood icons, high society ladies, and attendant celebrities—the regular fixtures of red-carpets across the globe. By the early twenty-first century, Valentino was so recognizable that he was offered a cameo appearance playing himself in the film adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada (Frankel, 2006). Tyrnauer’s documentary probes Valentino’s creative personality and cultivation of fame by situating his label’s aesthetic signature (combining the technical rigor of Parisian couture with the visual flourish of classic Hollywood glamour) in the enviable lifestyle he shared for over fifty years with his partner in work and life, Giancarlo Giammetti. Tyrnauer films the couple in an array of opulent homes, including a renovated seventeenth-century French château, a chalet in Gstaad, a house on Capri, and an ostentatious yacht, conceived as the settings for their life’s work from the 1960s onward: Valentino designed for a number of high-profile celebrities including Jacqueline Kennedy; he and Giammetti promoted the label through so-called grouppage magazine ads; and they radically transformed the house into a fashion empire through worldwide licensing agreements that bankrolled their luxurious lifestyle. Granted final cut by the film’s production, the couple appear at ease on screen, willing to expose their weaknesses, lower their masks and relinquish control—a rare feat in the world of the fashion documentary. They are often shown squabbling and Valentino’s personal insecurities render him more sympathetic to a general audience than his rarefied way of life would otherwise have allowed. Indeed, the designer’s popularity was always, in part, due to the accessibility of his sources of inspiration, purposefully incorporating transparent references from the Hollywood films and stars that he had worshipped as a child. The documentary draws on archive footage of the couple’s meeting on the Via Veneto in its heyday in the dolce vita of the early 1960s, viewed alongside scenes detailing the preparations for Valentino’s opulent farewell-to-fashion event, a lavish, three-day celebrity bash in Rome, and the couple’s handling of the designer’s succession— he stood down in 2008 having sold the company to an Italian conglomerate, then to the Marzotto group that ultimately sold the label on to a private equity firm. Valentino’s fame was founded on the promotion of a legible and unwavering design aesthetic, which artfully combined the “visceral passion”30 of the collections—often consisting of chromatically vibrant gowns recalling the decorative palette of films such as Luchino Visconti’s historical adaptation of Il Gattopardo (The Leopard, 1963)—with the public cultivation of an aspirational commodity lifestyle. More recently, scholars of social and cultural theory have embedded the cult of narcissism so readily associated with contemporary forms


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of celebrity within the wider structures and processes of consumption. Indeed, in the broader context of fashion as a key financial component of the global textile and entertainment industries, celebrity, described as a “commercial property”31 to be owned, however fleetingly, by those aspiring to fame, has, in effect, become as much the commodity of the fashion designer as the clothes themselves. Chris Rojek argues in relation to the quasi-religious dimension of the phenomenon that celebrities can be said to “humanise the process of commodity consumption.”32 Following Rojek’s acknowledgment that the personalized allure of celebrity is in fact hardwired into commodity culture, Tim Edwards insists on how fashion acts as the “epitome, or nadir depending on your point of view, of consumer culture more widely, in highlighting the dizzying contradictions of extravagance and exploitation.”33 In particular, Edwards argues, designer fashion’s calculated conjugation of image, status, and commerce explains its efficacy and centripetal positioning within consumer culture. Fashion’s inherent aestheticizing processes (increasingly, basic commodities get given added value by being “designed” or “curated”) underpin the marriage of celebrity and consumption by joining the insatiable desire for stuff with the aspirational pressure to obsess over celebrity images of fame and fortune. In essence, in Edwards’ pithy formulation, “celebrity fashion forms a ‘double whammy’ of abstracted desire.”34

Curating Chanel No designer better embodies the contradictions of the consumer-fashioncelebrity nexus than Karl Lagerfeld. Described in the introduction to a collection of his bons mots as a “fanatic of the present,” “a virtuoso of the mask,” Lagerfeld would, in fact, attribute his fame more prosaically to his outspokenness than to his considerable professional accomplishments.35 Having won the prestigious Woolmark award for a coat design in 1954, aged fifteen, Lagerfeld became Pierre Balmain’s assistant before being appointed head of design at the house of Jean Patou. Seeing couture as elitist and irrelevant, Lagerfeld embraced the trends of the emerging ready-to-wear fashions, becoming a European mercenary and free-lancing for Chloé (from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, and again in the 1990s) and Fendi (from the mid-1960s to the present day) before creating his eponymous line in 1984. Considered a stylist rather than a couturier despite being able to sketch all his designs by hand, Lagerfeld “invented the blue-print for breathing new life into a moribund house.”36 It was his revivification of Chanel

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from 1983 that secured his position as an extraordinarily prolific designer, now responsible for some eight collections a year for the house alone—one celebrated as much for his star persona and professional longevity as for his actual output, and one whose work ethic and creative dynamism are said to propel him forward at a relentless pace. As Judith Thurman recounts, the brief for Lagerfeld’s tenure at Chanel was “to raise the profile of the brand and to rejuvenate—which in the aggressive fashion climate of the early eighties meant to sex up and trick out—the Chanel style . . .”37 Progressing from an initially dutiful homage to the founder’s iconographic heritage (from the early little black dresses to the later collarless suits, quilted handbags, and two-toned shoes) to a more ironically postmodern reappropriation of Chanel’s legacy (that updated the pearls and tweed by incorporating denim and sequins) Lagerfeld has consistently promoted what has been described as a playfully “hyperbolic pastiche of haute couture,” a supremely kitsch confection approximating design and legitimized by the power of the brand. “Fashion,” Barbara Vinken polemically asserts, “becomes an overpriced costume drama, driven by the ghost of what it once was. Lagerfeld seeks less to appropriate this empty aura than to reflect its emptiness.”38 Recognizable by his signature look that consists of permanent dark glasses, a newly slim physique, powdered hair tied back in a ponytail, high-collared shirts, and bejeweled, leather-gloved hands, Lagerfeld’s international celebrity has been attributed to his daring mastery of self-invention and transformation,39 fashioning a high-camp Warholian figure for the twenty-first century—a public personality that actively promotes the cultivation of surface image with considerable commercial acumen. (Lagerfeld performed in Warhol’s obscure, semi-improvised film L’Amour in 1971, which was shot in the designer’s Paris apartment, giving him early access to the influential pop artist so celebrated for manipulating image and dissecting consumerism.) Alongside his work as a fashion photographer and occasional costume designer, Lagerfeld has also multiplied commercial collaborations with H&M (the first in their series of “masstige” capsule collections in 2004), Volkswagen, Sephora, and CocaCola (revamping the design of the Diet Coke bottle). He even appeared in a French TV road-safety ad. Indeed, Lagerfeld straddles elite and popular culture with apparent ease: while appearing in animated form as DJ Karl in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, he is also frequently cited in contemporary literary fiction—in novels by Michel Houellebecq, Régis Jauffret, and Marie Nimier.40 He also owns a bookshop and a publishing imprint, the Editions 7L, and the Lagerfeld brand image now extends to a nascent industry of publications about


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himself (including the illustrated Karl’s Secrets and Where’s Karl? A FashionForward Parody) and his globe-trotting feline companion Choupette (profiled in The Enchanted Life of a Fashionable Cat), who is said to have earned more than three million euros in advertising revenues in 2014 alone.41 A collaboration with e-tailer Net-a-Porter in 2012 included an inventory label KARL, promoted by a short film directed by Adam Mufti, which transformed the conventional reportage format of the designer profile into a montage interview between two versions of Karl who wittily cross-question each other. The subject’s talent to amuse and reluctance to take his established image too seriously were also apparent in Loïc Prigent’s documentary portrait, Karl Lagerfeld se dessine (Karl Lagerfeld draws himself, broadcast on French television by Arte in March 2013) which underlined the designer’s capacity for self-invention by having him sketch his responses to the journalist’s questions while fleshing out the biographical detail. With its worthier ambitions, Rodolphe Marconi’s featurelength documentary Lagerfeld Confidential (Lagerfeld Confidentiel, Marconi, 2007) sought to strip away its subject’s trademark look to provide a more intimate account of the man behind the personality. Marconi accompanied Lagerfeld for two years producing one hundred and fifty hours of footage. Avoiding some of the clichés of reportage (there are no voice-over interjections or external testimonies; nor are there indications of time or place) Marconi relies more simply on extensive one-on-one interviews with his subject, including shots of Lagerfeld in his various personal and professional spaces, accompanied by nostalgic, sepia-tinted archive photographs and super-8 films to document his past—illustrating his well-heeled childhood in Lübeck in Northern Germany. Biographically framed with lengthy sequences exploring the subject’s sexuality and youth, Lagerfeld Confidential begins with Marconi’s off-screen request for permission to enter and film the designer’s private space, thereby indicating Lagerfeld’s control of the process from the start. Whereas the film testifies to the complicity between director and subject, it does not, however, penetrate Lagerfeld’s ironically brittle surface, providing merely anecdotal evidence of the facets of his personal and professional lives. The archive is, in fact, more revealing than the film’s subject: the footage of his first collection for Chanel in 1983, in which the designer took a curtain call by flamboyantly parading down the catwalk, illustrates his dramatic change of appearance (having since radically slimmed down to suit the ultra-skinny male silhouette of the 2000s) and highlights the artificially constructed nature and performative dimension of his new global celebrity image.

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For Chanel’s Mademoiselle Privé exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London in 2015, a PR event in which the brand moved into the museum to explore its sources of inspiration in relation to the personality of its founder, Lagerfeld was filmed in conversation with a fictional incarnation of the aging designer, played by actress Geraldine Chaplin, who is transported to the present day to assess her stylistic patrimony and pass judgment on her successor’s interpretation of her spiritual legacy. This manipulation of moving image is now an integral part of the brand’s communications strategy, which also includes a series of online educational films that go Inside Chanel, making use of stop-motion animation, recorded interviews and archive footage to revitalize Chanel’s “story” for a digital audience.42 Lagerfeld’s own variation on the designer’s heritage includes a number of short narrative films that are poorly scripted and shot in stilted International English despite their enviable budgets. They all tap into Chanel’s personal celebrity by restaging key events in her career. Once Upon a Time (2013) recreated Coco’s hat boutique at Deauville in 1913 casting an assortment of actors and models (from Keira Knightley to Stella Tennant). Lagerfeld’s astute use of on-trend media celebrities—pairing model Cara Delevingne with pop star Pharrell Williams in Reincarnation (2014)—tends to guarantee viral traction for the brand’s online content. The Return (2013) explored Chanel’s decision to mount a surprising comeback in 1954, back in business again having relaunched her house against the odds, going on to create some of her most iconic designs; and Once and Forever (2015) again featured Chaplin, this time paired with the fashionable Kristin Stewart, playing two actresses who are preparing to embody the designer at different stages of her career in a mock behind-the-scenes take on the shooting of a biopic. Despite the “meta” nature of this imagery, not all of Lagerfeld’s Chanel films are actually based on lived events. Paris-Shanghai: A Fantasy (2009), produced to promote the pre-Fall 2010 collection, imagined the designer’s fictive discovery of China, casting European models such as the designer’s sexy muse Baptiste Giabiconi in yellow-face costume and makeup, in what critics saw as a crudely orientalist spectacle of Asianness.43 These forms of short-form digital content illustrate how contemporary brands draw on and reinvent the existing narratives of personality that underpin the embodied design houses such as Chanel, Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent. In his anthropological analysis of the codes and values of contemporary brands, Bruno Remaury examines their cultural imaginary—how through processes of personification and characterization they actively invest in reinterpreting the life stories and recreating embodied approximations of their founders


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to inject their communications with symbolic credibility, so as to ensure that icons such as Chanel continue to resonate with contemporary consumers.44 Endlessly reiterating and reinterpreting the myth on screen is not, however, a recent phenomenon: the inclusion of the designer’s silhouette in mass-media advertising like Jean-Paul Goude’s TV commercial for the Coco fragrance in 1991 demonstrates the continued commercial mileage to be had in reinscribing the designer’s aura as a key spiritual presence for the brand—an operation reminiscent of Walter Benjamin’s withering description of the cult of the movie star, which, he argued, was rooted in the commercial spell of the personality, “the phoney spell of a commodity.”45 Chanel’s biographer Edmonde Charles-Roux claimed that the designer had lived her life “haunted by her own legend,”46 one that she sustained over a six-decade-long career from 1910 to 1971. Commentators have tended to take her heightened sense of self-importance at face value; Cecil Beaton, for example, singled her out as the dominant figure of early-twentieth-century fashion, asserting “her forceful and unique personality on the style of the twenties. .  .  . The age of elaborate ornamentation was over, and an era of simplicity had begun.”47 Imposing her own stylistic vision of the present on her contemporaries, Chanel honed her self-image through her own singular attitude so as to appear to embody the zeitgeist while paradoxically imposing enduring style over ephemeral fashion—a classicism that Roland Barthes considered to be her lasting achievement.48 She claimed immodestly that she “was the first to live the life of this century.”49 However, as historian Valerie Steele has argued, Chanel initially created her unadorned brand of youthful vitality and dandified androgyny within a social, cultural, and industrial context. Her modernity came from an ability to conjugate concept and image, as much as from her particular sensibility and considerable talent. Other couturieres were equally as gifted— Jeanne Lanvin and Madeleine Vionnet were also celebrated for their precise cutting techniques tailoring their gowns according to the model’s shape—but Chanel stood out publicly “because she most successfully synthesised, publicised and epitomised a look that many other people also developed.”50 Her image as the fashionable woman to emulate meant that her sartorial transposition of the male wardrobe, styling the female dandy by subverting feminine ostentation through her “poor chic” aesthetic, coincided with, and was seen to articulate, the desires of many women of her era for social change and greater freedom.51 In designing clothes that appeared simple and impersonal, practical and comfortable, Chanel intended her couture to be imitated, and potentially copied for the expanding ready-to-wear market. Nancy Troy argues that her emblematic,

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pared-down “little black dress” (the deceptively simple prototype was released in 1926) secured her success because it appeared to be a democratic, massproduced commodity in tune with larger industrial processes of modernization and standardization.52 However, other scholars have questioned the received wisdom that Chanel’s modernity lay principally in its fashionable translation of functionalist and minimalist aesthetics—indeed, her penchant for accessories was hardly minimalist—seeing this instead as part of her own strategies of mythmaking.53 Surfacing in the film reenactments of Chanel’s work and life is an attempt to convey the designer’s acute sense of individual destiny and authorial intent. “Chanel was very much in control of her own story,” remarks Christopher Breward, “and its undoubted legendary qualities [particularly the ‘rags-toriches’ narrative strand] have inevitably influenced the manner of its telling. It is precisely the tale of individual endeavour and Coco Chanel’s distinctive tastes and prejudices, moulded by extraordinary experiences, which endow her products with their precise meaning for the consumer.”54 In 2008–09, the release of two French biographical films—Coco Before Chanel (Coco avant Chanel, Fontaine, 2009) and Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (Kounen, 2009)—and a US made-for-television movie, Coco Chanel (Duguay, 2008),

Figure 3.1  Audrey Tautou as Gabrielle Chanel at work in the studio in Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel) (2009). Credits: Anne Fontaine (director), Simon Arnal, Caroline Benjo, Philippe Carcassonne, and Carole Scotta (producers).


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Figure 3.2  Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen as the famous lovers in Coco Chanel et Igor Stravinsky (2009). Credits: Jan Kounen (director), Claudie Ossard, and Chris Bolzli (producers).

signaled a renewed interest in the designer’s life. The lucrative source material juggled the archetypal narrative of professional success against the odds with the brand’s media manipulation of the designer’s image. As Ginette Vincendeau argues, much like an earlier French interpretation, Chanel Solitaire (Kaczender, 1981), these recent biographical explorations might well indicate the subject’s long life and distinguished career by framing events in flashback and staging her comeback in the mid-1950s, but they all tend to emphasize the personal over the professional, particularly Chanel’s rise to prominence—from abject poverty to commercial respectability—in the context of personal hardships such as her failed relationship with the composer Stravinsky or the loss of her distinguished playboy lover Arthur “Boy” Capel in a car accident.55 Chanel Solitaire, Coco Chanel, and Coco Before Chanel all make considerable use of the spectacular staircase and hall of mirrors used to display the collections at the headquarters on the rue Cambon, reflecting multiple versions of the subject’s image, a device that complements the wider generic remit of the biopic to uncover the hidden facets of the distinguished individual. However, as critics were quick to observe, all of these productions—including the more refined Coco & Igor which employed one of Lagerfeld’s approved actresses Anna Mouglalis to convey the

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character’s modernity, sensuality, and intelligence—struggled with the same underlying problem: how to reconcile the myth of a famously nonconformist, epoch-defining designer, so memorably described as the “exterminating angel of nineteenth century style”56 by acolyte Paul Morand, with the more formulaic conventions and decorative pitfalls of the biographical film genre with “its delivery of consensual pleasures related to formal conservatism and a simplified understanding of historical agency and identity.”57 Viewed through the lens of marketing, these films operate as covert communications, as vehicles for corporate promotion. Despite showing very little insight into the processes or techniques of couture—arguably unviable from the commercial perspective of narrative feature film production—they stimulate consumer awareness by employing the accessible biographical format to drop in bite-size information such as the background to the creation of the emblematic N°5 fragrance (in the second half of Coco & Igor) or to include product placement pack shots of the iconographic pieces: the quilted handbag features in close-up in the US television movie which ends with the mature Chanel, played by Shirley MacLaine, dispensing practical tips on style by paring down her niece’s overly ornamental gown. Indeed, as Pamela Church Gibson observes, Coco Before Chanel was in fact subsidized by the brand allowing the production to make extensive use of the house’s archive to promote the trademark Chanel looks from the early to mid-twentieth century; it is not by coincidence, she surmises, that this “re-mythologizing” of the couturiere should occur in the early twentyfirst century—in the age of both so-called post-feminism and advanced global branding. Presented as instrumental in empowering women in an earlier period, the “creator of the very first luxury brand thus appears as a force for liberation rather than enslavement.”58 In 1931, Chanel was invited to Hollywood where producer Samuel Goldwyn wished to hire the most famous French couturiere to design for his studio in order to boost female audiences. In so doing, he promised to expose Chanel to a far wider consumer public through the medium of cinema. Despite a onemillion-dollar contract, Chanel’s experience in Hollywood was aborted because her approach to design did not transfer well the big screen and her costumes for studio star Gloria Swanson in Tonight or Never (LeRoy, 1931) were deemed uninspiring and disappointing in terms of public recognition. Chanel’s later contributions to French films of the decade were also hit and miss: despite a trendsetting trench coat designed for Michèle Morgan in Quai des brumes (Carné, 1938), her costumes for Jean Renoir’s La Règle du jeu in 1939 were


