Challenging Fashion Through Film

Challenging Fashion Through Film

Fashion film is typically considered an extension of advertising – a seductive tool to encourage clicks and consumerism. But the power of film can also be harnessed to subvert stereotypes, challenge ideals and propose new visions. Ahead of an inspiring showcase screening and discussion at ASFF 2018, Nilgin Yusuf, Creative Director at UAL’s London College of Fashion, explores how creatives are using film as a tool for change.

ASFF: What types of films are you bringing to ASFF 2018, including genres, styles and subject matters?
NY: Challenging Fashion through Film is the title of London College of Fashion’s showcase this year, and the films that have been chosen bring active questioning to the expected subject matter and format of fashion film. The pre-conception about fashion film is that it is a form of advertising, a 2.5 minute film purely to promote brands or to seduce viewers into buying more – but in fact, it can also be quite a powerful platform to ask questions, critique the industry or represent alternative views.

The programme is as diverse as our student body and encompasses everything from mini-documentaries, dance pieces, short fiction, experimental – some are hybrids of the above. The programme reflects some of the issues that are occupying our filmmakers, be they current students or past.

ASFF: Can you expand on the key themes featured in your showcase?
NY: The idea of tolerance and being more open comes across in several of the films; appreciating difference and valuing the other. Fashion likes to put most things into boxes and trying to live up to this accepted image is not always a positive thing; it can be a source of tension, anxiety and depending on the cultural context, it can even be dangerous.

For example, Boys Don’t Cry by Turkina Faso commissioned by Dazed Digital speaks to young men in Moscow who wear make-up – an act of courage and defiance. Eliska Kyselkova’s film, Feeling Blue, examines mental health and depression; her protagonist is Melanie Gaydos, a model with a rare genetic condition. Abuse within the industry, cultural stereotypes and the pressures of the beauty industry are all here.

In a sense, these films are a series of personal responses to the society, culture and the fashion industry. If this all sounds a bit downbeat or heavy, I would add that the films are also entertaining, absorbing. visually affecting and entertaining!

ASFF: What is your chosen topic for the discussion, and why is it important to foreground in 2018?
NY:The topic for discussion is Can we challenge fashion through film? and we will be speaking in more detail about how these films evolved and how they have been responded to. The award-winning film-maker and Creative Fellow at LCF Kathryn Ferguson is on the panel. She has shown through her work that it is possible to make commercial fashion films that tackle real issues within the industry such as ageism, whiteness and beauty stereotypes. We will examine the influence of filmmakers to raise awareness of issues, potentially impact the industry and challenge existing approaches – as much as we can in half an hour!

ASFF: How significant is the short form to emerging filmmakers, and how is it changing in the 21st century?
The short form film has totally transformed the fashion communication industry. Historically, the key stories in fashion were communicated through fashion photography and the still image but as the entire industry – in line with everything else – has shifted online,  the short film has become a key vehicle through which fashion editorial, news, instruction, aspiration, fantasy, reality and merchandising is channelled.

Most people receive  their understanding of the fashion world through their phones, digital platforms and social media. While magazines still exist and proliferate, there can be no denying the impact of the digital revolution on fashion. Context is all; a fashion film for Instagram might be 15 seconds long but then other digital platforms invite longer and deeper engagement with their subject – so fashion film will continue to morph depending on what the demands of the dominant digital mediums.

ASFF: The cinematic landscape is constantly growing to incorporate new media and techniques. What future projects are your students working on?
NY: A growing number of our Creative Direction for Fashion students are working with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to give fashion consumers and brands a richer and more engaging experience. The possibility of introducing mixed realities to fashion communication offers viewers the chance of simultaneously travelling to the past and the future. It offers up many exciting opportunities for specific fashion contexts such as retail and catwalk.

ASFF: What are you most excited about screening and attending at this year’s festival?
NY: For our students who visit ASFF, the event is always an education in itself; they can leave their comfortable fashion zone and see what’s happening in Thriller, Animation, Experimental etc which opens horizons and can feed into their practice.

I’m excited about screening all the London College of Fashion filmmakers in one programme because they are the future. The Aesthetica Short Film Festival is always such a treat; the programme is so rich and varied and we always come away inspired and enriched by the experience.

ASFF 2018 runs 7-11 November. Tickets now available. Find out more here.

1. Still from Dual, Pixie Tan and Afra Zamara. Costume Designer: Phoebe Chen.