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A few months ago, as part of Fashion in Film Agnes Rocamora chaired a conversation between myself, Lou Stoppard of SHOWstudio and Sally Bolton of Sunday Times Style (who happens to be doing a PHD on the death of the fashion image).  The discussion was about fashion on film and how it’s represented.  The main criticisms about the majority of fashion film were that a) there’s rarely an engaging narrative, b) fashion photographers trying their hand at film making and invariably failing to create compelling films and c) lack of budget.  The point are interlinked in that without proper time, consideration and funds, a good fashion film just won’t blossom out of thin air.

A few weeks later, AnOther Magazine premiered MOVEment at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre.  Seven short films.  Seven world renowned choregraphers.  Seven fashion designers.  Jefferson Hack co-founder of Dazed Group in collaboration with Alistair Spalding, artistic director of Sadler’s Wells conceived a project that would bridge the world of fashion and dance with film being the interconnecting medium.  The result?  A project that for me, not only showcases the power of the inter mingling of disciplines but also proves what time, consideration and funds (courtesy of Ford, who collaborated with AnOther on the project to celebrate their new Vignale concept) can bring to the representation of fashion on film.  And in this case, it’s emotion elicited by physical movement and gestures.  Clothes are brought to life not by a listless pretty stare-into-the-camera backgrounded by blurred out cornfield but by the pained expression of a Wuppertal Tanztheatre dancer’s face or pointed toes of a prima ballerina pounding to the beat of a drum.  The clothes – particularly in the Prada/Tanztheater Wuppertal film – are creased, rumpled and imperfect and yet still evocative.  Even with a meagre understanding of the world of dance, it’s possible to sense emotion, energy and atmosphere in every one of these films.  Coupled with what film directors and editing can bring to the final product, you have hit that rarely-reached zenith – fashion films that are equal to, if not superior to their still counterparts.   In MOVEment, you have films that collectively move the mind.


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Costume: Stephen Jones Millinery
Choregraphy: Jasmin Vardimon
Performance: Nevena Jovanovic
Film: Matthew Donaldson

This film was made in collaboration with Ford Vignale, the partner to AnOther’s MOVEment project.  Ford Vignale isn’t a new car model but a concept that means future Ford ranges will have added experience-based services as well as a finish inside the car that focuses on craftsmanship and attention to detail.  In short, Ford cars with luxury features and services.  The Ford Mondeo in the film has been given the Vignale treatment, which Stephen Jones has drawn inspiration from with his neoprene ensemble and head pillow, made to resemble the seat of a car.  Jasmin Vardimon came up with a choreography that is based on body mapping as the dancer Novena Jovanovic puts pen to body in a series of slowly played out hand gestures.  Jones is no stranger to working with fashion in movement with his many collaborations with music, stage and film but this project presented a different kind of challenge to create an abstract narrative.  In true 21st century working style, Jones wasn’t even physically present for the shoot of the film and instead directed over Skype as he was in Japan.    

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Costume: Calvin Klein Collection
Choregraphy: Jonah Bokaer
Performance: Jonah Bokaer and Julie Kent
Film: Daniel Asham

The ensembles of Francisco Costaof Calvin Klein’s strict lines and spare minimalism is echoed in a choreography that is similarly rigorous as Jonah Bokaer and Julie Kent throw shapes in a surreal space, backgrounded by a hypnotic black ball that bounces to the beat of the music.

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Fallen
Costume Prada
Choreography: Dancers of Tanztheater Wuppertal
Performance: Clémentine Deluy, Scott Jennings, Daphnis Kokkinos, Eddie Martinez, Thusnelda Mercy, Julie Shanahan, Julie Anne Stanzak, Fernando Suels Mendoza, Anna Wehsarg, Paul White.
Film: Kevin Frilet

This was perhaps one of my favourite films of the MOVEment project, which perhaps coincides with its length – ten minutes – the longest of the films.  In an ensemble cast of Tanztheater Wuppertal dancers, Prada’s clothes of the “everyday” take on heightened emotions of relationships and the roller coaster that loving (or hating) someone can bring.  This is where acting comes into play as much as dancing.  In contrast to the stage where you might not clearly see the expression of their faces, here in HD, everything feels amplified.  The Arthur Simonini also builds up the crescendo of feeling, leaving you breathless and even a bit teary.     

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Costume Gareth Pugh
Choregraphy: Wayne McGregor
Performance: Daniela neugebauer, Fukiko Takase, James pett & Louis McMiller at Company Wayne McGregor
Film: Ruth Hogben

Gareth Pugh and Ruth Hogben have set a high benchmark for fashion films with their early pioneering work together and they do it once again here, with the help of Wayne McGregor.  Bodies knee-jerk from fluid rapidfire movement of brittle straw like texture and the entrapped Araki-esque state of being, suspended in some strange dimension.  The movement in this case is abstracted with Hogben’s way of filming and lighting as you’re not quite sure when body or clothing begins and ends.

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Spatial Reverse
Costume: Iris van Herpen
Choregraphy: Russell Maliphant
Performance: Carys Staton
Film: Warren du Preeze and Nick Thornton Jones

The movement in this Spatial Reverse film is subtle but this is where again lighting and special effects are used to create arresting video.  It begins with liquid metallic fabric form engulfing the body.  It’s then followed by a particularly beautiful shot of the dancer cocooned in what appears to be light diffusing thread.  The camera pans and the body becomes a mass of light, as though it were a celestial constellation.   