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functional and unspectacular. It was only in the context of her late style—her return to glory in the later 1950s and through the 1960s when she adopted a “retro” sensibility by rejuvenating a conservative vision of elegance for a contemporary public—that she was able to complement her world-famous style (the bouclé tweed suits and two-toned shoes) by displaying them on a number of fashionable European actresses such as Romy Schneider and Jeanne Moreau. She collaborated with established directors like Luchino Visconti, and emerging talents like Louis Malle, Roger Vadim, and Alain Resnais, designing costumes for Il lavoro, Visconti’s episode from the omnibus film Boccaccio ’70 (1962), Les Amants (Malle, 1958), Les Liaisons dangereuses (Vadim, 1960), and L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Resnais, 1961). Chanel’s subtle contribution to the tonal ambiguity of Marienbad consisted of sensual chiaroscuro gowns tailored for the figure of Delphine Seyrig, which underscored Resnais’s exploration of fantasy, redolent of earlier twentieth-century imagery drawn from surrealist art, silent cinema, and fashion photography.59 Lagerfeld explicitly referenced these designs in his haunting Spring/Summer 2011 runway show, for which he transformed the vast space of the Grand Palais in Paris into a life-size reproduction of the film’s ornate pleasure garden through which drifted models past and present including the house’s most famous representative in the 1980s, Inès de la Fressange. The fragmentation of time and the dissolving of memory—the disorientating world of Marienbad—were integral to Chanel’s late life/style. Once she had managed to claw her way back to the top to regain her position of prestige and influence following periods of shameful collaboration during the occupation of France and self-imposed exile in Switzerland after the war, she worked hard to stay there through old age designing some thirty collections between the reopening of her house in 1954 and her death in 1971. Her appearance in a television report made in 1968 for the Dim Dam Dom entertainment show testifies to her own personal regrets and professional nostalgia for a more elegant bygone era of couture, apparently corroded by the rise of youth culture. While admiring Balenciaga, still perceived as the master of couture, and acknowledging the ascent of the young designer she recognized as her heir, Yves Saint Laurent, whose success she put down to his imitation of her own method, Chanel scorned both the emerging pop “boutique” sensibility and the futurist fashions of designers of the 1960s such as Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges. However, it was her earlier contempt for the idealized vision and poetic sensibility of Dior, a refined (gay male) projection of elegant femininity that she viewed as restrictive and regressive for women, that had fueled her return to the scene in the

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mid-1950s in an attempt to combat Dior’s preeminence following the dramatic impact of his “New Look” on the fashion world in 1947.

Documenting Dior Along with fellow couturiers Marcel Rochas and Pierre Balmain, Dior’s “revolution” of the late 1940s reaffirmed Paris as the international center of high fashion. The idealized silhouette of the New Look became the archetype for the sophisticated woman of the time, and Dior was regularly commissioned through the 1950s by Hollywood’s most prestigious stars, among whom Marlene Dietrich, Sophia Loren, Ingrid Bergman, and Lauren Bacall, to conjure up the required measure of glamour to publicize their on-screen performances and off-screen profiles. This correlation between fashion and dramatic performance was highlighted in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s commercial for the brand’s J’Adore fragrance in 2011, which revealed the layers of illusion underpinning the contemporary brand’s mediation of its history. Actress Charlize Theron is shown playing a model opening a Dior show; participating in a pastiche of the contemporary spectacle of process in which consumers glimpse the production from behind the scenes, the camera follows Theron preparing backstage where she runs into doppelgangers of brand “ambassadors” of the past (Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich, and Marilyn Monroe) before walking out onto a catwalk in the Versailles Hall of Mirrors.60 Monsieur Dior’s original offering was equally dramatic: having designed historical costumes for stage and screen during the war, his flamboyantly retrospective fantasy of the late-nineteenth-century belle époque tapped into a broader cultural sensibility of glamorous nostalgia in the second half of the 1940s, suiting “the gloomy, decadent romanticism of the times,”61 which was mediated through the cinematic success of period costume dramas with boxoffice stars such as Arletty in Les Enfants du paradis (Carné, 1945). Rochas’s elaborate designs for Micheline Presle in Falbalas (Becker, 1944), a film framing the artifice of desire and the risks of illusion through the metaphor of couture, is a further contextual example of the sort of poetic imagery that would fuel Dior’s imagination in the postwar period. His own singular translation of a nostalgic neo-romanticism was particularly influenced by his friend, the artist Christian Bérard, famous for his production designs for La Belle et la bête (Cocteau, 1946), whose refined sensibility had shaped Parisian tastes in the decorative and performing arts through the 1930s and 1940s.


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The contemporary documentary Dior and I also trades in illusion and nostalgia by summoning the specter of Monsieur Dior, who haunts both the ateliers (the seamstresses talk of his ghostly presence at night) and the film itself (the couturier’s memoirs are used as a framing device).62 Drawing on excerpts recorded in voice-over by poet Omar Berrada and archive stills to envision the designer in his historical context, director Frédéric Tcheng conveys Dior’s spiritual hold over the house, or rather, to reverse the equation, the brand’s strategic manipulation of its creative heritage, indicating the film director’s collusion in covertly promoting it by charting Raf Simons’ coordination of the design process. In his trenchant review for the New York Times, A. O. Scott criticized the film’s tendency to combine the traditional style of vérité documentary with the suspenseful premise of reality television—the countdown to the show—to pass off corporate promotion as seemingly transparent scrutiny of the design process producing “an aura of suspense without a sense of real risk, [offering] devotees of fashion an appealing, shallow fantasy of inside knowledge.”63 Given very little notice before shooting in 2012, Tcheng’s first meeting with Simons was to film his official introduction to the ateliers before starting work on his first couture collection. Simons’ reputation was established through his nominal menswear label, founded in 1995, for which he developed a cutting-edge conceptual intellectualism; however, his early revision of the classic couture heritage at Dior was more expressively poetic, combining the founder’s formal passion for shape and motif.

Figure 3.3  The Christian Dior studio in the documentary Dior et moi (Dior and I, 2014). Credits: Frédéric Tcheng (director) and Guillaume de Roquemaurel (producer).

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Following exhibitions of the couturier’s artistic and cinematic inspirations, the Christian Dior museum, located at his family home, Villa les Rhumbs in Granville, Normandy, organized a celebration of the artistic influence of impressionism on the designer’s craft in 2013, tracing the house’s use of floral imagery.64 The exhibition, set in the superb belle époque villa, reunited two of Monsieur Dior’s individual passions: architecture and flowers. The New Look was fashioned around the retrogressive link between femininity and nature, the precise shaping of the body in counterpoint to the expressive use of floral motifs drawn from the artistic models of the late nineteenth-century—the impressionism of Claude Monet and the pointillism of Georges Seurat.65 Simons’ early couture collections, the first of which, Autumn/Winter 2012, is documented in Dior and I, took inspiration from Dior’s own preference for wildflowers: one bright red layered bustier evening dress embroidered with poppies evoked Monet’s eponymous canvas from 1873 and another white organza dress with pointillist embroidery was redolent of the 1949 Miss Dior gown. Dior was resistant to the antiornamental strain of modernism, a productive tension running through Simons’ revision of the house’s couture heritage.66 The staging of his early collections for Dior complemented the conventional feminine template by blending the standard floral imagery with the architectural purity of the designs. Dior and I documents the preparations for the staging of the first couture show, for which the walls were lined with flowers, encasing the clothing within a poetic décor. The Dior Impressions exhibition included examples of Simons’ tribute to the house’s pastel heritage, opening with a double-face bustier dress taken from the Autumn/Winter 2012 collection, made from white organza and embroidered with floral motifs—a trompe l’oeil effect of plastic violets embroidered on the front and a classical image of roses printed on the back. Dior’s New Look was in fact formally austere despite the superficial flourishes of nostalgic femininity.67 Christian Dior’s haute couture collections between 1947 and 1957 simultaneously balanced two ideals of an elite femininity—that of the sophisticate and the ingénue.68 There was a central paradox underlying his reactionary turn to the courtesans and coquettes of the belle époque as models for his sculpted silhouette of the midcentury parisienne; despite the decorative ornamentation, his commercial success stemmed from an artistic sobriety.69 Nevertheless, the house continues to favor the promotion of a more expressive sensibility. Dior and I plays with this contrast between sobriety and emotion by personifying it through the contemporary figure of Simons. By the end of the process, the designer is caught in tears, momentarily losing his poise under the immense commercial and personal pressures involved in presenting the


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collection—pressures that later led to his voluntary departure from the house in 2015. Initially presented to his staff as a relaxed but self-contained character—the polar opposite of his predecessor, the flamboyant and charismatic John Galliano, who had performed the expected role of the artistically gifted “star” designer to excess—Simons is complemented by his more gregarious, francophone assistant Pieter Mulier, who is shown to act as a translator and mediator between the designer and the atelier’s premières, Florence Chehet and Monique Bailly, who oversee the fabrication of dresses and suits respectively. To that extent, the value of Tcheng’s film lies in its capture of the process of collaboration, including the creative calculations and artistic missteps—take, for example, Simons’ unsuccessful attempt to reproduce graphic prints by artist Sterling Ruby onto the fabric of the gowns. While the brand’s reluctance to relinquish control means that the final product is invariably compromised, the film does illustrate quite effectively Dior’s well documented history of craft, attending to the cutters and seamstresses as well as the designers and PRs, while also laying bare the recalcitrant hierarchical structure of a traditional couture house, in which the couturier still represents “the primacy of masculine artistic genius, oriented to depth, over the ultimately trivial and superficial, if indispensable, craft of dressmaking.”70 In the current conjuncture, following the demise of the star designer—the end of an era marked by Galliano’s dismissal from the house in 2011 after an inspired fifteen-year tenure that had seen Dior regain its former international notoriety—the Paris fashion houses, reconfigured as global luxury brands, now seek to reassert their own historical prestige by promoting their foundational myths beyond the creative talent or individual personality of the designer in residence. Dior and I testifies to this corporate reconfiguration of the role of the designer whose public profile is increasingly subsumed within the overall communications strategy of the brand.

All about Yves The contemporary focus on the cult of personality conceived as central to an appreciation of the creative work of a designer is particularly associated with the spectacular rise of Yves Saint Laurent through the 1960s and 1970s. In 1971, he used his own celebrity to promote the YSL label by posing naked for photographer Jeanloup Sieff to advertise his first men’s fragrance. The provocative step to personify the house in more than name is said to have “sealed

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Yves’s reputation as the most iconoclastic of the Paris couturiers and enhanced his cult status.”71 Perceived as daring in the context of contemporaneous fashion imagery, the monochrome photo of the supposedly shy Saint Laurent, sporting Christ-like, shoulder-length hair, a short beard, and his signature blackrimmed spectacles, played on the contrast between the provocative nudity of the model and the charismatic aura of the celebrity. His body was enhanced by a halo of light, an ironic indication of his own intended iconicity. Indeed, Saint Laurent’s slim physique was central to his public recognition because his body was seen to be of its time. Despite not specifically targeting a gay audience, the alluring ad was widely recognized as an open acknowledgment of the designer’s (and hence the label’s) sex appeal, in tune with an emerging identity politics of pride. The impact of the image was such that it far outlasted its limited press circulation helping to cement the reputation of Saint Laurent as one shaped by a potent mix of self-promotion and scandal—this despite the relative coyness of the pose and affected timidity of the model. It was precisely Saint Laurent’s bold decision to expose his own body—his direct-to-camera gaze demands the viewer’s attention—that ensured that the advert chimed with the times coming in the wake of the social contestation of the post-’68 era and in tune with the politicized questioning of gender norms emerging out of the feminist and gay liberation movements. Looking back in 2002 at his tenure of one of Paris

Figure 3.4  Pierre Niney in the “authorized” version of the life of the designer, Yves Saint Laurent (2014). Credits: Jalil Lespert (director), Wassim Béji, and Yannick Bolloré (producers).


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fashion’s most prestigious houses, Saint Laurent claimed retrospectively to have contributed to the transformation of his era through his stylistic impact on social change. Arguably less central than music, architecture, or painting, fashion, he surmised, could also play an instrumental role in shaping contemporary culture.72 The myth of Saint Laurent the tortured aesthete, a fragile bohemian more in touch with the youthful demographic and emerging street styles of the late sixties than with the previous generation of rarefied couturiers such as Balenciaga, who catered exclusively to an elite caste, was as much an imaginary creation of the YSL business (through the manipulation of the designer’s label through global licensing agreements) as the actual authorship or innovation of the designs produced during his four decades at the helm.73 It was Pierre Bergé, the designer’s business and (for many years) life partner, who steered the ship and molded the image and myth of Saint Laurent in the public imagination through his careful mastery of the designer’s legacy. Bergé first met Saint Laurent at Dior’s funeral in 1957. Initially dismissing couture as a minor decorative art for society ladies, his subsequent more socially inflected vision of fashion coincided with Saint Laurent’s own desire to break out of Dior’s nostalgic template. The couple, in effect, glimpsed fashion’s more democratic potential. In 1961, they launched the house of Yves Saint Laurent, which through the later creation of the popular luxury ready-to-wear label Rive Gauche in 1966 and a series of groundbreaking global licensing agreements brought them not only fame and recognition, but immense wealth; their personal art collection alone was auctioned from some 450 million euros at Christie’s in Paris following the designer’s death in 2008. Pierre Thoretton’s documentary film tracing their partnership, Yves Saint Laurent—Pierre Bergé: L’Amour Fou (2010), frames their trajectory retrospectively through the eyes of the business partner, making use of copious archive materials, footage, and photographs together with interviews with Bergé. The late “star-maker”74 controlled the couturier’s cultural legacy including the final posthumous transformation of Saint Laurent into one of the twentieth century’s key artistic figures through the opening of commemorative museums in Paris and Marrakesh in 2017. On film, he showed a willingness to document their life together, his transparency masking a mastery of self-performance. The film also takes stock of their material possessions following the public auction of their collection. What is most striking about Thorreton’s portrait of the couple is the extent to which their affective bond was formed through material objects. Their lavish art deco apartment on the rue de Babylone, originally designed in the 1930s by Jean-Michel Frank, mixed various styles of décor and housed

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accumulated artworks by Burne-Jones, Mondrian, Géricault, Goya, and Warhol. In his published homage to Saint Laurent entitled Letters to Yves,75 Bergé claimed that the pair, one of France’s rare out gay couples at the time, felt the ownership of works by modern luminaries such as Picasso and Matisse was part of their singular destiny; the greatest proof of their enduring love, which combined, at different stages, passion, companionship, friendship, and business, was their collection of art, objects, and homes. Describing the couple’s elaborate Proustinspired Normandy house, novelist Françoise Sagan once pointed out that every detail of the interior design was in itself a work of art.76 The pair of biographical films Yves Saint Laurent (Lespert, 2014) and Saint Laurent (Bonello, 2014), released following a competitive production war, built on a number of documentaries realized since the 1990s that have explored the designer’s artistic sensibility, professional ascension, and personal depression. Through the lens of celebrity culture, both biopics focus predominantly on the designer’s glory days from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, but take different approaches to their subject. Lespert’s narrative was commercially successful but critically derided for its linearity and respect for the designer’s heritage, while Bonello’s fractured portrait, shown in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2014, was praised for its formal ambition and narrative complexity, but criticized for its ambitious length and lack of focus, scrambling the designer’s life and offsetting his meteoric rise to fame against an alienated sense of self. Bonello’s take on the myth, supported by an enigmatic performance by Gaspard Ulliel, places the designer within a queer cultural lineage, situating its subject in a literary-artistic tradition referencing Marcel Proust (admired for his nostalgic fascination with aristocratic social etiquette and class hierarchy), Luchino Visconti (for his visual evocation of decadent sensuality and baroque lyricism), and Andy Warhol (for the immediacy and hipness of his pop style and camp sensibility). Bonello cast Visconti’s muse and lover Helmut Berger as an older incarnation of the designer. Not simply recreating the milieu of Paris fashion of the era, Saint Laurent also spotlights design through the performance of the period’s nightlife, using music and dance to express the Saint Laurent style in motion. While Lespert’s authorized version, fully supported by Bergé, drew on the foundation’s archives to stage the lavish catwalk shows, Bonello’s costume designer Anaïs Romand, who won a César award for her efforts, reproduced parts of the couture collections, notably the scandalous 1971 retro collection, a camp pastiche of the 1940s, and the lavish Opéra Les Ballets Russes collection from 1976, including hundreds of individual pieces. While Lespert’s narrative was primarily concerned with resemblance and authenticity, careful to film the


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Figure 3.5  The Visconti legacy. Helmut Berger as the older face of the designer in the auteur-biopic, Saint Laurent (2014). Credits: Bertrand Bonello (director), Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, and Christophe Lambert (producers).

original designs in their actual settings, Bonello’s disjointed and hallucinatory vision of the designer-as-artist can be read more as a manifesto, a radical revision of the designer fashion film that attempts to resolve the inherent problems of the biographical genre by imagining the past through mood, affect, and sensuality, rather than through the rise and fall narrative, which depends on an imitative performance style or close attention to historical fidelity—the supposed truth status underlying traditional forms of biographical representation. As I argued with regard to the Chanel films, the biopic, defined as “a fiction film that deals with a figure whose existence is documented in history and whose claims to fame or notoriety warrant the uniqueness of his or her story,”77 has often been seen as a critically derided genre that has been commercially revived since the start of the millennium in both American and European cinemas. As Hilary Radner and Raphaëlle Moine have observed, the rise of the biographical film through the first decade of this century, combining a “double movement of celebration and critique,”78 has tended to involve a heavily parodic performance style, a type of portrayal “aimed at demystifying great figures who were formerly celebrated with respect.”79 Routinely dismissed for its tendency to reduce historical process to an individual’s singular contribution or to ignore it altogether in favor of a person’s particular pathology, the biopic has now emerged as the subject of more sustained critical scholarship questioning the assumption that it is invariably middlebrow, raising questions of aesthetic strategy and the national specificity or international aspirations of such films

