The death of the video commercial


Fashion films have become the branding medium of choice

So, what are fashion films? Fashion films are a new genre which allow brands to publish information about themselves in a more informal way, rather than strictly commercial.  Traditionally, if a brand wanted to be in the video space they would create 30 second commercials for TV that would cost a lot of money.  With the advent of the internet, cheaper bandwidth faster broadband and the appearance of the DSLR camera, photographers who traditionally did still’s campaigns were increasingly asked to shoot some video. These initially started as ‘making of’, videos, a behind-the-scenes look at how a stills campaign was created. These would be shown on Youtube or Vimeo and shown on big flat screens in stores such as Guess or Levi’s.

Eventually some clients got a bit funkier and realised, “hold on a minute, we’ve already got the location and the models. With a little bit of an extra spend we can now shoot a little commercial.” Because they weren’t flighting it on TV, it could last longer than 30 minutes, and they could still take three or five minutes from it to show in stores if they wanted.

This is how a fashion shoot went from a behind-the-scenes insert to a fashion video. It became increasingly mainstream and advertising agencies suddenly decided to embrace this new genre properly. Suddenly the visuals and soundtrack had a narrative added. There needs to be a story, as you can’t just have pretty pictures like a slideshow, people will get bored. Agencies began tying stories from their print campaigns into the videos and the fashion video was born.

This trend has only been around for five years.  It began in the USA, with legendary American fashion photographers such as Bruce Weber and David Sims. Karl Lagerfeld, who designs for Chanel, also decided to become a film-maker and has embraced it in a huge way. The Chanel fashion videos are legendary and Louis Vuitton have tried their hand too.

Fashion video’s are being led by fashion brands, who initiated this concept, but fashionable brands such as Rolls Royce, Panerai, and Diesel sunglasses have joined in.

In the early years, a video on Armani shot by the likes of  Weber, would be filmed on big cameras and shown at film festivals. However, they weren’t suited to Cannes because they weren’t commercial and not suited to Sundance because it wasn’t indie enough. It was also too short. Enter the fashion film festival.  Started by Fred Sweet in La Jolla, California, the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival now attracts 11,000 entries from around the world. Sweet’s transition from owning a modelling agency in San Diego made him all the more suited. Fashion film festivals soon spread around the world to culturally-inclined cities such as New York, London, Moscow, Madrid and Berlin.

Steam 1886, shot in Cape Town, was based on the Victorian Steam Punk genre, which hasn’t really hit South Africa yet, but is big overseas. It’s an imagined era with top hats, waistcoats and beautiful imagery all set to a narrative.  It was shot in eight hours with eighteen cast members and three make-up artists. The whole movie only cost around R10,000, as most do it for their showreel and everyone gets a credit at the end.

A fashion film should be no more than two-and -a-half minutes, any longer and people will get bored. Steam 1886 was technically a collage that we put a story to, but the winners at the last La Jolla festival had the most amazing narrative. The winner, Roshambo by the brand Free People, had a proper story with a script. If it has a story, people will watch it all the way to the end.

La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival is the first international fashion film festival founded in North America and the world’s largest gathering of fashion filmmakers. Since it’s inception in 2009 it has become the global marketplace for fashion film. Filmmakers combine creativity, beauty, and fashion in this yearly event, known as the Cannes of fashion film. Hundreds of fashion filmmakers attend from around the world representing the top 1% of fashion films produced worldwide with showreels curated from the dynamic and the exploding world of fashion film. It’s a glimpse of what’s trending in the

minds of the world’s top fashion houses, designers, and stylists, interpreted through the lens of their filmmaking counterparts. Adrian Lazarus of Mercury Productions in Cape Town, won the Best Director award at last years festival. He explains exactly what a fashion film is.LaJollaPoster

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