As with most industries, the digital revolution has had a profound effect on fashion, pushing the fashion industry to become more multi-faceted than ever. By increasing accessibility and social scope, modern media has forced fashion into a new era of marketing and content creation that extends past the one-dimensional editorials and advertisements of the past. The most obvious result of this progress has been the rise of new media, such as fashion films.
There is much dispute over the inception of the fashion film due to the many forms they take on. Brands such as Alexander McQueen, have been filming their fashion shows since the late 90; however, McQueen’s are some of the few considered to be 'films' due to the fact that his shows (think VOSS) take on a theatrical and immersive nature rather than conforming to a traditional catwalk format. It wasn’t until the birth of YouTube in 2005 that videos and films began to take shape, forming into what we consider to be the fashion films of today. The popularization of YouTube allowed labels to reach a wider audience through videos, and because of this, many early fashion films were used primarily as a marketing tool. Although the initial use of videos by fashion houses was a slow-growing process, 2010 signified a turning point in the conjunction of fashion and film as an art form, but also a vehicle for storytelling.
In 2010, Karl Lagerfeld made his directorial debut with Remember Now, a sixteen-minute short film for Chanel. Remember Now was the first video of its kind - one with a clearly narrative story-line that focused on the characters and scene as much as it did the clothing. As the opulent adventures of famous models in St. Tropez played out on screen, the film set the stage for most future films in terms of style and content. These elements of decadence and aestheticism are maintained throughout almost every film, regardless of brand or film function, be that editorial, commercial, political, or artistic.
Following Chanel’s release of Remember Now, fashion films began to gain popularity among luxury brands such as Gucci, Prada, Miu Miu, and Proenza Schouler. Fashion films completely transformed the tactics used by labels to market their clothing and accessories, by making it possible for fashion houses to involve their consumers in ways that were not possible via print advertisements. Films posed themselves as a multi-functional alternative to traditional forms of advertisements, whose purposes remained one-dimensional in their objective (to sell product). The diverse properties of videos made it feasible for brands to combine commercial and editorial purpose, while also creating aesthetic, and often socially active works of art that made fashion about more than simply clothes. Through films, houses were able to align themselves with specific messages and generate coherent narratives that extend past the visual. It's not a stretch to suggest that fashion films drastically increase consumer's engagement with a brand and due to their less aggressive approach to advertising, they can also have more of an effective subconscious impact.
More often than not, modern fashion films are the product of collaborations, enhancing their artistic, storytelling, and even commercial qualities. Some of the most notable alliances include Proenza Schouler and Harley Weir, Miu Miu and Chloe Sevigny, Gucci and Petra Collins, and Prada and Wes Anderson. All of these collaborations give the fashion films produced by these brands an impressive edge that perfectly blends creative vision, product placement, and narrative. Additionally, working with high profile artists and directors brings in interest from other consumer markets not reached through traditional fashion marketing.
As digital platforms develop and pervade the artistic, social, and commercial climate, it is necessary for industries to adapt. Ultimately, what fashion films represent is the bridging of medias necessary for the industry to grow and advance in response to requirements of the digital age. What these films have proved is that when fashion acclimates to new innovations, there is a serious pay off. These short films are just the beginning of fashion’s continued expansion into modern media channels.