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as the Chanel and Saint Laurent films, many of which trade in myths of national identity presenting the expected touristic clichés of Paris. There is also a more complex understanding of the genre’s relation to the historical film, underpinned by performance, the reenactment and imaginative recreation of events. In an important critical reflection on the subject of the biofilm, Robert Rosenstone attempts to unravel the complex interplay of fact and fiction, history and myth, and content and form, acknowledging the genre’s “creative use of fact, the translation necessary to make a life comprehensible and interesting.”80 Biographical cinema, then, sits at the intersection of fiction and history; unlike the costume drama, the individual’s story takes center stage, transforming individual lives into the realms of myth. Despite being only twenty-one years old when he shot to overnight stardom by succeeding Christian Dior as head designer in 1957, Saint Laurent only began to become truly popular in the mid-1960s. Following the launch of the ready-towear line Rive Gauche in 1966, and the capsule collection combining bourgeois respectability and bohemian loucheness modeled by Catherine Deneuve in Luis Buñuel’s film Belle de Jour in 1967, Saint Laurent became the most high-profile Parisian couturier giving a veneer of luxury to the casual styles of the day— hippy, safari, kaftans, tunics, chain belts. He was later famous for transposing items of menswear, the tuxedo trouser suit, le smoking, to a workingwoman’s wardrobe. This cross-gender dynamic was key to his appeal, although the tuxedo was not in fact androgynous as such, since it rather accentuated and flattered the female form. It was, in effect, a feminine transposition of menswear as opposed to a blending of the genders. Saint Laurent’s “new woman” dominated fashion imagery through the 1970s, a lucrative and cynical blend of sex, style, and violence, best epitomized by the work of fashion photographer Helmut Newton. In Saint Laurent there is a cameo from Valeria Bruni Tedeschi who plays an anonymous client at a fitting, initially in awe of the famous designer but transformed into the Saint Laurent woman when she dons the Marlene Dietrichinspired trouser suit that gives her allure and confidence. The film also recreates the Helmut Newton images of the same look for French Vogue, shot at night in a street in the Marais in 1975 with Danish model Vibeke Knudsen figured as the elegant female dandy posing nonchalantly with her hands in her pockets, accompanied by another naked model. The shot is characteristic of Newton’s recognizable combination of ironic distance and sexual availability, his fantasy of a world without men. In Bonello’s playful reconstruction that goes behind the scenes, the bored models wait for the photographer’s instructions ruminating at random on the legend of the designer (Where is Yves? I don’t know. Maybe he’s


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just a perfume now. Maybe he’s dead. I feel stupid. What are we doing? We’re playing with masculine codes, I guess, the codes of power). Both films locate a tension underlying the Saint Laurent myth: his modernity resided in a longing for popularity and in his ability to harness stylistic change by catering to a broad consumer base rather than just the super-wealthy clients of couture. Rive Gauche was conceived as a laboratory for the designer to experiment many of the ideas he developed more fully through his couture collections.81 The accessibility of mass-produced designer ready-to-wear rubs up against the high-artistic grandeur of couture, and Saint Laurent’s success was in part fueled by his ability to juggle both. He was the disciple of Dior and by the close of his career in the early 2000s, he was perceived as the last great couturier, a passeur between the nineteenth-century tradition of couture and the mass-media pop modernity of the later twentieth century. His designs from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s defined the dominant silhouettes of the period. He was also the heir to Chanel: both shared a preference for style over fashion, for an everyday understanding of clothing and embodiment. Like Chanel, he found a signature style early on through the 1960s and spent a career refining the Saint Laurent woman by envisioning the Saint Laurent dress. While his early collections introduced classic items such as the functional sailor’s coat (le caban), his collections in the later 1960s set out his design stand: the tunic, trench coat, pantsuit, tuxedo, and the reworked desert jacket originally worn by colonial Europeans in Africa: a collection of ideal items for a modern woman’s wardrobe. The cultivated myth of Saint Laurent as a detached genius revolved around the apparent tension between the commercial and popular appeal of readyto-wear fashion (simple, mass-produced, affordable, youth-driven designs) and the high cultural capital of his social milieu and artistic lineage (the baroque refinement, fantasy, and luxuriousness of couture). Identifying with Proust’s neurasthenia—he quoted the famous comment that “the magnificent and pitiful family of the hypersensitive are the salt of the earth”82 during his farewell press conference in 2002—and singling the writer out as the master of sensitive and truthful female representation, similarly fascinated by his own “perceptions of a world in awesome transition,”83 Saint Laurent shaped his own public profile by straddling the fine and decorative arts, blending references to both literary and popular cultures. He was profiled and captured by a number of important writers and image-makers in his lifetime: Warhol, the emblematic pop artist of the age, made a multiple portrait of him in 1972, while the

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celebrated French novelist Marguerite Duras saw him as akin to a modernist writer, one whose vision and gaze represented the “place of silence.”84 And, in one of the most lyrical texts written on Saint Laurent’s cultural influence at the time of Diana Vreeland’s retrospective for the New York Metropolitan Museum in 1983, novelist Hervé Guibert argued that the exhibition demonstrated that a couturier could also be a surveyor of culture, one whose work was simultaneously nourished by the street and by fine art, a technique of aesthetic insemination that saw the Saint Laurent style intersect with fine art, moving image and the performing arts.85 The Autumn/Winter 1965 collection was Saint Laurent’s first break with the couture tradition and features prominently in both films. The collection included a series of shift dresses reproducing the distinctive images of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, known for a particular type of nonobjective painting, which reduced pictorial elements and dispensed with curved lines, highly influential in the development of a modern style in the decorative and applied arts, particularly in architecture, furniture, and interior design. Made from a single piece of jersey cotton (the stitches for the dresses were invisible to the naked eye following the curves of the body so as to flatter the female form) the series became the most copied couture pieces ever, not just flatly reproducing the Mondrian motif but more radically transcribing the two dimensions of painting to the three-dimensional shape of the moving body. Chiming with the concurrent trend for op art in the mid-1960s, Saint Laurent’s first foray into pop, foreshadowing the further incorporation of pop art motifs such as bright red lips, colored hearts, and cartoon faces on the couture collection, and the game-changing launch of the designer ready-to-wear label in 1966, saw him become emblematic of the present moment, the point in time when social class began to give way to youth as the true index of stylistic change. Unlike the ephemeral futurism and sci-fi experimentation of his contemporaries André Courrèges and Paco Rabanne, or the retro nostalgia of Chanel’s classic designs of the period, Saint Laurent was seen to capture the zeitgeist by remolding the emerging boutique or youth styles from the streets of London and Paris as a form of directional designer fashion, taking up some of the brash innovations of his peers to create something both visually audacious and socially acceptable.86 Midway through Yves Saint Laurent, a film that maps out a linear chronology of the designer’s life (beginning with his youth in the mid-1950s and ending with the Opéra Les Ballets Russes couture collection in 1976) that follows the


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standard codification of the genre by concocting a compilation of key moments, a montage sequence is used to accelerate events further marking the transition from Saint Laurent’s background in couture to his rise to fame through the late 1960s pop modernity. The effect of the montage is to approximate the subject’s story by scrambling the time frame: the extra-diegetic soul-rock music (The Chambers Brothers’ “Time Has Come Today” from 1968) accompanies the visual shift from design to image. The rapid succession of shots resembles the visual style and condensed format of moving-image advertising. The sequence shows the designer in a eureka moment in 1965 finding creative inspiration for the Mondrian shift dresses before cutting to shots of him frantically sketching the collection followed by a reenactment the photo shoot—the focus is on representation rather than production, on the animation and mediation of the designs—before concluding with emblematic images of the celebrity designer, reinforced by the reproduction of Warhol’s multiple portraits of Saint Laurent with actor Pierre Niney’s face in lieu of the original, that capture the moment he first sees his feminine double and future muse Betty Catroux (Marie de Villepin) across a dance floor. Niney, who won the César award for Best Actor in 2015, gives a plausibly mimetic performance centring on his vocal impersonation of Saint Laurent’s idiosyncratic tone and phrasing. Niney’s technique is more broadly emblematic of the film’s attempt to negotiate the truth ambitions of the biographical genre. Rather than interrogating the myth of the designer, it invests heavily in one strand of traditional biographical representation that relies on spotlighting extraordinary individuals in history in order to make their stories appear accessible to a mainstream audience by rendering them both sympathetic and ordinary. In this instance, the representation of the celebrity couple supersedes the portrait of the mythic designer, manifest in the foregrounding of Bergé’s viewpoint through the use of retrospective voice-over to frame and punctuate the narrative. Transposing parts of the entrepreneur’s memoir to the screen, the voice-over positions Bergé as an omnipresent narrator, as a point of identification—he is figured as rational and levelheaded—and the driving force in the couple’s partnership, thereby collapsing the biographical portrait into the gay romance. Bergé made his approval of the project known publicly and granted access to the actual places in which Saint Laurent had lived and worked, and to his foundation’s wealth of original garments, a further illustration of the film’s unquestioning acceptance of biographical truth at the level of costume design. Legally retaining all moral rights over the work and image of Saint Laurent enabled Bergé to threaten Bonello’s rival production with possible prosecution,

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because approval to adapt the couple’s story had not been sought. He eventually dismissed Bonello’s film in a tweet in response to its César award for best costume design as nasty and homophobic in its clinical portrayal of the famous couple.87 Whereas the flashback in biographical cinema is generally used to embed the individual’s trajectory in a temporal schema, the function of the montage sequence is rather to abbreviate the amount of information required to plot the individual’s story, to punctuate the life by giving it dramatic shape and to underscore the expected narrative arc (the rise and fall logic) and the claim to greatness underpinning the biopic. This conventional use of montage as a dramatic mode of display is not one that Bonello has recourse to in Saint Laurent, which nonetheless fulfills the basic expectations of the genre in that it tells part of the designer’s story and relies to an extent on imitative performances, but simultaneously transcends the biographical genre by pushing its boundaries. Bonello’s is, in sum, an auteur-biopic that blurs the lines between biographical and auteur genres. While not as apparently radical in its attempt to fracture identity or decenter the subject as Todd Haynes’s multiple visions of the life of Bob Dylan, I’m Not There (2007), Saint Laurent makes creative use of affect, fantasy, and sensorial pleasure as a way of bypassing elements of the designer’s story to indicate mental states of being and ways of relating to others (notably the creative links between depression, sex, and drug use). The result is less a designer biography than a trippy evocation of the affective world of Saint Laurent. As much as the designer made his public mark on the world as an internationally renowned celebrity, the film also dramatizes his absence through the 1970s as the man is, in effect, shown to vanish behind the commercial mask of YSL. Celebrity, then, is figured as the crucial hinge between art and product, between the early artistic ambitions of the couturier and the radical transformation of his identity through media, image, and commodification into a global brand. The film’s narrative flow is determined by a visual transposition of the literary interior monologue or reminiscent stream of consciousness often attributed to the narrative style of early-twentieth-century writers such as Proust. The exploration of this artistic lineage is apparent from the first scene, set in 1974, which shows the designer anonymously checking into a hotel under the name of M. Swann. The affective ambition of the film is also foregrounded in one of the character’s first lines of dialogue: “I’ve come to sleep.” What follows is an exploration of subjective memory as opposed to public history through exploration of the subject’s depressive state of mind, visualized through images of his mental processes, fantasy scenarios, and nightmarish hallucinations,


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rather than a more straightforward account of the designer at work; this despite the attention given in the early stages to the collaborative design and manual production of fashion. The aesthetic decision to superimpose multiple timeframes imagines a fragmented life: rejecting biographical linearity, Saint Laurent is a scrambled portrait of the designer’s mental world, edited precisely to underscore motif and patterning, both the social and sensorial aspects of the YSL myth: that’s to say the popular immediacy of his designs of the later 1960s and the headier mix of morbidity, hedonism, and excess that stimulated the spectacular 1976 Opéra Les Ballets Russes collection. Reproducing the geometric prism blocs of the Mondrian dresses, Bonello uses the split screen as a device to convey both historical and emotional juxtaposition: documentary images of the May ’68 protests accompany the designer’s succession of designs redefining the stylistic components of contemporary femininity. The film culminates in a reconstruction of the 1976 collection, accompanied by the voice of Maria Callas and staged in Garnier’s opulent ballroom at the Intercontinental Hotel. Rather than reproduce standard photographic or audiovisual representation of the fashion show by positioning the camera at the end of the runway, here the frame is fractured into simultaneous flashes of the luxurious gowns in motion, a vibrant blast of color that fills the screen with hues of deep red and ornamental gold.

The Warhol legacy In Bonello’s Saint Laurent, the attention to the visual matter of fashion (the crucial question for a film director is precisely how to convey its sensorial appeal to an audience) transposes to the context of narrative cinema a turn that cultural theorists such as Giuliana Bruno have located as a move away from the optic toward a “haptic materiality,” one that is engaged with surfaces rather than images as the material substance of visual culture.88 The film’s attention to the sensorial appeal of surfaces is also illustrative of its critical engagement with both the afterlife of the designer and the impact of Warhol, whose legacy demands acknowledgment, because, as Simon Watney argued in his critique of the Warhol effect, the artist’s central concerns of celebrity, identity, sexuality, selfhood, and death, which also lie at the thematic crux of the film, have often been interpreted as an engagement with “the nature of representation as such, with the status of imagery, with seriality, with notions of authenticity

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and originality—both in the sense of authorship and innovation.”89 Watney contested the legacy of Warhol promoted by the mainstream press and academic art history: rather than being absorbable within the canon of the “great” artists of the second half of the twentieth century, Warhol, he argued, “constantly aspired to detach himself from a traditional authorial role, to dissolve himself into an inviolable persona.”90 His celebrity portraits laid bare the fiction of personality as the basis of fame, conceived as a commodity to be acquired and promoted. The star’s profile (articulated through public discourses of celebrity) and image (channeled through fashion and embodiment) are now routinely seen as ideological effects of mass-media technology. Indeed, Warhol’s own iconicity has often been reduced to his various artificial looks and dandified styles: the striped Breton tops and black leather jackets, the shades and wigs, and so forth. Style was clearly integral to his self-performance and self-promotion exemplifying a complex relationship with his own body-image, particularly following the shooting in 1968 that left him stitched up like a Dior dress, which was how he pictured his body in David Bailey’s TV documentary portrait, Warhol By Bailey, in 1973. Like pop art’s relationship with painting, the democratic rise of industrially produced designer fashions (luxury or designer ready-to-wear) sought to displace artisanal couture in the mid-1960s, and was widely perceived as the future of the industry. Like pop art’s critical engagement with commodification, fashion is similarly fuelled by a desire for adornment bordering on the fetishistic; and like pop art, consumer fashion is also heavily invested in repetition, multiplication, and simulacra. Warhol stands as the most influential figure to have rendered explicit the links between the production and consumption of art, fashion, and style in conjunction with advertising, publicity, and celebrity. He began his career in the 1950s as a successful commercial artist, working as an illustrator for shoe designers, magazines, and shop windows; he adored Paris and high fashion. Saint Laurent described him as a “total artist. Not just a painter, an artist. His films, his advertising, it was all bountiful and mad. One certainly can’t be an artist without being slightly mad.”91 In spite of very different backgrounds—Warhol was born into a poor immigrant family in Pittsburgh in 1928; Saint Laurent into a wealthy French pied-noir family in Algeria in 1936—personally, both Warhol and Saint Laurent had a lot in common. They were both celebrated for their high-profile social lives as much as their creative production. Described as possibly “the most famous openly gay artist who ever lived,”92 Warhol has been championed as the representative of both 1960s underground film culture and a


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camp performance style, aptly described by Peter Wollen as “the revenge of the ‘swish’ on the ‘macho’.”93 This legacy clearly looms large over Bonello’s cinematic inquiry into the Saint Laurent persona. The Warhol effect is made apparent early on through an imagined correspondence between the two men. Rather than attempt to visualize the pop artist through imitation,94 Bonello imagines Saint Laurent reading a fan letter from Warhol while contemplating a collection of his famous tuxedo suits. Pop art famously critiqued the effects of conformity and repetition on postwar society by drawing on the unrelenting redundancy of advertising. Fashion is as fleeting as advertising, quips Warhol in voice-over, and this is precisely what makes it sublime. Beyond the obvious Wildean sensibility, this inversion also recalls the earlier semiotic analysis of Roland Barthes, who described the néomanie or obsessive newness of fashion’s temporal cycles and the symbolic formalization of adornment through a system of signs; he later examined pop art’s serial engagement with commodity form through a type of art that reveals that “the fundamental expression of the person is style.”95 Bonello’s Warhol claims to be bored by fine art, viewing fame as the real achievement, something both Warhol and Saint Laurent excelled at. Rejecting art for film, advertising, and music (Saint Laurent spins the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” record during the scene) he provocatively asks why the designer has not yet managed to make the Warhol dress, thereby becoming one of the true geniuses of the fin de siècle. In his reply, Saint Laurent claims he simply wanted to be modern by designing the Saint Laurent dress. Beyond sparing for greatness in this staged reenactment of their relationship, the mutual fascination between the fashion designer and the pop artist is nonetheless revealing of their shared aspirations and contrasting ambitions. Saint Laurent created his ready-to-wear line to be popular; Warhol was an artist who embraced advertising and courted publicity. Saint Laurent belonged to the world of high fashion but coveted the prestige of the fine arts. With the rise of the Rive Gauche line, pop art overlapped with consumer fashion and shared similar preoccupations such as serial repetition and mass diffusion. While Saint Laurent went pop by inventing the concept of designer ready-to-wear fashion with Bergé promoting it as the only viable economic future for the industry, Warhol gained artistic integrity by exhibiting, networking and filming in Paris, where he shot an underground film L’Amour, a camp remake of the Hollywood classic How To Marry A Millionaire (Negulesco, 1953) with Paul Morrissey and factory superstars Jane Forth and Donna Jordan in Karl Lagerfeld’s apartment

