It is the prerogative of fashion to innovate - the creation of new forms of ornamentation; new phantasmagoric experiences for the consumer. The goal of fashion is the absolute and universal aestheticization of the world upon it's own logic. In that sense, fashion has increasingly enlisted other mediums for it's own ends, notably - film. Specifically, the very-high-budget advertisement, as beautiful as a full length film, and as striking as any brilliant advertisement. While there is no current name or special privilege given to this manner of film, there likely soon will be, as the industry is keen to develop it: Prada has been an episodic financier since 2012; Kenzo has comissioned one per season since last year. This fall, Burberry and Moncler - industry behemoths - as well as the young British label Grace Wales Bonner, have joined in the trend.
It took until the 2010s to see the rise of this trend, with some adverts being outsourced to Darren Aronofsky - the director of Black Swan who directed the 'film' for the perfume La Nuit de L'Homme by Yves Saint Laurent - or Martin Scorsese, who did work to promote Chanel Bleu. It is a paradoxical trend of advertising - the product is sidelined, it becomes secondary to the experience it wishes to evoke: the filmmaker presides over the writing of the script, has the eye on the casting and realizes the film; the brand, which only appears in the credits, plays a much more subtle role.
In That One Day, the latest short film by Miu Miu, a pioneer of the genre, all the characters are dressed by the label. "For the rest, I was left a total freedom," said the director Crystal Moselle. "I chose unknown actresses, a group of friends I met on a train in New York. Miu Miu simply incorporated their clothes into the story." The film is a sensitive portrait of a group of skateuses freed, in a manner which integrates beautifully the feminist pedigree of the house.
This is not a coincidence - brands using directors deemed compatible with their identity. Thus, Miu Miu solicits only women of auteur cinema (Zoe Cassavetes, Agnes Varda, Naomi Kawase), Prada favours heavyweights like Roman Polanski, while Kenzo prefers them more underground talents, like Gregg Araki (Of Nowhere fame) or actress and musician Carrie Brownstein. Moncler recently chose Spike Lee, whose film Brave, a classic musical tribute to New York, coincides with the opening of their new boutique on Madison Avenue.
"The automotive industry was the first to give filmmakers a budget to shoot short films" says Jean-Noël Kapferer, a researcher at the Inseec Luxury Institute. Since 2001, for example , BMW has collaborated with Ang Lee , Wong Kar-wai and Alejandro González Iñárritu. This brand specialist is not surprised that fashion has followed suit with the automobile industry: "By working with big names of the seventh art, luxury homes prove that they remain upscale and that they are capable to renew oneself. In addition, the conventional advertising that is imposed through a television spot or a magazine page has become obsolete."
At a time when consumers are free to view the content they want on YouTube, Instagram or Facebook, brands prefer to spend millions on movie productions than in print campaigns and print ads. "These short fiction with product placement is a less aggressive way to invite users to enter their world," decrypts Jean-Noël Kapferer. They also have the advantage of broadening the target audience to fans of filmmakers, transformed de facto into potential buyers. "Online, everyone - the brand, the director, the actors - already have their own audience with whom they will communicate," explains Brian Phillips, who produces Kenzo's films. Burberry understood this. The cast of The Tale of Thomas Burberry, a trailer-like biopic directed by Asif Kapadia (Amy), features the young Lily James, ten films on the clock and half a million Instagram followers.
Watched, liked, shared, these new formats have a longer life than the print or television ads associated with the release of a product. They may even be presented at festivals or rebroadcast in theaters. Season after season, the collections pass, but the cinematographic object remains. As Miu Miu and Kenzo prepare their next short films for the spring-summer 2018, ready-to-wear brands are also investing in the niche: H&M has just released a film directed by Wes Anderson, starring famed actor Adrian Brody.