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in 1970. (Seen as emblematic of the trend for bygone glamour at the start of the decade, Jordan was also an influential fashion model who appeared on the covers of Vogue Italia and Vogue Paris in 1971.) By the early 1970s, both Warhol and Saint Laurent were centrifugal personalities, glamorous pop stars known for their cultivated shyness and charismatic passivity. Despite coming from opposite ends of the social spectrum, both longed to be recognized as important public figures of the later twentieth century. Warhol started out as a commercial artist in fashion advertising, celebrated for his lucrative designs for shop windows and sketches of shoes, but longed to be recognized as an artist; and Saint Laurent, who admired literature, painting, and opera, felt his talent was squandered on the business of fashion, and saw himself as a star couturier rather than a mere fashion designer. Bergé tellingly withdrew the Warhol portraits of Saint Laurent from a retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2009 because he objected to them being displayed in a section on glamour among images of other designers rather than among those of other artists. Nonetheless, both Warhol and Saint Laurent shared a love of the decorative arts, collecting and hoarding objects of design. But while the YSL brand invested heavily in the artistic persona of the couturier as rooted in a decadent nostalgia, Warhol’s persona simply represented the present like no other personality of the period, casting his blank gaze over the freakish absurdities of mass-media culture, actively shaping his own legend as the recorder of surfaces and producer of images at once “referential and simulacral, connected and disconnected, affective and affectless, critical and complacent” in the words of art theorist Hal Foster.96 Warhol’s stream of celebrity commissions that combined photography with painting—the portraits were silkscreened from Polaroid photos—through the 1970s brought him immense wealth. According to biographer Wayne Koestenbaum, they developed his function as social documenter as “not to mingle with the famous, but to ironize them; to draw attention, as if with italics, to their fame; to generalize them, so that each figure who stands next to Andy, and gets photographed with or by him, loses identity and becomes a Warhol theorem, a Warhol situation.”97 Unlike his throwaway images of designers Giorgio Armani, Sonia Rykiel, and Valantino Garavani, the Saint Laurent serigraphs do not entirely wipe out the subject’s individuality through submission to the famous artist. To be sure, the multiples produce Warhol’s version of the Saint Laurent persona and the introspective star couturier is as much an ideological effect of mass-media and serial technology as any of the


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other famous personalities captured by Warhol, but they also operate as more conventional portraits conveying some of the sitter’s delicate personality; two of the panels capture the self-absorbed subject through his enigmatic downcast gaze. Beyond the cliché of Warhol’s factory-based output as serial “transformative repetition,”98 it is equally important to view his interventions in art, culture, and moving image as having made an important contribution to broader critical inquiries in the 1960s into the consumption of objects and the circulation of images as integral to the workings of the “society of spectacle” following Guy Debord’s groundbreaking manifesto from 1967.99 Warhol also contributed to the reconceptualization of camp as not simply a style or sensibility, following Susan Sontag’s notes on the subject from 1964,100 but more a prototype of queer performance, hyperbolically aestheticizing elements of everyday pop culture.101 With his scandalous Spring-Summer 1971 collection, Saint Laurent not only popularized retro design by retrieving and updating styles from the 1940s through a sort of ironic nostalgia, but also transposed some of the Warhol factory’s brash camp sensibility, particularly the irreverent drag homages to Hollywood film stars of the sort made famous by the trans muses Mario Montez and Candy Darling, to the staid world of Paris couture. Bonello’s Saint Laurent captures the outraged reception of the collection through an abrupt, rapid-fire edit of the presentation of the models, the series of clipped frontal shots accentuating their scandalous effect. Inspired in part by costumes by Elsa Schiaparelli and Mme Grès for the film Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Bresson, 1945), in which a society lady plots revenge on her lover by tricking him into marrying a former prostitute, the collection included a range of louche looks modeled on the styles of 1940s streetwalkers including fur coats in electric shades of green and blue. This trashy nostalgia was continued in Hedi Slimane’s contemporary exhumation of the couturier’s legacy during his 2012–16 tenure of the house, visible in the Autumn/Winter 2016 couture offering, “La Collection de Paris,” which lifted ideas directly from the 1971 collection.102 Saint Laurent’s transposition of the drag aesthetic of Warhol’s factory and its culture of gender indeterminacy was complemented by the impact of Visconti’s film The Damned (1969) on Paris fashion culture of the early 1970s. The film used a family of industrialists to chart the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany alongside sexual dissidence, channeled through the deviant playboy character of Martin, played by Helmut Berger, who scandalously impersonates Marlene Dietrich in full drag. Beyond the casting of Berger as the older Saint Laurent,

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the young actor’s decadent charisma is shared by the character of the ironic dandy, Jacques de Bascher (Louis Garrel), who became his lover. Saint Laurent’s subsequent embrace of hedonistic pleasure is suggested earlier through the nightclub sequences that punctuate the drama, particularly the extended scenes of dancing at Le Sept, a mirror-lined discotheque, the scenic recreation of which is enhanced by Josée Deshaies’ shimmering neon lighting design. Saint Laurent and de Bascher first eye one another from across the dance floor; their cruising is shown through the formal simplicity of the tracking shot, the slow gliding movement of the camera from one man to the other out of sync with the frantic animation of the dancers between them, who display the styles of the period in movement. These scenes highlight the visuality at the heart of both fashion and nightlife, something Barthes, in an article written for Vogue Hommes in 1978 on the mythical dance floor at Le Palace, characterized as the true modernity of the nightclub, a space “dedicated to looking.”103 Both biopics of Saint Laurent focus on the designer’s passionate affair with de Bascher, used as a dramatic catalyst to explore Saint Laurent’s “descent” into alcohol, promiscuity, and substance abuse. Both films also cower to a degree of voyeuristic expectation with graphic imagery of gay sexuality, though Bonello’s hedonistic imagery is complemented by random hallucinatory visions:

Figure 3.6  Fashionable cruising. Louis Garrel as Jacques de Bascher in Saint Laurent (2014). Credits: Bertrand Bonello (director), Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, and Christophe Lambert (producers).


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uniformed men turn up at an orgy but it is unclear if they are present to enforce the law or to take part; there are recurrent ambiguous religious motifs, the inclusion of surrealist CGI fantasies of serpents, and finally the disturbing shot of Saint Laurent’s beloved pug Moujik strung out on the kitchen floor having overdosed on the lovers’ pills. (Warhol sketched Saint Laurent’s pug toward the end of his life in 1986, and the designer went on to possess a series of clones called Moujik II, III, and IV.) This vein of morbid humor underscores the film’s tentatively voyeuristic interest in gay sexuality, the serial repetition of cruising, and the possible psychological link to the designer’s compulsive creativity, which is documented by the vast number of sketches and models conceived for the 1976 collection. Rather than recreate the period through pastiche design, Bonello’s film builds up to the Opéra Les Ballets Russes collection by foregrounding both the imagery of hedonistic decadence of the early 1970s and its cultural remains, personified by Helmut Berger, who plays the ailing figure twenty years later. In his autobiography, Berger notes the artistic connection between Visconti and Saint Laurent and a shared ambition to visualize sensuality through the chosen mediums of film and fashion. Berger views the Saint Laurent film as a challenging attempt to capture the spirit of the designer through greater attention to sensorial detail (the emotions, spaces, surfaces, and materials underpinning his artistic development) than to the more notorious personal intrigues.104 While Lespert’s Yves Saint Laurent privileged the private life over the public myth and Bonello’s Saint Laurent summoned the designer’s aesthetic ghosts, nonfiction film has attempted more prosaically to document the late designer at work in the atelier. David Teboul’s pair of made-for-television documentaries Yves Saint Laurent: 5, avenue Marceau and Yves Saint Laurent: Le Temps retrouvé (both 2002) track the creative process and the social interaction of the couturier’s entourage in the final stages of his career. Teboul’s homages are slow-paced, fly-on-the-wall accounts of the creative design and manual labor involved in the production of couture—films that were dryly dismissed by critic Judith Thurman as “Warholian in longueur but without the consolation of sex, brutality, or weirdness.”105 A more ambitious attempt to capture the late style of Saint Laurent was Olivier Meyrou’s documentary feature, Célébration (Meyrou 2006), which was never theatrically released in France following the threat of prosecution by the house of YSL. Despite its misleading title, the film actually demystifies the ailing figure by filming him at work between 1998 and 2001—he died later from a brain tumor in 2008. Capturing its subject on video, Meyrou cuts back and forth

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between naturalistic images of the couture studio and aestheticized ones of Saint Laurent and Bergé, who is shot at work beneath the imposing Warhol multiples. The stylized shots of Saint Laurent gesture to his image, presenting him as a fictional character, the isolated couturier shown to be a regal figure by this late stage, removed from the everyday business and social interaction of the atelier. Meyrou documents the sense of collective panic around his arrival; he descends in slow motion to the atelier, passing by yet another graphic reproduction of his image, again underscoring the serial nature of his public persona. These scenes are punctuated by the pulsating rhythm of François-Eudes Chanfraut’s electronic score, which sonically enhances the image of Saint Laurent as a detached alien floating through his last days. While the articulate Bergé stages his own selfpresentation to perfection, filmed observing the couturier at work, revealing himself to be at once intelligent, pragmatic, and witty, Saint Laurent, shot out-offocus, sleepwalks through life, the ghost of a man subsumed by his own iconicity behind the disguise of his signature black-rimmed spectacles and dyed blond hair. Like his fictional portrayal by Berger, the late Saint Laurent almost began to perform the role of the late Warhol, who similarly wore a defensive mask of self-caricature, constantly playing “himself.” The Saint Laurent films reference Warhol’s multiple reproductions of the designer’s image because the tableaux concentrated, critiqued, and repackaged the myth of the introspective artistic genius so efficiently. Thoretton’s documentary L’Amour Fou includes revealing footage taken from Warhol’s own filmed Factory Diaries of the 1970s capturing the moment when he presented the portrait to the sitter, who is shown to be in awe, flattered by the gesture of elevation granted to him by the images. The Warhol persona, itself an effect of systems of media representation, together with his versions of Saint Laurent are important for projects like Bonello’s biopic or Meyrou’s documentary because they suggest a way of bypassing the idealist strand of fashion history that inevitably singles out star-designers and praises them by focusing more predominantly on atelier-produced couture than on factory-produced readyto-wear and by simplifying the question of authorship, itself a slippery concept in the era of designer branded commodities. Bonello’s film approaches Saint Laurent as a myth, as a mass-media construct as much as an individual couturier and, in so doing, it dodges the conventional biographical approach taken by Lespert’s more corporate-friendly film, which seeks to investigate the person, to explain the historical figure to a contemporary audience rather than grapple with the multiple meanings and interpretations of his stardom. As with Warhol’s


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constructed persona, a critical inquiry into the myth of Saint Laurent requires a rethinking of how fashion and design intersect with discourses of publicity, consumption, fetishism, corporeality, celebrity, gender, identity, sexuality, and visuality. All the films about the designer’s life reiterate in one way or another the importance of visual reproduction to his image. However much they differ in tone, style, or approach, both the biographical films are structured around the received pathological discourse of conventional biography shaping narratives that probe the subject’s self-destructive temperament. Elements of this cult of personality fuel the contemporary trend for biographical representations of designers, giving fashion biopics their dramatic shape and their necessary fiction. The dramatic manipulation of the designer’s life story, however tragic, marginal, or irrelevant it might seem to most consumers, now forms part of branding strategy for the luxury fashion houses. In the case of the Saint Laurent dramas, coming less than ten years after their subject’s death, these long-form fashion films, whether critical or celebratory, mainstream or arty, ultimately complement the revival of the house as one of world’s most commercially successful luxury fashion brands by buying into contemporary culture’s appetite for tales of style and glamour and for stories that exploit and reanimate popular myths of creativity, commerce, and celebrity in the world of high fashion.

Notes 1 Christian Dior, Dior by Dior: The Autobiography of Christian Dior, trans. Antonia Fraser, London: V&A Publications, 2007, p. 51. 2 Dior, Dior by Dior, pp. 52–53. 3 Brian Winston, “Life as Narrativised,” in Brian Winston (ed.), The Documentary Film Book, London: BFI Publishing/Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 89–97, at pp. 89 and 91. 4 Pierre Bourdieu, “L’Illusion biographique,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, Vol 62–63, 1986, pp. 69–72. 5 Mike Featherstone, Consumer Culture and Postmodernism, London: Sage, 2007, p. 81. 6 Stephen Gundle, Glamour: A History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 5; p. 336. 7 Halston’s impact on American fashion of the 1970s and the perceived threat posed by the emerging New York scene to the established position of Paris is documented in Ava DuVernay’s film Battle of Versailles (2016), made for the online platform M2M.

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8 Stella Bruzzi, Undressing Cinema: Clothing and Identity in the Movies, London: Routledge, 1997, p. 31; and “F: Fashion,” Sight and Sound, November 1996, 6(11), pp. 24–28, at p. 28. 9 Hilary Radner, “The Ghost of Cultures Past: Fashion, Hollywood and the End of Everything,” Film, Fashion and Consumption, 3(2), June 2014, pp. 83–91, at p. 87. 10 See Hilary Radner, “The Historical Film and Contemporary French Cinema: Representing the Past in the Present,” in A. Fox, M. Marie, R. Moine, and H. Radner (eds.), A Companion to Contemporary French Cinema, Malden, MA: WileyBlackwell, 2015, pp. 298–313, at p. 295. 11 Raphaëlle Moine, “The Contemporary French Biopic in National and International Contexts,” in T. Brown and B. Vidal (eds.), The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture, Abingdon: Routledge, 2014, pp. 52–67, at p. 60. 12 Gilles Lipovetsky, L’Empire de l’éphémère: La mode et son destin dans les sociétés modernes, Paris: Gallimard, 1987, pp. 95–96. 13 Gundle, Glamour, p. 339. 14 Frédéric Godart, Sociologie de la mode, Paris: La Découverte, 2010, p. 69. 15 Christopher Breward, Fashion, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 21 and 23. 16 See Nancy Troy, Couture Culture: A Study in Modern Art and Fashion, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. 17 Michel Foucault, “What Is an Author?” in Michel Foucault, Language, CounterMemory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, D. F. Bouchard (ed.), Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977, pp. 113–38. 18 Pierre Bourdieu, “But Who Created the Creators?” in J. Tanner (ed.), The Sociology of Art: A Reader, London: Routledge, 2002, pp. 96–105, p. 97. 19 Agnès Rocamora, “Fields of Fashion: Critical Insights into Bourdieu’s Sociology of Culture,” Journal of Consumer Culture, 2(3), 2002, pp. 341–62, at p. 343. 20 See Pierre Bourdieu, Questions de sociologie, Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1984, pp. 196–206, as well as Bourdieu’s earlier collaborative writing on haute couture with Yvette Delsaut, “Le Couturier et sa griffe: contribution à une théorie de la magie,” Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 1, 1975, pp. 7–36. 21 Pierre Bourdieu, Sociology in Question, trans. Richard Nice, London: Sage, 1993, p. 141. 22 In her important sociological study of the creative work of British fashion designers of the 1990s, Angela McRobbie likewise drew on the theoretical writings of both Bourdieu and Foucault to situate the field of power relations that shapes the practices of fashion design as collaborative labor rather than artistic authorship. See Angela McRobbie, British Fashion Design: Rag Trade or Image Industry? London: Routledge, 1998, pp. 12–14. 23 Giuliana Bruno, Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture and Film, London: Verso, 1998, p. 319.


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24 Colin McDowell quoted in Bonnie English, Japanese Fashion Designers, London: Berg, 2011, p. 41. 25 Ligaya Salazar, “Introduction,” in L Salazar (ed.), Yohji Yamamoto, London: V&A Publishing, 2011, p. 14. 26 French press reproduced by Alexis Romano “Yohji Yamamoto and the Museum: A Contemporary Fashion Narrative,” in Salazar (ed.), Yohji Yamamoto, pp. 98–120, at p. 101. 27 Barbara Vinken, Fashion Zeitgeist: Trends and Cycles in the Fashion System, London: Berg, 2004, p. 73. 28 Janet Maslin, “A Madcap Maestro of Haute Couture,” The New York Times , review section, August 4, 1995,, accessed September 20, 2017. 29 Church Gibson, Fashion and Celebrity Culture, p. 186. 30 Peter Marino quoted in Armando Chitolina (ed.), Valentino Garavani. Una grande storia italiana (Valentino, une grande histoire italienne), Cologne: Taschen, 2007, p. 50. 31 Graeme Turner, “Approaching Celebrity Studies,” Celebrity Studies, 1(1), 2010, pp. 11–20, at p. 14. 32 Chris Rojek, Celebrity, London: Reaktion, 2001, p. 14. 33 Tim Edwards, Fashion in Focus: Concepts, Practices and Politics, Abingdon: Routledge, 2010, p. 145. 34 Edwards, Fashion in Focus, p. 149. 35 Patrick Mauriès, “L’Irrégulier,” in J-C. Napias and S. Gulbenkian (eds.), Le Monde selon Karl, Paris: Flammarion, 2013, pp. 7–8; Lagerfeld’s comments on his celebrity are on p. 126. 36 Alicia Drake, The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris, London: Bloomsbury, 2007, p. 307. 37 Judith Thurman, Cleopatra’s Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire, New York: Picador, 2008, p. 182. 38 Vinken, Fashion Zeitgeist, p. 86. 39 See Andrew O’Hagan, “The Maddening and Brilliant Karl Lagerfeld,” The New York Times, October 12, 2015, T Magazine, p. M2168; and Drake, The Beautiful Fall, pp. 375–77. 40 Lagerfeld figures in Michel Houllebecq, La Possibilité d’une île, Paris: Fayard, 2005; Régis Jauffret, Tibère et Marjorie, Paris: Seuil, 2010; and Marie Nimier, PhotoPhoto, Paris: Gallimard, 2010. 41 See, accessed January 2, 2016. 42 On the centrality of narrative and storytelling to contemporary branding see Salmon, Storytelling, 2010.

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43 See Anjali Vats and Leilani Nishime, “Containment as Neocolonial Visual Rhetoric: Fashion, Yellowface, and Karl Lagerfeld’s ‘Idea of China’,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 99(4), 2013, pp. 423–47. 44 Remaury, Marques et récits, pp. 64–68. 45 Walter Benjamin quoted in the Introduction to section one of Sean Redmond and Su Holmes (eds.), Stardom and Celebrity: A Reader, Sage: London, 2007, p. 15. 46 Edmonde Charles-Roux, L’Irregulière ou mon itineraire Chanel, Paris: Grasset, 1974, p. 16. 47 Beaton, The Glass of Fashion, pp. 198–99. 48 See Roland Barthes, The Language of Fashion, trans. Andy Stafford, London: Berg, 2006, pp. 105–10. 49 Gabrielle Chanel quoted by Lourdes Font, “L’Allure de Chanel: The Couturiere as Literary Character,” Fashion Theory, 8(3), pp. 301–14, at p. 302. 50 Valerie Steele, “Chanel in Context,” in J. Ash and E. Wilson (eds.), Chic Thrills: A Fashion Reader, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993, pp. 118–26, at p. 122. 51 Caroline Evans and Minna Thornton, Women and Fashion, London: Quartet Books, 1989, p. 123. 52 Troy, Couture Culture, pp. 17 and 316. 53 See Catherine Driscoll, “Chanel: The Order of Things,” Fashion Theory, 14(2), 2010, pp. 135–58. 54 Breward, Fashion, p. 47. In Breward’s view, it was precisely Chanel’s ability to articulate the myth of creative designer to achieve fame and fortune that singled her out as a transitional figure between the “refined individualism” previously promoted by Worth and the “supposedly democratic individualism” of the later twentieth-century culture of consumption. 55 Ginette Vincendeau, “Chanel on Screen: Female Biopics in the Age of Global Branding,” in B. Vidal and T. Brown (eds.), The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture, London: Routledge, 2013, pp. 176–94. 56 Paul Morand, The Allure of Chanel, London: Pushkin Press, 2008, p. 6. 57 Belén Vidal, “Introduction: The Biopic and its Critical Contexts,” in B. Vidal and T. Brown (eds.), The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture, London: Routledge, p. 20. 58 Church Gibson, Fashion and Celebrity Culture, p. 192. 59 See Emma Wilson, Alain Resnais, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006. 60 For more on Dior, cinema and stardom see Stars in Dior, New York: Rizzoli, 2012. 61 Elizabeth Wilson, Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003, p. 100. 62 An earlier documentary film, Christian Dior: Le Couturier et son double (Christian Dior: The Man Behind the Myth) directed by Philippe Lanfranchi


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in 2005 unpacked the designer myth using archive footage and materials such as Dior’s memoirs and letters to convey the historical context for his rise to prominence. The film also contains interviews with designers Pierre Cardin and John Galliano, who comments on Dior’s business sense as well as his design “revolution.” 63 A.O. Scott, “Review: ‘Dior and I,’ a Documentary That Peers Into a Storied Fashion House,” The New York Times, April 9, 2015, http://www.nytimes. com/2015/04/10/movies/review-dior-and-i-a-documentary-that-peers-into-astoried-fashion-house.html, accessed September 1, 2015. 64 Impressions Dior: Dior et l’impressionisme (Dior Impressions: The Inspiration and Influence of Impressionism at the House of Dior) exhibition, Christian Dior Museum, Granville, France, May 4–September 29, 2013. 65 Florence Müller (ed.), Dior Impressions: The Inspiration and Influence of Impressionism at the House of Dior, New York: Rizzoli, 2013, p. 9. 66 Farid Chenoune, “Meeting in Paradise: Dresses, Flowers, and Women,” in F. Müller (ed.), Dior Impressions, pp. 14–21. 67 Peter Wollen, Paris Manhattan: Writings on Art, London: Verso, 2004, p. 173. 68 Alexandra Palmer, Dior: A New Look, A New Enterprise (1947–57), London: V&A Publishing, 2009, p. 36. 69 Eric Pujalet-Plaà, “Dior, Christian,” in V. Steele (ed.), The Berg Companion to Fashion, London: Berg, 2010, pp. 219–23. 70 Ilya Parkins, Poiret, Dior and Schiaparelli: Fashion, Femininity and Modernity, London: Bloomsbury, 2012, p. 123. 71 Alice Rawsthorn, Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography, London: Harper Collins, 1996, p. 117. 72 Yves Saint Laurent’s retirement speech, press conference January 7, 2002, at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. 73 Breward, Fashion, pp. 85–92. 74 Béatrice Peyrani, Pierre Bergé: Le Faiseur d’étoiles, Paris: Pygmalion, 2011. 75 Pierre Bergé, Lettres à Yves, Paris: Gallimard, 2010. 76 Françoise Sagan, La Petite Robe noire, Paris: Le Livre de poche, 2009, pp. 14–15. 77 Vidal, “Introduction: The Biopic and its Critical Contexts,” p. 3. 78 Radner, “The Historical Film and Contemporary French Cinema,” p. 295. 79 Raphaëlle Moine quoted in ibid., p. 295. See also Raphaëlle Moine, “Le biopic à la française: de l’ombre à la lumière,” Studies in French Cinema, 10(3), 2010, pp. 269–87. 80 Robert Rosenstone, “In Praise of the Biopic,” in R. Francaviglia and J. Rodnitzky (eds.), Lights, Camera, History: Portraying the Past in Film, Arlington: The University of Texas, 2007, pp. 11–30, at p. 14.

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81 The idea of ready-to-wear as a laboratory for couture through the 1970s has been more fully developed by Emma McClendon. See Emma McClendon, “Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography,” in P. Mears and E. McClendon (eds.), Halston + YSL: Fashioning the ’70s, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 31–53. 82 Yves Saint Laurent quoted in Thurman, Cleopatra’s Nose, p. 281. 83 See Yvonne Baby, “Portrait de l’artiste,” Le Monde, December 8, 1983, pp. 29–30; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York 1983 Yves Saint Laurent exhibition catalogue, p. 22. 84 Marguerite Duras, “Le Bruit et le silence” in YSL et la photographie de mode, Paris: Albin Michel, 1988, p. 10. 85 Hervé Guibert, “Aux couleurs des saisons, les toiles peintes d’un voyant charmeur,” in Hervé Guibert, Articles intripides, 1977-1985, Paris: Gallimard, 2008, pp. 290–93. 86 Pierre Bourdieu quoted in Marie-Dominique Lelievre, Saint Laurent: Mauvais Garçon, Paris: Flammarion 2010, p. 77. 87 On the production context for the two biopics, see Géraldine Sarratia and Romain Blondeau, “La Guerre des Saint Laurent,” Les Inrockuptibles, 900, February 27, 2013, pp. 68–71. 88 Giuliana Bruno, Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014, p. 3; p. 5. 89 Simon Watney, “The Warhol Effect,” in G. Garrels (ed.), The Work of Andy Warhol, Seattle: Dia Art Foundation and Bay Press, 1989, p. 115–23, at p. 119. 90 Watney, “The Warhol Effect,” p. 117. 91 Yves Saint Laurent quoted at html, accessed August 24, 2016. 92 Richard Dyer, Now You See It: Studies on Lesbian and Gay Film, London: Routledge, 1990, p. 149. 93 Peter Wollen, Raiding The Icebox: Reflections on Twentieth-Century Culture, London: Verso, 1993, p. 172. 94 Actors who have impersonated Warhol on screen include David Bowie in Basquiat (Schnabel, 1996), Jared Harris in I Shot Andy Warhol (Harron, 1996), and Guy Pearce in Factory Girl (Hickenlooper, 2006). 95 Roland Barthes, Le Système de la mode, Paris: Seuil, 1967 and “Cette vieille chose, l’art,” in R. Barthes (ed.), Oeuvres complètes, 1977-1980, Paris: Seuil, 2002, pp. 1221–26, at p. 1223. 96 Hal Foster, “Death in America,” October, 75, 1996, pp. 36–59, at 39. 97 Wayne Koestenbaum, Andy Warhol, London: Phoenix, 2003, p. 155. 98 Arthur C. Danto, Andy Warhol, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009, p. 41. 99 Guy Debord, La Société du spectacle, Paris: Gallimard, 1967.


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100 Susan Sontag, “Notes on ‘Camp’” (1964) in S. Sontag (ed.), Against Interpretation and Other Essays, London: Penguin, 2009, pp. 275–96. 101 Wollen, Raiding The Icebox, pp. 158–75. 102 On the 1971 collection and “la mode rétro” see Elizabeth E. Guffey, Retro: The Culture of Revival, London: Reaktion, 2006, pp. 117–23. 103 Roland Barthes, Incidents, Paris: Seuil, 1987, p. 66. 104 Helmut Berger, Autoportrait, Paris: Séguier, 2014, p. 314. 105 Thurman, Cleopatra’s Nose, p. 281.

Conclusion: The End of Fashion Film

“Fashion time does not unfold in a smooth, linear way, but is made of various moments that point to its disjointing and acceleration,”1 writes Agnè s Rocamora, who explains how the phenomenon of twenty-first-century “fast fashion” entails the global circulation of commodities, dependent on the intensification of speed, instantaneity, and accessibility, all of which characterize the immaterial conception of fashion promoted by the internet. The emergence of fashion film, heralded as “a new media genre,”2 has certainly contributed to the immersive and interactive quality of online video as a popular form of consumer entertainment. However, it also engages with the history of cinema and its continuing relationship with fashion in the post-digital age. The escalation of fashion imagery in contemporary media culture through photo-sharing and video-sharing apps, digital publishing, and blogging, has, as Caroline Evans has remarked, reconfigured communication after the internet to the extent that the image “has become as real a ‘product’ as the object.”3 Charting the emergence of online fashion moving image through pioneering platforms such as SHOWstudio, Evans notes the rise of fashion film and online content, as a form of branded entertainment by the global luxury brands from the start of the 2010s. “And when luxury brands with global markets such as Yves Saint Laurent, Chloé , Prada, Dior and Chanel no longer sit on the sidelines to watch but themselves produced fashion film, then we know these new forms of fashion film have entered the mainstream,” she concludes. Throughout this book, I have sought to contextualize the mainstream emergence of fashion film as an integral part of the contemporary imagery produced by popular screen and consumer cultures—by both the fashion creative economy and the media entertainment industry. Going beyond the format of the short film, I have also engaged with a wide range of moving-image “products”—from commercials and virals to nonfiction films and biographical dramatizations—to provide a broader critical base and cultural context for the digital present, the current conjuncture in the overlapping histories of fashion and the moving image. To that extent, I have tried to approach fashion from the


Fashion Film

broadly cross-disciplinary perspective of cultural studies as both an intellectual project and academic inquiry fashioned around a radically “contextualist” and “conjuncturalist” approach, to borrow the terms used by Lawrence Grossberg to explain the method of comprehending the function and workings of a cultural object by coming at it from as many different angles and placing it into as many different contexts as possible.4 I have sought to map out a critical cartography of the different forms of fashion moving image in the diverse material contexts necessary to grasp its significance as both a contemporary cultural and commercial phenomenon. While my main focus has been on fashion film as representation, I have also situated it in relation to the wider cultural production of the fashion industry to bring into focus the inherent tension between the cultural forms of creativity and the economic power of commerce. I have also sought to situate contemporary fashion as part of a larger creative economy, one that has been completely reconfigured by the new practices of digital communication and the economics of globalization. As the product of industry and culture, fashion film is a quintessentially contemporary form, one that embodies larger shifts in digital media and the circuits of fashion design, production, distribution, and consumption. Fashion film production is embedded in a larger creative economy, in which brands have responded to the rise of digital communication by taking consumers beyond the promotional display of the garment, accessory or collection to sample the emotional experience of the brand as it is disseminated through online social media. Fashion is now as much a digital representation as it is a material object. Fashion film, however, is more than simply a form of motion editorial for the fashion industry; it is more broadly a product of the age of post-cinema entertainment, in which filmmaking practices have been radically reconfigured after the internet to ensure the trans-media convergence of film, fashion, and consumption. In the process of commodity auteurism, branded directors now routinely work in fashion communications and collaborate (or rather co-brand) with designers on campaign and fashion films. The continuing appeal of narrative cinema is such that fashion brands see motion content production as a lucrative way of blending their visual storytelling techniques with the dramatic structures and conventions of the fiction film. In situating fashion film as a hybrid form of commercial and cultural communication, one key fault line emerges—the contradictory tension between promotion and criticality, between the form’s positioning within marketing and its more varied potential as a vehicle for artistic experimentation and cultural critique. The decision to

Conclusion: The End of Fashion Film


emphasize promotion throughout, even in the context of documentary and feature filmmaking, is intended to underscore the wider commercial contexts for thinking about the moving fashion image of the twenty-first century. New times do indeed require revised modes of critical engagement, but old tools are still relevant. In an attempt to map out the different contexts for fashion film, I have navigated between image and production, between the symbolic and the material. My overarching framework is more broadly influenced by the cultural materialist writings of earlier generations of Marxist intellectuals such as Stuart Hall, Alan Sinfield, Raymond Williams, and Elizabeth Wilson, whose book Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity (1985) first pioneered a theoretical approach to the interdisciplinary study of fashion. As Sinfield explained, cultural materialism situates how ideology “produces, makes plausible, concepts and systems to explain who we are, who the others are, how the world works”5 through the investigation of “the historical conditions in which textual representations are produced, circulated and received.”6 Following the earlier theoretical insights into the workings of the cultural economy developed by Angela McRobbie, Paul Du Gay, and others,7 I have also attempted to consider fashion films as specific types of cultural production, manufactured in different commercial settings and social milieus by a range of creative practitioners and cultural intermediaries such as designers, directors, photographers, editors, art directors, stylists, models, hair and makeup artists, image consultants, advertising executives, and so on. Although the aim of this project has not been to map out the sociological field of fashion film, as such, it has involved analyzing the “culturalizing” ways of marketing fashion—of making fashion signify both culturally and commercially—through the intersection of branded communications, digital moving image, and popular cinema. The challenge has been to uncover how representations of fashion circulate as products through the imagery of both contemporary cinema and consumer culture, how they acquire value and meaning through the codependent processes of production and consumption. As I have argued, promotional culture plays an instrumental role in shaping and designing the “stylized or aestheticized set of visual codes”8 that now define how fashion is mediated and processed through forms of moving image. In what sociologist Celia Lury called the “stylization of consumption,” by which she meant the aesthetic commodification of art and culture through fashion, lifestyle, and design, consumers of all types of fashionmoving image are routinely asked to blend art with commerce and to blur the boundaries between creative production (such as art and entertainment cinemas)


Fashion Film

and commercial culture (such as viral films, behind-the-scenes footage, and ad campaign imagery).9 By crosscutting analysis of feature films, commercials, and short films with reportage, documentaries, and biographical films, I have deployed the category of fashion film as shorthand for the recent aesthetic and technological developments in fashion-moving-image culture, as a portmanteau term for a wide range of creative practices that now commercially underpin the reconfigured screen entertainment of the twenty-first century. As documented in films by directors such as Wes Anderson, Luca Guadagnino, Tom Ford, Sofia Coppola, and Olivier Assayas, certain types of contemporary cinema are now inextricably bound up in the high stylization and commodity aesthetics of fashion. It would, however, be reductive to entirely circumscribe readings of narrative films to their inscription within commercial discourse. It is nonetheless necessary, in my view, to consider the various material contexts in which such representations are conceived and produced. Grouping together the work of the directors listed above is inherently risky because they are not all doing the same thing; nor are they working within similar production contexts despite all being more or less independent. Whereas Assayas might gain exposure beyond the confines of French auteur cinema through the financial backing of a fashion house, Tom Ford, who lacks neither personal fame nor professional recognition from the fashion industry or mainstream media, might indeed consider narrative cinema as the means to acquire greater cultural capital for himself, and, by association, for his independent label. One overarching argument throughout has been that in the context of contemporary fashion the creative impulses behind forms of post-digital filmmaking—“cinema” in the most extended sense—are invariably in tension with the commercial dynamics of marketing and promotion. I have suggested that the early-twenty-first-century reemergence of the fashion film—from the experimental post-photographic production at SHOWstudio through the early 2000s to the mainstream explosion of branded online video entertainment through the early 2010s—renewed the commercial links between fashion and cinema by making them more manifest in the context of digital practices and by embedding them in the structures of mainstream pop culture in the “post-commercial” world of branded entertainment. So, where to now? Have we arrived at the end of fashion film, or is this just the beginning of the digital revolution in fashion and moving-image culture? While the proliferation of digital platforms for commercial content would suggest the demise of fashion film as an isolated category of moving

Conclusion: The End of Fashion Film


image, one could, in parallel, argue that promotion has so successfully permeated all forms of visual culture—evidenced by the box-office success of the more reverential documentaries, biopics, and fiction films—that, far from the demise of the fashion film, this is just the latest stage of an evolving dialogue between the fashion industry and screen culture. Despite mainstream and indie cinema’s propensity to caricature the fashion industry through narrative fiction—from the outraged disgust of Sally Potter’s Rage (2009) to the camp antics of Ben Stiller’s Zoolander (2001)—the box-office success of relatively low-budget documentaries and biopics (Valentino: The Last Emperor took 1.7 million dollars in 2009 while Yves Saint Laurent took over twenty million dollars in 2014)10 would indicate the growing commercial value in this type of covert communication for contemporary brands. After Chanel, Dior, and Saint Laurent, it is now the turn of Alexander McQueen to get the dramatic treatment, which includes (as of 2017) a number of projects in preproduction—a biopic starring Jack O’Connell directed by auteur Andrew Haigh and adapted from Andrew Wilson’s biography and a planned dramatization of McQueen’s relationship with his muse Isabella Blow entitled The Ripper. Avoiding voyeuristic scrutiny of McQueen’s private life, Ian Bonhôte’s documentary McQueen (2018) narrates the subject’s life through his work by drawing on archive footage of his groundbreaking performance-art fashion shows. Dramatic tension is created through an atmospheric orchestral score, symbolic digital animation, and moving testimonials shot in extreme close-up from some of the designer’s closest friends and companions. Unlike these dramatized versions of the designer’s story, Loï c Prigent tackled McQueen’s legacy from the more measured perspective of a documentary testimony to his last shows. With its images of skulls and ropes and its transformation of body bags into formal coats, McQueen’s final menswear collection, The Bone Collector, shown in Milan in January 2010, was read retrospectively as revealing the designer’s state of mind in the month before his suicide. However, it would be misleading to collapse McQueen’s work quite so readily back onto his life, falling into the trap of biographical approaches to fashion, which had already been revitalized in 2015 by the publication of two biographies and a dramatic recreation of the designer’s life for the stage. 11 In his testimony to the designer’s legacy, The Heritage of Alexander McQueen (Le Testament d’Alexander McQueen), first broadcast on French television by Arte in September 2015 and available to stream since on the website, Prigent attempted to dodge the voyeuristic sentimentality attendant to biographical


Fashion Film

accounts of the designer’s notoriety in favor of a more contextualized reading of the two previous women’s wear collections. The Horn of Plenty (Paris, March 2009) was a summative view of McQueen’s progress to date, a pastiche of his career and a hymn to haute couture, followed by the prophetic Plato’s Atlantis collection (Paris, October 2009), in which the designer used technology to offer a speculative vision of the future of fashion. Coming in the wake of the global financial crisis in late 2008, McQueen’s Horn of Plenty, which presented a procession of women chained to giant crocodile leather bags and strangled by sadomasochistic harnesses, made a pointed comment on patterns of consumption, showing fashion through a grotesque prism. As I have argued, McQueen’s sensorial collection Plato’s Atlantis referenced the mythic lost island and was live-streamed by SHOWstudio, accompanied by the projection of visuals by Nick Knight. The digital self-reflexivity of Plato’s Atlantis demonstrated not only the impact of moving image on fashion communication; it also indicated the ways in which “media tends to theorise itself today.”12 Prigent’s documentary capture of the process of making fashion is also located in this self-reflexive space, in which fashion can likewise be said to theorize itself by unpacking its own methods of design and production. Knight’s emphasis on the process of showing the studio through the experimentation potential of moving image points to the future of this “new” online genre as an evolving medium for communicating fashion. At the time of the exhibition celebrating the fashion “revolution” at Somerset House in London in 2009, SHOWstudio included a manifesto within the pages of the catalog, which set out the relevance of online film practice to the fashion industry. Film’s capacity to show clothing as it behaves on the body, together with its power to capture the spirit of fashion at a specific point in time, means that it is perfectly in tune with a generation of young fashion consumers who look beyond the printed page to experience their world instantly, live and online. Fashion film is perhaps’s single most important contribution to the changing face of how fashion is experienced. . . . It has forced the industry’s current shift towards the fashion film as more of it budget is committed to online advertising and has also seen some designers choose film over the more conventional catwalk to show their clothes.13

Showing clothing in motion and giving the designer more control over its display have been cited as the two principal reasons why moving image can be used effectively to supplant the catwalk presentation. In September 2017, Knight— billed as fashion film’s leading auteur14—again collaborated with Gareth Pugh on

Conclusion: The End of Fashion Film


a performance film in lieu of a live show for the designer’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection shown at London Fashion Week. The sixteen-minute experimental film, roughly the length of an average fashion show, was premiered at Europe’s largest screening venue, the British Film Institute’s IMAX cinema in London, the scale of which enabled the creative team to accentuate the immersive public reception of the designs away from the social distractions of the catwalk. Pugh’s previous experiments with film had included accompanying visuals and self-contained films, but this was a much larger-scale collaboration with choreographer Wayne McGregor and performance artist Olivier de Sagazan, who were able to enhance Pugh’s reputation as a forward-looking designer known for deconstructing corporeal norms.15 With looks styled by Katie Shillingford from the designer’s shape-shifting collection, the film began with scenes of Pugh and de Sagazan smearing their bodies in paint and clay to signify the start of the primal process of creativity. This visceral performance used their bodies to give birth to the designs, which, following their articulation through dance, were presented through revolving close-ups of the metallic red garments. The piece culminated in images of five models swathed in bronze mirrored bodices, creating a digital hall of mirrors. While the film was highly innovative in its attempt to capture the mood and tone of Pugh’s collection and to convey the sensibility of his brand, it is less obvious how it worked as a more direct form of communication for the assembled buyers and journalists, given the artistic format, which contained a limited number of shots of the individual garments or looks. The film is best viewed as a media event in itself, as an exercise in brand communication rather than as an effective presentation. The collaboration stands as a truly ambitious attempt to engage with fashion through moving image. Pugh described daring himself to make the film he had always wanted to make to promote his collection, thereby offering an alternative way of narrating fashion to the live catwalk show. The decision to articulate fashion narrative visually through performance art, which is then mediated via the big screen—the traditional apparatus of cinema—indicates the complex negotiation of both “old” and “new” creative formats in the projection of contemporary fashion. “This is about choosing to present the work in a way that hijacks the mind, where the images are expanded to enveloping proportions and connect directly with the depth of feeling behind the work,”16 Pugh remarked on his prospective collaboration. Ultimately, beyond its experimental format as a future vehicle for promotion, the collaboration both revitalized the historical tradition of communicating fashion through the audiovisual experience of cinema, and, in parallel, suggested new ways of thinking about the continuing relationship between fashion and film in the post-cinema age.


Fashion Film

Notes 1 Rocamora, “New Fashion Times,” pp. 61–77, at p. 67. 2 Adam Geczy and Vicki Karaminas, Fashion’s Double: Representations of Fashion in Painting, Photography and Film, London: Bloomsbury, 2016, p. 113. 3 Caroline Evans, “Foreword” to “Yesterday’s Emblems and Tomorrow’s Commodities: The return of the repressed in fashion imagery today (second printing with new Foreword,” in S. Bruzzi and P. Church Gibson, Fashion Cultures Revisited, Abingdon: Routledge, 2013, pp. 77–102, at p. 80. 4 Lawrence Grossberg, “Does Cultural Studies Have Futures? Should It? (Or What’s The Matter with New York?),” Cultural Studies, 20(1), 2006, pp. 1–32. 5 Alan Sinfield, Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading, Oxford: Clarendon/Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 32. 6 Alan Sinfield, Gay and After: Gender, Culture and Consumption, London: Serpent’s Tail, 1998, p. 147. 7 See Angela McRobbie, British Fashion Design: Rag Trade or Image Industry? London: Routledge, 1998 and Paul Du Gay (ed.), Production of Culture/Cultures of Production, London: Sage, 1997. 8 Sean Nixon, “Circulating Culture,” in P. Du Gay (ed.), Production of Culture/ Cultures of Production, pp. 177–234, at p. 208. 9 Celia Lury, Consumer Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996. Lury talks of “an increasingly aestheticized mode of use of goods, that is their use as if they were works of art, images or signs, to be engaged with via processes of fantasy, play, daydreaming and image-making,” pp. 77–78. 10 The unconfirmed box-office figures for the Valentino film are given in Patrick Cabasset, “Mode é moi,” L’Officiel, June 2015, pp. 70–73, passe/articles/254772; and those for Yves Saint Laurent at http://www.jpbox-office. com/fichfilm.php?id=13914, both accessed September 17, 2017. 11 See Dana Thomas, Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, London: Penguin Books, 2015, and Andrew Wilson, Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin, London: Simon & Schuster, 2015. McQueen: The Fashion Visionary Who Broke All The Rules by James Phillips, ran at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London, between August and October 2015. 12 Nicholas Rombes, Cinema in the Digital Age, London: Wallflower, 2009, p. 6. 13 SHOWstudio, SHOWstudio: Fashion Revolution, London: SHOWstudio and Somerset House, 2009, pp. 46–47. 14 Hannah Tindle, “Gareth Pugh and Nick Knight on the future of fashion,” Dazed and Confused, September 16, 2017, article/37426/1/gareth-pugh-and-nick-knight-on-the-future-of-fashion-film-ss18, accessed September 17, 2017.

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15 See Adam Geczy and Vicki Karaminas, Critical Fashion Practice: From Westwood to Van Beirendonck, London: Bloomsbury, 2017, pp. 45–60. 16 Natalie Theodosi, “British Designers Explore New Presentation Formats,” WWD Women’s Wear Daily, September 6, 2017,, accessed September 17, 2017.


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Index 3D imaging technologies  42–3 Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (Fletcher, 2016)  8, 113 Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue (TV show)  10, 78 Acqua di Gioia perfume (Armani)  25 Adams, Amy  63 Adidas  137 Advanced Style (Plioplyte and Cohen, 2013)  78 advertainment  22 advertising  25, 27. See also digital fashion films media  54–5 semiotic structure  40 traditional practices  27 advertising films  22–4 Åkerlund, Jonas  34 Alaïa, Azzedine  97 Alary, Olivier  44 Altman, Robert  133 Amarcord (Fellini, 1973)  55 American Apparel  84 American Crime Story  138–9 America’s Next Top Model  77 Anderson, Jonathan  48 Anderson, Justin  51, 52 Anderson, J. W.  17 Anderson, Wes  8, 55, 56–7, 186 Anger (Anglemeyer), Kenneth  63–4 Annaud Jean-Jacques  155 Antonioni, Michelangelo  63, 111–12 Apfel, Iris  80, 109 Araki, Gregg  52–3 Armani, Giorgio  135, 138, 171 Arnault, Bernard  131 Arora, Manish  3 art. See also fashion films advertising  25, 51–2 aesthetic commodification  185 Bourdieu’s sociological account  140

Arte  88, 98, 104, 105, 148, 187 Asfour, Gabi  29 Ashley, Maxine  33 Assayas, Olivier  64–7, 186 Astaire, Fred  111 At the Department Store (Klein, 1963)  91, 96 Austen, Jane  3 Austerlitz, Saul  35 Austin, Thomas  77, 80–1 auteur/auteurism  35, 47, 57, 140–2 body fetishism  49 celebrity  60 commodity  56–63 fashion designer as  139 storytelling  81 authorship  140–2. See also auteur/ auteurism collaborative understanding  141 creative  141 Avedon, Richard  92, 111 Aveillan, Bruno  22 Avery, Dick  111 Azalea, Iggy  3 Babyface (Am I Ugly?) (Schuller, 2016)  30 Bacall, Lauren  104, 155 Backstage (Coulisses)  97 Bailey, Christopher  39 Bailey, David  9, 169 Bailly, Monique  158 Baker, Sean  53 Balenciaga (fashion house)  154, 160 Ball, Deborah  138 Balmain (fashion house)  105–7, 144 Balmain, Pierre (fashion designer)  106–7, 146, 156 The Balmain Line (La Ligne Balmain, Prigent, 2014)  105–7 Bardot, Brigitte  104 Barthes, Roland  150, 170

Index Baschet, Bernard  94 Baschet, François  94 Baudelaire, Charles  110 Baudrillard, Jean  22 Beaton, Cecil  82, 150 Beauty I See You Everywhere (Ferguson, 2014)  30 Beauty Project (Ferguson, 2014)  30 Becker, Jacques  104 Beckham, David  68 The Beguiled (Coppola, 2017)  60 “Being Boring” (Pet Shop Boys)  34 Belle de Jour (Buñuel, 1967)  163 Benjamin, Walter  110 Bérard, Christian  155 Bergdorf Goodman  79, 80 Bergé, Pierre  96, 160–1, 166, 170, 171, 175 Berger, Helmut  161, 162, 172, 174, 175 Bergman, Ingrid  58, 155 Berthelot-Guiet, Karine  22 Bertolucci, Bernardo  44 Beyoncé  34, 60 “Beyoncé as Mrs Carter in H&M” (Åkerlund, 2013)  34 Bhattacharya, Bishi  3 Bialobos, Olivier  131 A Bigger Splash (Guadagnino, 2015)  57, 58 A Bigger Splash (Hazan, 1974)  51 “A Bigger Splash” (Hockney, 1967)  51 Bill Cunningham New York (Press, 2010)  108–11 Binoche, Juliette  66 biographer  134 biographical illusion  134 biography  133, 134 Biophilia (album, 2012)  34 biopic (biographical films)  2, 10, 133, 135, 136–7, 162–3 as critically derided genre  162 defined  162 flashback in  167 French  136 intersection of fiction and history  163 montage sequence  167


narrative format  136 rise of  162 Björk  34, 42, 43 Blade Runner (Scott, 1982)  137 The Bling Ring (Coppola, 2013)  61 Blonde on Blonde (Bob Dylan)  115 Blow, Isabella  187 Blow-up (Antonioni, 1966)  3, 111–12 Blumenfeld, Erwin  43–4 BMW  23 Boccaccio ’70 (Visconti, 1962)  154 bomber jackets  64 Bonello, Bertrand  159, 161, 162, 163–4, 166–8, 170, 172, 173–4, 175 Bonham Carter, Helena  54 Bonhôte, Ian  187 Bon Marché department store  105 Bordwell, David  23 “Born This Way” (Lady Gaga)  46 Boscono, Mariacarla  38 Boulard, Agnès  99 Bourdieu, Pierre  134, 140, 176 n.4, 177 n.18–22, 181 n.86 Bourdin, Guy  43, 44–5, 67 Bowie, David  21, 58 branded entertainment  39–41 Brando, Marlon  64 brands fashion houses operating as  17 operating as media  17 visual storytelling of  17 “Brave (Suffering / Beautiful)”  34 Brave (Lee, 2016)  34 Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Edwards 1961)  4 Breward, Christopher  139, 151, 179 n. 54 Bright New Things (Schuller, 2014)  30 British Fashion Council  76 British Film Institute  189 Broadway By Light (Klein, 1958)  91–2 Brody, Adrien  55 Bruni, Carla  143 Bruni Tedeschi, Valeria  163 Bruno, Giuliana  141, 168 Bruzzi, Stella  52, 79–80, 101, 135 Buñuel, Luis  163 Burberry  17–18, 39–40 The Business of Fashion  2, 32, 96

208 Cahiers du cinéma  66 Caine, Michael  9 Callas, Maria  168 Call of the Wild (Wellman, 1935)  142 Campany, David  111–12 Campbell, Naomi  43, 143 Canal Plus  99 Cannes Film Festival  86, 161 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity  52 Capel, Arthur “Boy”  152 Caplan, Lizzy  1 Cardin, Pierre  154 Carmen (Sevigny, 2017)  48 Cartier  22 Casablancas, John  143–4 Casino Royale (Campbell, 2006)  8–9 Castello Cavalcanti (Anderson, 2013)  55 Catroux, Betty  166 Catwalk (Leacock, 1995)  143 catwalk videos  6–7, 10, 40 Caujolle, Christian  44 Célébration (Meyrou, 2006)  174–5 celebrity personalized allure of  146 celebrity designer  139 Cenicola, Tony  109 César award  161, 166 Chalayan, Hussein  41–2 Chambers Brothers  166 Chanel (fashion house)  146–54 Chanel, Coco  11, 134, 135, 150–5, 164 Dim Dam Dom  154 French films  153–4 Hollywood and  153 late life/style  154 self-imposed exile  154 Chanel N°5 The Film (Luhrmann, 2004)  59 Chanel Solitaire (Kaczender, 1981)  152 Chanfraut, François-Eudes  175 Change Is a Beautiful Thing (Ferguson, 2014)  30 Chao-ti Ho  84 Chaplin, Geraldine  149 charismatic authority  139 Charles-Roux, Edmonde  150 Chehet, Florence  158

Index China  85–8, 149 China Blue (2006)  84 Chloé  146 Choupette (pet cat)  148 Christian Dior (fashion house)  131–2 brand ambassadors  155 City of Light fragrance  60 Dior and I (Tcheng, 2012)  131, 132, 156–8 documenting  155–8 haute couture collections  157 museum  157 Christian Dior et moi (Dior)  132 Christiane F. (Edel, 1981)  21 Chronology  38 Church Gibson, Pamela  7, 14 n.8–9, 62, 71 n.52, 74 n.94, 82, 144, 153 Cinématographe  93 cinéma vérité  86 Cisco  36 Clark, Larry  47–9, 50 Clementine, Benjamin  39 Close the Loop: sustainable fashion through recycled clothes (2015)  28 The Clothes Show (TV show)  10 Clouds of Sils Maria (Assayas, 2014)  65–6 Clueless (Heckerling, 1995)  3 Coco (1991)  23 Coco Before Chanel (Coco avant Chanel, Fontaine, 2009)  151, 152, 153 Coco Chanel (Duguay, 2008)  151–2 Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (Kounen, 2009)  151, 152–3 Cocteau, Jean  46 Coddington, Grace  83 Collins, Petra  20 Come Together (Anderson, 2016)  55 Comme des Garçons  142 commodity auteurism  56–63 Compulsive Viewing: The Films of Guy Bourdin  44 conceptual fashion film  41–7 Condé Nast  37 The Conformist (Bertolucci, 1970)  44 consumer capitalism  22 consumer culture  134 consumer fashion  169

Index Cook, Pam  59, 60 “Cookieman”  33 Coppola, Gia  20 Coppola, Roman  55 Coppola, Sofia  60–1, 67, 186 corporate communication  28 Costume Institute  80 Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York  82 Cotillard, Marion  49–50, 131 Courrèges, André  154, 165 Couture Culture: A Study in Modern Art and Fashion (Troy)  140 couture show  131 Cover Girl (Vidor, 1944)  3 covert communications  22 craft heritage  89 Craik, Jennifer  114 Crash (Cronenberg, 1996)  137 Crawford, Cindy  143 creative myths  139 creativity  102 cross-media promotion  27 Cruz, Penélope  139 cultural fetishization of designer labels  140 Cunanan, Andrew  138–9 Cunningham, Bill  108–11 Cunningham, Chris  23–4 Cyrus, Miley  137 Dada-inspired collection (Spring/Summer, 1983)  103 The Damned (Visconti, 1969)  172–4 Daney, Serge  35 The Darjeeling Limited (Anderson, 2007)  8, 55 Darling, Candy  172 Davis, Judy  54 The Day Before (Le Jour d’avant) (Prigent, 2009)  88, 92, 98, 99–100, 101, 102, 103–4, 105 Dazed Digital  36 Dean, James  64 Debord, Guy  90–1, 172 Decarnin, Christophe  106 Define Beauty  30 De Jong, Wilma  77, 80–1 Deleuze, Gilles  29 Delevingne, Cara  149


de Maigret, Caroline  65 Demy, Jacques  90 Deneuve, Catherine  49, 163 de Sagazan, Olivier  189 Deshaies, Josée  173 De Sica, Brando  67 designer fashion films  131–76 Chanel (see Chanel, Coco) Dior (see Dior, Christian (designer)) Lagerfeld (see Lagerfeld, Karl) lives of designer  136–46 productive proliferation  136, 138 Saint Laurent (see Saint Laurent, Yves) Warhol legacy  168–76 designer fashions  169 designer labels, cultural fetishization of  140 design studios  144 The Devil Wears Prada (Frankel, 2006)  3, 7, 81, 83, 145 Diana, Princess of Wales   6 Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (Vreeland, 2011)  78, 82 Dienst, Richard  35 Dietrich, Marlene  155, 163, 172 digital drive  76 digital fashion films  17–68 branded entertainment  39–41 commodity auteurism  56–63 conceptual  41–7 editorial convergence  36–9 hybrid content  32–5 hyper-advertising  21–4 mini-film event  21–4 narrative  47–56 promotional genres  63–8 spreadable content  36–9 visual communications  18–21 digital moving image  8, 11–12 Dim Dam Dom (TV show)  10, 91, 93, 154 Dior, Christian (designer)  11, 107, 132–3. See also Christian Dior (fashion house) belle époque  155 Gallup poll  137 individual passions  157 neo-romanticism  155 personal insecurities  132 Dior and I (Tcheng, 2012)  131, 132, 156–8



Dior Homme  47–8 Dior Impressions exhibition  157 Director X  33 Discovery Channel  85 docu-fiction  80–1 documentary fashion film  10–11, 75–123, 133. See also designer fashion films behind-the-scenes  11, 75–84 commercial manipulation  79–80 contemporary modes  77–8 everyday fashion  108–11 growth of  76 journalistic trend  10–11 model  113–23 online participatory cultures  76 output of  78–9 photographer  111–13 reframing history  102–8 staging of labor  84–90 Doillon, Lou  20 Dolce & Gabbana  50 Dong (Jia, 2006)  86 Donhauser, Ange  29 Doré, Garence  108 Doucet, Jacques  140 Doutreleau, Victoire  96 Dovima  111 Dressed Up For . . .  99 Dries (Holzemer, 2017)  138 Drive (Winding Refn, 2011)  64 Du Gay, Paul   185 Dunaway, Faye  81, 114–18 Duras, Marguerite  165 D.V. (Vreeland)  82 Dyer, Gillian  40 Dyer, Richard  24 Dylan, Bob  115, 167 Eastman, Carole  115 Eaux d’Artifice (Anger, 1953)  64 e-commerce videos  40 Editing Kate project  43 “Edition 24” collection (YSL)  75 Editions 7L  147 editorial convergence  36–9 editors of Vogue magazine  81–4 Edwards, Tim  146 Égoïste (1990)  23 Elbaz, Alber  33

Elite modeling agency  119 e-look books  40 Elsaesser, Thomas  57 Elson, Karen  33  38 Emma (Austen)  3 Entwistle, Joanne  113 Esquire  115 e-tailers  40 e-tail initiative  64 Evangelista, Linda  143 Evans, Caroline  113–14, 183 “Evening Hours” (Cunningham’s weekly column in New York Times)  108 Experiments in Advertising  43–4 Eyes of Laura Mars (Kershner, 1978)  114–15 Factory Diaries (Warhol)  175 Falbalas (Becker, 1944)  155 Fallen (Frilet)  25 Fanning, Elle  67 Fargo, Linda  79 fashion cinema/film and  141 digital revolution  32 feminism and  29 gradual transformation  1 personalisation of  139 symbolic importance of stereotypes  139 The Fashion Body (2009)  46 The Fashion Business (Klein, 1962)  91 fashion capital  140 fashion designers  131–76. See also specific designer as brand  144 corporate globalization of  143 as creative director  18 filmmaker and  135 as fine artist  137 function  133–4 glorification of  139–40 individualizing creative work of  140 as luxury artist  137 private lives of  139 public profile  131 screen projections  133 social identity  134

Index Fashion Film  1 fashion films definition of  4, 5–6 designer (see designer fashion films) digital (see digital fashion films) documentary (see documentary fashion film) emergence  183 end of  183–9 as hybrid genre  6 as individual film texts  17 legitimacy as specific genre  12–13 music videos and  32–5 paradox of  4 pop culture  7–8 as product of multimedia convergence  6 fashion houses. See also specific fashion houses content producers  17 motion content  18, 19 operating as brands  17 as production studios  5 fashion industry nonfiction representations  67–8 online filmmaking  6–7 Fashion in Film festival  12 Fashion in France (Klein, 1984)  93, 96–7 fashion-literate public culture  78 fashion-literate publics  2 fashion models. See model/modeling fashion photographer. See photographers fashion publishing  5–6 fashion television  11 Fashion TV  10, 66 The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk  104 Featherstone, Mike  134 feature film narrative  8 Fellini, Federico  55 feminism, and fashion  29 Fendi  146 Ferguson, Kathryn  30 Ferré, Gianfranco  133 fetishism  49, 68 Field, Patricia  81 film. See also fashion films as fashion brand  8–10 industry understanding and use of  7


Finotti, Luca  31–2 The First Monday in May (Rossi, 2016)  78 First Spring (Yang Fudong, 2010)  53 Firth, Colin  9 Fitzgerald, F. Scott  59 Flickr  36 Fly 16 x 9  37 Fondazione Prada  54 Forbes  32 Ford, Tom  19, 33–4, 61–3, 186 Forgacs, David  112 Forth, Jane  171 Foster, Hal  171 Foucault, Michel  29, 140 Frahm, Laura  34 Franca: Chaos and Creation (Carrozzini, 2016)  78 Frank, Jean-Michel  160 Frankie (Berthaud, 2005)  81, 113, 118–19 Freedom! 90 (song)  144 freeze-frame  111 French biopic  136 Friedman, Vanessa  10 Frilet, Kevin  25 Frost, Matthew  1 Funny Face (Donen, 1957)  3, 8, 81–2, 111 Fury Road (Miller, 2015)  53 FX (US cable channel)  139 Gabrielle handbag  65 Galliano, John  42, 135, 138, 143, 158 The Game of Love and Chance (Marivaux’s play)  97 gangsta rap  33 Garavani, Valentino  134, 135, 171 Garbo, Greta  104 The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (de Sica, 1970)  44 garment industry  85–8 Garrel, Louis  173 Gaultier, Jean-Paul  42, 97, 102–4, 107, 133 gay geo-social networking  17 The Gentlewoman  50 Giabiconi, Baptiste  51, 149 Giammetti, Giancarlo  145 Giannini, Frida  19, 135 Gibbons, Dave  8



Gil, Adi  29 Giorno, John  43 Girl Model (Redmon and Sabin, 2011)  113, 114, 119–20 global screen  22 Godart, Frédéric  139 Goldwyn, Samuel  153 Gosling, Ryan  64 Gossip Girl (TV show)  11 Goude, Jean-Paul  23, 55, 150 GQ  143 Grainge, Paul  59 Grand Theft Auto IV (video game)  147 Grant, Barry Keith  122 Grant, Richard E.  133 The Great Gatsby (Luhrmann, 2013)  59–60 Green Carpet Challenge Capsule Collection  28 Greggory, Pascal  51 Grès, Mme  172 Grierson, John  133 Grindr  17 Grossberg, Lawrence  184 grouppage magazine ads  145 Gstaad  145 Guadagnino, Luca  38, 57–9, 186 Guardian  3 Guattari, Félix  29 Gucci advertising campaigns  21 Flora fragrance  23–4 Guerlain  22 Guibert, Hervé  165 Gundle, Stephen  134, 139 Hack, Jefferson  25 Hadid, Gigi  107 hagiographic  78, 100 Haigh, Andrew  187 Hall, Grayson  94, 95 Hall, Stuart   185 Halston  134, 135, 144, 176 n.7 Handprint (Nighy, 2013)  28 The Hands of Hermès (Laffont and DupuyChavanat, 2011)  38 Handyside, Fiona  61 Harper’s Bazaar  82, 91–2 haute couture  137

Haynes, Todd  167 Hazan, Jack  51 Headpieces for Peace (Mitrani, 2011)  29–30 Hemmings, David  111 Hepburn, Audrey  4, 111 Here Now (Araki, 2015)  53 The Hire  23 Hirst, Damien  63 H&M  28, 147 Hockney, David  51 Hogben, Ruth  46 Holi (festival of color)  3 Holi Holy  3 Houellebecq, Michel  147 Hourani, Rad  48 House of DVF (2014–15)  77–8 House of Versace (Sugarman, 2013)  138 How, Jan  43 How To Be Parisian: Wherever You Are (de Maigret)  65 How To Marry A Millionaire (Negulesco, 1953)  170 hybrid content  32–5 hyper-advertising  21–4 hyper-cinema  22–3 hyper-spectacular beauty  23 I Am Love (Guadagnino, 2009)  38, 57 i-D platforms  36 Il Gattopardo (The Leopard, 1963)  145 Il lavoro  154 image-sharing platforms  36 IMAX cinema in London  189 I’m Not There (Haynes, 2007)  167 Impossible Conversations (Luhrmann, 2012)  54 impressionism  157 Inárritu, Alejandro González  23 Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (Anger, 1954)  64 Incredible Machines (Ferguson, 2016)  30 Insalaam Inshalom exhibition  29 Insensate (Hogben and Knight, 2008)  46 Inside Chanel  149 Inside Dior (TV show, 2017)  10 Inside the Mothership (Prigent, 2014)  105 Instagram  1, 17 Instagram Stories  17

Index Intercontinental Hotel  168 Interview  142 In the Mood for Love (Wong, 2000)  24, 49, 67 In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye (Bailey and Barbato, 2012)  78, 81 The Ipcress File (Furie 1965)  9 Iris (Maysles, 2014)  78, 80 Jackson, Samuel L.  9 Jacobs, Marc  100, 104, 105 J’Adore (Christian Dior's fragrance)  155 Jarmusch, Jim  58–9 Jauffret, Régis  147 JC Penney  135 Jean, James  53 Jean-Paul Gaultier At Work (Prigent, 2015)  102, 103, 104–5 Jenkins, Henry  14 n.4, 37, 38 Jenner, Kendall  107 Jenner, Kylie  33 Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer (Yudin, 2015)  137–8 Jia Zhangke  85–8 John Casablancas: L’homme qui aimait les femmes (Woroniecki, 2016)  143–4 Johnson, Dakota  20 Jones, Grace  97 Jonze, Spike  52 Jordan, Donna  171 Journey to Italy (Rossellini, 1954)  58 Jules et Jim (Truffaut, 1962)  55 Jumper (Anderson, 2014)  51, 52 Kael, Pauline  117 Kapadia, Asif  39, 40 KARL (inventory label)  148 Karl Lagerfeld se dessine (Prigent, 2013)  148 Kawakubo, Rei  142 Kawase, Naomi  54 Kayek, Dice  46 Kedves, Jan  98 Keeve, Douglas  142–3 Kelly, Grace  155 Kennedy, Jacqueline  145 Kenzo World  52 Khan, Nathalie  47 Khelfa, Farida  97


Kidman, Nicole  23, 59 Kids (Clark, 1995)  48 Kingsley, Ben  54 Kingsman franchise  8–10 Kingsman: The Golden Circle (Vaughn, 2017)  8, 10 Kingsman: The Secret Service (Vaughn, 2015)  8 Kitt, Eartha  143 Klein, Jeanne  94 Klein, Steven  50 Klein, William  68, 81, 89, 90–7 Kloss, Karlie  17 Knight, Nick  3, 11–12, 33–4, 42, 43, 46, 47, 75, 124 n.1, 188 Knightley, Keira  149 Knudsen, Vibeke  163 Koda, Harold  109 Koestenbaum, Wayne  171 Koons, Jeff  63 Kruger, Diane  81, 118–19 La Belle et la bête (Cocteau, 1946)  155 LaChappelle, David  35 “La Collection de Paris”  172 Lady Blue Shanghai (Lynch, 2009)  49–50 Lady Gaga  33–4, 43, 46 Lagerfeld, Karl  49, 51, 59, 65, 78, 88, 89, 105, 135, 146–9, 152, 171 brand image  147–8 celebrity lifestyle  105 commercial collaborations  147 international celebrity  147 outspokenness  146 signature look  147 Spring/Summer 2011 runway show  154 Lagerfeld Confidential (Lagerfeld Confidential, Marconi, 2007)  148 La Légende de Shalimar  22 L’Américaine (Agron, 2015)  41 L’Amour (Warhol, 1971)  147, 170–1 L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Resnais, 1961)  154 Lanvin  33 Lanvin, Jeanne  150 La Règle du jeu (Renoir, 1939)  153–4 A Larry Clark Project-Paris Session (Clark)  48–9



Late Night (TV show)  83 Leduc, Violette  96 Lee, Abbey  53 Lee, Spike  34 Lemonade (Beyoncé, 2016)  34 Le Monde  98 Leon, Humberto  52 L’errore (De Sica, 2014)  67 Les Amants (Malle, 1958)  154 Le Sang d’un poète (Cocteau, 1930)  46 Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Bresson, 1945)  172 Les Enfants du paradis (Carné, 1945)  155 Le Sept  173 Les Liaisons dangereuses (Vadim, 1960)  154 Lespert, Jalil  159, 161–2 Letters to Yves (Bergé)  161 L’Homme par Loïc Prigent  105 Libération  99 Lieberman, Alexander  92 lifestyles  134 public staging of  139 Lim, Carol  52 Lindfors, Viveca  118 Lipovetsky, Gilles  22–3, 69 n.8, 137 Liu Xiaodong  86 Lively, Blake  68 live streaming  76 Lodge, White  28 L’Odyssée (2012)  22 The Loire Valley Clog Maker (Demy, 1955)  90 London Fashion Week  76, 189 Loren, Sophia  155 Luchford, Glen  19, 20–1 Lucifer Rising (Anger, 1972)  64 Luhrmann, Baz  54, 59–60, 63 Lury, Celia  185 LVMH  38 Lynch, David  49–50 MacLaine, Shirley  153 Mademoiselle C (Constant, 2013)  78 Mademoiselle Privé exhibition  149 Madonna  6, 35 magazine  37 magic fashion  43 Ma Ke  86–8 Malle, Louis  154

Mangano, Silvana  52 Mannequin (Gottlieb 1987)  3 The Man Who Fell To Earth (Roeg, 1976)  58 Marc Jacobs-Louis Vuitton (Prigent, 2007)  104 Marconi, Rodolphe  148 Marcus, Neiman  83–4 Marie Antoinette (Coppola, 2006)  61 Marivaux  97 Martel, Lucrecia  54 Martin, Catherine  59, 60 Martin, Penny  50–1 The Masters (Schuller, 2014)  30 Matisse  161 Maysles, Albert  80 McConaughey, Matthew  68 McGregor, Wayne  189 McQueen, Alexander  42, 46, 135, 138, 187–8, 190 n.11 McQueen, Steve  39–40 McRobbie, Angela  185 media advertising  54–5 media trend  1 Meisel, Steven  33, 54, 55 Mendes, Silvano  40 Menkes, Suzy  1 meta-fashion film  1 Metropolitan Museum of Art  80 Meyrou, Olivier  174–5 Michael, George  144 Michele, Alessandro  19, 20 Miele, Matthew  79 Mildmay Club, London  20 MilkFed  60 Millar, Mark  8 Miller, Jessica  75 mini-film event  21–4 Missoni by Anger (Anger, 2010)  63–4 Mitrani, Jessica  29–30 Miu Miu  53, 54 Mizrahi, Isaac  135, 142–3 Model (Wiseman, 1980)  113, 120–3 model/modeling  113–23 commodification self  114 corporeal technique  114 defining  114 as inanimate dummies  113–14 social media  107

Index Moine, Raphaëlle  136, 162 Mondino, Jean- Baptiste  35 Mondrian, Piet  165 Monroe, Marilyn  155 montage  166, 167 Montana, Claude  97 Montez, Mario  172 Morand, Paul  153 Moreau, Jeanne  154 More Beautiful Women (Knight, 2000)  43 Moretz, Chloë Grace  66 The More Visible They Make Me, The More Invisible I Become (Knight, 1995)  43 Morgan, Michèle  153 Morrissey, Paul  170–1 Moschino (fashion house)  137 Moss, Kate  3, 43, 113, 143 motion-capture technology  53 Mouglalis, Anna  152–3 Moulin Rouge (Luhrmann, 2001)  59 MOVEment  25 moving image  17 Moving Image & Content  32 Mr. Burberry (McQueen, 2016)  39–40 Mufti, Adam  44, 148 Mugler, Thierry  133 Mulier, Pieter  131, 158 Müller, Florence  82, 125 n.17, 180 n.65–6 music video fashion film and  32–5 historians of  35 photography  12 types  35 Muta (Martel, 2011)  54 “Mutant Brain”  52 mutual borrowings  80–1 Myers, Seth  83 My Fancy High Heels (2010)  84 My Life, My Card (Anderson, 2011)  56–7 My Little Princess (Ionesco, 2010)  48 Mysterious Skin (Araki, 2004)  52 The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice (Coppola, 2016)  20–1 n°5 fragrance  153 Nanook of the North (Flaherty, 1922)  142


narcissism  68, 145–6 narrative fashion films  47–56 Needham, Gary  31 Nef, Hari  20 Nelson Best, Kate  36 The Neon Demon (Winding Refn, 2016)  67–8 Net-a-Porter  28, 38, 40, 148 Netflix  79 neurasthenia  164 Newton, Helmut  49, 67, 163 New York Times  1, 79, 108, 143, 156 Nieland, Justin  50 Nighy, Mary  28 Nike  31, 32 NikeLab  32 Nimier, Marie  147 Niney, Pierre  166 Nocturnal Animals (Ford, 2016)  62–3 Noir (Schuller, 2013)  46 Norris, Lucy  85 Northern Soul movement  20 No Sweat (2006)  84 Notebook on Cities and Clothes: An Intimate Portrait of Yohji Yamamoto (Wenders, 1989)  3, 141–2 Nowhere (Araki, 1997)  53 Nowness  25, 30, 38–9, 42, 68 O’Connell, Jack  187 off-gender flux  58–9 Once and Forever (Lagerfeld, 2015)  149 Once Upon a Time (Lagerfeld, 2013)  149 O’Neill, Alistair  93, 108 online filmmaking  6–7 online image-sharing culture  1 online motion content  18 Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, 2013)  59 “On the Street” (Cunningham’s weekly column in New York Times)  108 Opening Ceremony boutique and brand  52 Opéra Les Ballets Russes collection  161, 165, 168, 174 Ora, Rita  137

216 Orth, Maureen  139 Oxford Economics  76 Özbek, Rifat  6–7 Panipat, India  84–5 Paquin, Jeanne  140 Paradis, Vanessa  23 Paris, France  155 Paris Frills (Falbalas, Jacques Becker 1945)  104 Paris Match  131–2 Paris-Shanghai: A Fantasy (Lagerfeld, 2009)  149 Pasolini, Pier Paolo  51–2 Past Forward (Russell, 2017)  54 pastiche  24 Patou, Jean  146 Peled, Micha  84 Penn, Irving  92 Pernet, Diane  3, 51 Perry, Katy  138 Personal Shopper (Assayas, 2016)  65, 66 “Peter Getting Out of Nick’s Pool” (Hockney, 1966)  51 Pet Shop Boys  34 Phillips, Arianne  9, 10, 20, 63 photographers  35, 111–13 photography freeze-frame  111 music video and  12 postwar fashion  117 still  35, 44–5 studio  111 Photography and Cinema (Campany)  111 Picasso  161 Pilati, Stefano  75 Pimpton, George  82 Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal company  25 Pinterest  1 Pitbull  33 Place to Passage (Chalayan, 2003)  41–2 Plato’s Atlantis  46 Poiret, Paul  140 Polaroid photos  171 Pompidou Centre in Paris  141 Ponte, Gideon  75 pool paintings  51

Index pop art  165, 169 “Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two figures)” (Hockney, 1972)  51 post-print culture  37 Powell, Helen  27 Prada, Miuccia  25, 53–5, 60 Prada Candy  55 Prada Candy Florale  55 Prada Candy L’Eau  55 Prada Epicentres  60 Presle, Micheline  155 Press, Richard  108–11 Prêt-à-Porter (Altman, 1994)  81, 112, 133, 135 Pretty Woman (Marshall, 1990)  4 Prigent, Loïc  97–108, 148, 187–8 Primus, Barry  115 Prince  35 Project Runway  77–8 promotion  17–68. See also digital fashion films conceptualizations of  27 cross-media  27 as rhetorical tool  25 promotional culture  25 promotional film  24–5 promotional genres  63–8 Proust, Marcel  161, 164 Publicis  22 publicity  27 Puce Moment (Anger, 1949)  64 Pugh, Gareth  46, 188–9 Puzzle of a Downfall Child (Schatzberg, 1970)  81, 113, 115–18 Quai des brumes (Carné, 1938)  153 Quality magazine  111 Qualley, Margaret  52 Quynh Mai  32–3 Rabanne, Paco  95, 165 Radner, Hilary  7, 8, 61, 125 n.34, 136, 162 Rage (Potter, 2009)  81, 187 Ready-to-Wear Right Now (Prigent, 2012)  99 reality shows  143 Red Desert (Antonioni, 1964)  63

Index Red Epic  12 Redgrave, Vanessa  20 Redmon, David  113, 119–20 Reincarnation (Lagerfeld, 2014)  149 Remaury, Bruno  90, 149 Remember Now (Lagerfeld, 2010)  51 Renoir, Jean  153 Renov, Michael  79 Renzi, Eugenio  86 Resnais, Alain  154 The Return (Lagerfeld, 2013)  149 Rewear It (2016)  28 Richie, Nicole  79 Rihanna  107, 137 Ritchie, Guy  23 Ritts, Herb  35 Rive Gauche (YSL brand)  160, 163, 164 Roberta (Seiter, 1935)  81 Roberts, Julia  4 Rocamora, Agnès  90, 108, 183 Rochas, Marcel  155 Rochefort, Jean  94 Rodic, Yvan  108 Roeg, Nicolas  58 Rohrwacher, Alice  54 Roitfeld, Carine  78 Rojek, Chris  146 Romand, Anaïs  161 Rosenstone, Robert  163 Rossellini, Robert  58 Rousteing, Olivier  106–7, 144 The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson, 2001)  55 Ruby, Sterling  63 Russell, David O.  54 Ryan, Nicky  53 Rykiel, Sonia  171 Sabin, Ashley  113, 119–20 Sagan, Françoise  161 Saillard, Olivier  103 Saint Laurent (Bonello, 2014)  161, 162, 163–4, 167–8, 170, 172, 173–4, 175 Saint Laurent, Yves  11, 49, 64, 134, 135, 158–76 Autumn/Winter 1965 collection  165 Bergé and  96, 160–1, 166, 170, 171, 175 cult status  158–9


death  160 as detached genius  164 early collections  164 glory days  161 as last great couturier  164 modernity  164 naked photograph  158–9 pop art  165 public profile  164–5 sex appeal  159 slim physique  159 Spring-Summer 1971 collection  172 stardom/popularity  163 stylistic impact on social change  160 Warhol and  169–76 Saint-Marie, Anne  115 SÄMEN  32 Sand, Lou Andreas  115, 116, 118 Sanda, Dominique  44–5 Sander, Fendi  38 Sander, Jil  38, 42, 57 Saunders, Jonathan  51, 52 Savile Row  9 Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf ’s (Miele, 2013)  78–9, 123 Schatzberg, Jerry  113, 115–18 Schiaparelli, Elsa  172 Schneider, Romy  154 Schneider, Roy  118 Schuller, Kristian  46 Schuller, Marie  30, 46 Schuman, Scott  108 Scorcese, Martin  135 Scorpio Rising (Anger, 1963)  64 Scott, A.O.  156, 180 n.63 Scott, Jeremy  48, 135, 137–8 Scott, Ridley  49 Scott, Tony  23 Seamless (Keeve, 2005)  143 Secrets of Selfridges (Taplin, 2014)  78 self-consciousness  1 Selfridges  30 Senna, Ayrton  39 Sephora  147 The September Issue (Cutler, 2009)  3, 78, 81, 83–4 Serroy, Jean  22–3 Sevigny, Chloë  48 Sex and the City (King, 2008)  8

218 Seydoux, Léa  55 Seyrig, Delphine  154 A Shaded View on Fashion Film  3, 25 Sheringham, Michael  110 Shillingford, Katie  189 short art fashion films  6 SHOWstudio  3, 11, 30, 42–7, 183, 186, 188 behind-the-scenes footage  75 collective output  11–12 Future Tense project  63 Shu Uemura  49 Sieff, Jeanloup  158 Signé Chanel (Signed Chanel, Prigent, 2005)  88–9, 101 Silverstone, Alicia  3 Simmel, Georg  110 Simmons, Chris  19, 20–1 Simon, Mireille  103 Simons, Raf  57, 58, 131, 132, 156–8 Sinfield, Alan  185 A Single Man (Ford, 2010)  61–2 Skrillex  33 Sleep (Knight, 2001)  43 Sleep (Warhol, 1963)  43 Slimane, Hedi  144, 172 Smelik, Anneke  90 The Smell of Us (Clark, 2015)  48 Smith, Alison 94, 126 n.35 Smith, Paul  135 Smith, Whitney  135 Snapchat  17–18 Snow, Carmel  111 Snowbird (Baker, 2016)  53 social media  4, 6, 17, 76, 99, 101 all-black casting  20 campaign film  18 commentators  10 consumption  21–2 designer brands  36–7 designers  144 memes  33 models  107 presentational platforms  134 video (see video(s)) society of spectacle  172 The Society of the Spectacle (Debord, 1967)  90–1 Sontag, Susan  172

Index Soul Scene  20 Sozzani, Franca  78 Spierring, Linda  97 split screen  168 spreadable content  36–9 Stamp, Terence  51–2 “Standing On The Sun”  34 The Stars (Are Out Tonight)  58 Station to Station (album)  21 Steele, Valerie  150 Stewart, Kristin  65, 66, 149 Stew & The Negro Problem  34 Stiller, Ben  3, 81, 112–13, 187 still image  12, 36, 46, 47, 117 Still Life (Jia, 2006)  86 still photography  35 stop-motion animation  30, 149 The Store (Wiseman, 1983)  123 storytelling  56 Stravinsky, Igor  152 Streep, Meryl  81, 83 Street, Sarah  112 street photographer  111 studio photography  108–11 “stylization of consumption”  185 Swanson, Gloria  153 Sweat X  84 Sweet (Knight, 2000)  43 Swinton, Tilda  57–9 synthetic kaleidoscope  46 Szymanski, Adam  81, 125, 127 n.55, 127 n.57 The Tale of Thomas Burberry (Kapadia)  39, 40 Tangerine (Baker, 2015)  53 Tcheng, Frédéric  131, 156 Teboul, David  174 television show  10 Tennant, Stella  149 Teorema (Pasolini, 1968)  51–2 Testino, Mario  19 A Therapy (Polanski, 2012)  54 Theron, Charlize  23, 155 Thin White Duke persona  21 The Thirteen Most Beautiful Women (Warhol, 1964)  43 Thompson, Kay  111 Thoretton, Pierre  160, 175

Index threeASFOUR fashion collective  29 The Three Buttons (Varda, 2015)  54 Thurman, Judith  147, 174 Tiffany & Co  60 “Time Has Come Today”  166 TIME magazine  39 Titanium Lion prize  52 Tonight or Never (LeRoy, 1931)  153 Tony and Susan (Wright)  62 Tory Burch  41 transformative repetition  172 Transformer  54 Trembled Blossoms (Jean, 2008)  53 Troy, Nancy  140, 150–1 The True Cost (Morgan, 2015)  84 Truffaut, François  55 Turlington, Christy  143 TV programming  11 24 City  86 24 Hours  75 Twilight film franchise  66 Twitter  1 Tyrnauer, Matt  144–5 Uhlirova, Marketa  12, 14 n.7, 15 n.16, 70 n.25, 124 n.6 Ulliel, Gaspard  161 Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (Smith, 2010)  135 Under (Frilet, 2014)  25 Unravel (Gupta, 2012)  84–5 Unzipped (Keeve, 1995)  79, 142–3 Useless (Wuyong, Jia, 2007)  85–8 US Sundance Channel  98 Vadim, Roger  154 Valentino, Shane  63 Valentino: The Last Emperor (Tyrnauer, 2008)  144–5 Van Assche, Kris  47 Vangheluwe, Patrick  138 Van Herpen, Iris  34 Vanity Fair  131 Van Noten, Dries  138 Vaughn, Matthew  8 Venice International Film Festival (2007)  86 vérité documentary  156 Vernallis, Carol  35


Versace, Donatella  138 Versace, Gianni  138–9 Veruschka  111 Vidal Sassoon: The Movie (Teper, 2010)  78 video(s) catwalk  6–7, 10, 40 e-commerce  40 music (see music video) online consumer traffic  36 video-driven journalism  17 Vimeo  36 Vincendeau, Ginette  152 Vine  1 Vinken, Barbara  142, 147 Vionnet, Madeleine  150 Virgin Suicides (Coppola, 1999)  60, 67 Visconti, Luchino  154, 161, 172–3, 174 visual artists  28–9 visual arts  22 visual communications  8, 18–21 visual paratexts  18 Vodianova, Natalia  22 Vogue  2, 6, 10, 78, 91–2, 115, 117, 131, 143 editors of  81–4 Vogue China  6, 14 n.5 Vogue Film  6 Vogue Hommes  173 Vogue Italia  43, 171 Vogue Mini  6 Vogue Paris  171 Vogue TV  6 Volkswagen  147 von Furstenberg, Diane  77 Vox Humana (Griffin, 2009)  63 voyeurism  68 Vreeland, Diana  78, 82, 92, 94, 111, 165 Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History (Orth)  139 The Waist (Schuller)  46 Wang, Alexander  33 “Wangsquad”  33 Warhol, Andy  43, 161, 164 career  169 celebrity portraits of  169

220 iconicity  169 legacy  168–76 Saint Laurent and  169–76 Watney on the effect of  168–9 Warhol By Bailey (Bailey, 1973)  169 Warner, Helen  11 Wassup Rockers (Clark, 2005)  48 Watney, Simon  168–9 #WeBelieveInThePowerOfLove (Finotti, 2017)  32 Weber, Bruce  34 Weber, Max  139 Weisberger, Lauren  81 Wenders, Wim  3, 135, 141–2 Wernick, Andrew  25 Westwood, Vivienne  135 Whalley, Margaret  41 Whitaker, Forest  133 Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?, Klein, 1966)  81, 89, 91, 92, 93–6 Wiggert, Christian  119 Williams, Amie  84 Williams, Pharrell  149 Williams, Raymond  25, 27, 185 Williamson, Judith  27 Wilson, Andrew  187 Wilson, Elizabeth  44, 185 Winding Refn, Nicolas  67–8 Winehouse, Amy  39, 132 Winston, Brian  133 Wintour, Anna  3, 83–4, 113 Wiseman, Frederick  113, 120–3

Index Wissinger, Elizabeth  113, 114 Wollen, Peter  35, 170 Women’s Wear Daily  131 Wong Kar-wai  23, 24, 49, 67 Woo, John  23 Wood, Aylish  31 Woroniecki, Hubert  143–4 Worth, Charles Frederick  137 Wright, Austin  62 Yamamoto, Yohji  3, 42, 135, 141–2 Yang Fudong  53 Youku  6 Young, Loretta  142 YouTube  36 Yves Saint Laurent (Lespert, 2014)  161–2, 165–7, 174 Yves Saint Laurent (YSL, fashion house)  158–9, 160 Yves Saint Laurent: 5, avenue Marceau (Teboul, 2002)  174 Yves Saint Laurent: Le Temps retrouvé (Teboul, 2002)  174 Yves Saint Laurent-Pierre Bergé: L’Amour Fou (Thoretton, 2010)  160, 175 Zappa, Frank  115 Zimmermann, Raquel  33, 46 Zoli modeling agency  120 Zoolander (Stiller, 2001)  81, 112, 187 Zoolander No. 2 (Stiller, 2016)  3, 112–13

Plate 1  Early experiments in digital fashion film. Sweet (2000). Credits: Nick Knight (director) and Jane How (stylist).

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Plate 2  Early experiments in live broadcasting. Sleep (2001). Credits: Nick Knight (director), Simon Hoxton (stylist), and Jonathan Kaye (stylist). The pixilation of this screen capture is due to the quality of early digital technology.

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Plate 3  Fallen (2015). Credits: Kevin Frilet (director), Psycho (producer), and Nicolas Petris (director of photography).

Plate 4  Fallen (2015). Credits: Kevin Frilet (director), Psycho (producer), and Nicolas Petris (director of photography).

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Plate 5  Jumper (2014). Credits: Justin Anderson (director) and Jonathan Saunders (designer and stylist).

Plate 6  Jumper (2014). Credits: Justin Anderson (director) and Jonathan Saunders (designer and stylist).

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Plate 7 Givenchy Le Rouge (2016). Credits: Marie Schuller (director), SwissKiss (producer), and Nicolas Loir (director of photography).

Plate 8 Givenchy Le Rouge (2016). Credits: Marie Schuller (director), SwissKiss (producer), and Nicolas Loir (director of photography).

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Plate 9  Bright New Things (2016) from the film directed by Marie Schuller for the initiative by London department store Selfridges to promote UK sustainable design labels. Credit: Marie Schuller (director).

Plate 10 Change Is a Beautiful Thing (2014) from the film directed by Kathryn Ferguson for the Selfridges Beauty Project. Credit: Kathryn Ferguson (director).

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Plate 11 The Raf Simons début couture presentation for Christian Dior in 2012 from the documentary film Dior et moi (Dior and I, 2014). Credits: Frédéric Tcheng (director) and Guillaume de Roquemaurel (producer).

Plate 12 The Masters, a campaign film by Marie Schuller and SHOWstudio for Selfridges (Autumn/Winter 2014). Credit: Marie Schuller (director).

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Plate 13  Raf Simons in the Dior studio in Dior et moi (Dior and I, 2014). Credits: Frédéric Tcheng (director) and Guillaume de Roquemaurel (producer).

Plate 14  Jean-Paul Gaultier at work reimagining his most famous designs in a scene from Loïc Prigent’s documentary, Jean-Paul Gaultier travaille (2015). Credits: Loïc Prigent (director), Bangumi, ARTE, GEIE (producers).

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Plate 15  Reshma, a worker in a textile recycling plant in Panipat, India, in Meghna Gupta’s short documentary, Unravel (2012). Credit: Meghna Gupta (director and producer).

Plate 16  Stories from unwanted clothes in Unravel (2012). Credit: Meghna Gupta (director and producer).

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Plate 17  Fashion film as cultural critique. Headpieces for Peace (2011), directed by Jessica Mitrani for threeASFOUR. Credit: Jessica Mitrani (director).

Plate 18  Fashion film as cultural critique. Headpieces for Peace (2011), directed by Jessica Mitrani for threeASFOUR. Credit: Jessica Mitrani (director).

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Plate 19 Kristin Stewart in Personal Shopper, directed by Olivier Assayas (2016). Credit: Olivier Assayas (director).

Plate 20  Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria, directed by Olivier Assayas (2014). Credit: Olivier Assayas (director).

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Plate 21  Gaspard Ulliel as designer Yves Saint Laurent in the recreation of the 1976 “Opéra-Ballets Russes” collection in the biographical film Saint Laurent, directed by Bertrand Bonello (2014). Credits: Bertrand Bonello (director), Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, and Christophe Lambert (producers).

Plate 22  Striking a pose. Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent framed by his muses Loulou de la Falaise (Léa Seydoux) and Betty Catroux (Aymeline Valade) in Saint Laurent (2014). Credits: Bertrand Bonello (director), Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, and Christophe Lambert (producers).

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Plate 23  Directing fashion. Elle Fanning as Jesse, the ingénue model, with director Nicolas Winding Refn on the set of The Neon Demon (2016). Credits: Nicolas Winding Refn (director), Elle Fanning (actor), and ©Gunther Campine (photographer).

Plate 24  Model cannibals. The fashion shoot from The Neon Demon. Credit: Nicolas Winding Refn (director).

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Plate 25  Elle Fanning as Jesse in The Neon Demon. Credits: Nicolas Winding Refn (director), Elle Fanning (actor), and ©Gunther Campine (photographer).

Plate 26  Disturbing beauty. Examining the impact of fashion media on young girls in Marie Schuller’s contribution, Am I Ugly?, to the Nowness series Define Beauty. Credit: Marie Schuller (director).

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Plate 27  The catwalk film. Live-streaming the runway in Plato’s Atlantis, directed by Nick Knight for Alexander McQueen, Spring/Summer 2010. Credits: Nick Knight (director), Ruth Hogben (director), and Alexander McQueen (designer).

Plate 28 “This is not a show”: fashion presented through film (Gareth Pugh S/S 2018). Credits: Nick Knight (director), Gareth Pugh (designer), Younji Ku (editor/art director), Katie Shillingford (stylist), and Olivier de Sagazan (artist).

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Plate 29 “This is not a show”: fashion presented through film (Gareth Pugh S/S 2018). Credits: Nick Knight (director), Gareth Pugh (designer), Younji Ku (editor/art director), Katie Shillingford (stylist), and Olivier de Sagazan (artist).

Plate 30 “This is not a show”: fashion presented through film (Gareth Pugh S/S 2018). Credits: Nick Knight (director), Gareth Pugh (designer), Younji Ku (editor/art director), Katie Shillingford (stylist), and Olivier de Sagazan (artist).

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21-09-2018 04:20:48