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Mangekyou
Costume: Hussein Chalayan
Choregraphy: Aya Sato & Ryan Heffington
Performance: AyaBambi
Film: Jacob Sutton

Not surprisingly, this little short of AyaBambi vogue-ing away in a mirrored dance movement has had the lion’s share of views given that they’re a YouTube sensation that have also recently danced alongside Madonna.  Their film represents the super high-energy graphic counterfoil to the subtle gestures and classicism seen in the other films.  The sharp precision of their movement is further accentuated by Hussein Chalayan’s ensembles.

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Pointe
Costume: Alexander McQueen
Choregraphy: Marie-Agnès Gillot
Performance: Marie-Agnès Gillot and George Barnett from These New Puritans
Film: Daniel Askill

Can dance command power?  Marie-Agnès Gillot’s long and sinuous movements do so as she pounds her painfully en pointe feet away to the drumbeat of George Barnett and the soundtrack of These New Puritans.  Daniel Askill manages to pack a dramatically cinematic vision to a very short film as drum and feet go up against one another until Gillot is suspended in the air.  Has she been defeated or is she triumphant?  That’s open to interpretation.   

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>> “We’re coming up to the general election and these words of a generation have never been more relevant.  Over the next few weeks, a generation brought up to believe they are ‘born to fail’ have the opportunity to change the system, and therefore, their future.”  Matthew Miller wouldn’t have needed a specific reason to re-issue the slogan ‘Born to Fail’ from his A/W 13 collection but come May 7th, in what is likely to be a closely fought, hard-to-call general election, significant change (hopefully for the better) feels like it’s around the corner.

The slogan was taken from a study published in 1973 by the National Children’s Bureau, about socially disadvantaged children born in the late 50s.  Generations later and from Miller’s perspective nothing much has changed in terms of social mobility, education and opportunity in life, in part down to governments in the UK.  The slogan is meant to be a bittersweet salute to the so-called ‘lost’ generation of “failure”, re-assessing what that word even means today and acknowledging that something positive can emerge from failure.

Redrawn by typography artist and sign writer R Ventura,  ‘Born to Fail’ graces a capsule collection of biker jackets, t-shirts and sweatshirts in uniform-like khaki green and black, which will be live on Miller’s e-store this week.  It’s message may be immediately gloomy but embedded into the slogan is a peace sign – activism has never been more alive and vibrant – and Miller re-issues this statement with hope in the background.

“People often ask me to write articles about politics,” says Miller. “But I’m not a writer, I’m a designer and visual communicator. So this is my article – Article 15 – Politics Now.”

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When I last interviewed the sisters Tina and Nikita Sutradhar behind the label Miuniku, they talked about the colours that they see on a day to day basis in their hometown of Mumbai in India and how that vividness seeps into their work, albeit in a less ornate and directly graphic way.  I know I’ve not ra-ed on about it too much on the blog (there’s a good reason why… all will be revealed round about September time) but on my short trip to India back in February, I got to experience that saturation of colour for real.  And it’s every bit as vivid as I had imagined.

Being submerged into this ongoing frenetic sensory kaleidoscope, you wonder how Tina and Nikita manage to restrain themselves when it comes to channelling their surroundings into their collections for Miuniku.  A/W 15-6 follows in a somewhat similar vein to their LVMH runner-up prize winning graduate collection as well as their Swim S/S 15 collection, which is just beginning to hit stores now.  Just as the sister duo are able to take a nuanced look at the colours around them, so it is that they also look back at childhood memories with a similarly abstracted view.  Their latest collection is inspired all the joy and awesomeness of a children’s birthday party from the lurid gift wrapped pressies to the glittery cone hats to the confetti and even the hundreds and thousands sprinkles that you get on cupcakes.  It’s a solid visual language that they have built up, directly trickling down from their graduate collection but it is one that sticks in your head, especially when you’re assaulted (in a good way) with sharp lines, clever colour blocking and almost deceptively 2-D planes.

Tina and Nikita are inching their way back to London where their design careers began (they studied at LCF) whilst maintaining production in Mumbai.  The contrasts between the two cities though is clearly yielding excellent results in terms of their collections.

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If your head is still ‘swimming’ in their S/S 15 collection (currently on Opening Ceremony and TheCorner.com), have a gander at this cute little video:

john-galliano-1-26apr15-darren-gerrish-bPhotograph from Vogue.co.uk

>> I’ve not got a lot to say about the Vogue Festival that concluded today, having only seen a few of the talks.  Different venue – it was at the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal College of Art as opposed to Royal Festival Hall.  Vaguely nicer interiors.  More phone charging stations.  More make-up opportunities and thus presence of brands at what is obviously a commercially lucrative event for Condé Nast.

The one pressing thought I did take away though came from what was undoubtedly the star attraction of the weekend.  John Galliano *gasp* closed the festival with a conversation about couture with Alexandra Shulman.  The conversation part wasn’t the most interesting element of the hour though.  I use the action-in-asterisk *gasp* because that’s exactly what happened in the auditorium when Galliano got up, handled the finale wedding dress from his debut Artisinal collection for Maison Martin Margiela.  Explaining that Galliano had been inspired by Martin Margiela’s lining from a skirt pulled up like a cape and that he wanted it to make it the leitmotif of the house much like Chanel’s camelia, he lifted the “skirt” of the red wedding dress with the embellished bundle protruding in the front to reveal what was in fact a man’s coat – a sleeve and a lapel hidden away from the eyes of most onlookers.  

Cue a very audible *gasp* in the auditorium followed by a round of applause.  The same happened when he showed off a patent coat attached to the straps of a slip dress from the A/W 15-6 ready to wear – a detail which I loved discovering in the showroom.  What struck me during this short round of show-and-tell is how engaging and insightful it was to see; even as someone who goes and sees designers talking about their clothes all the time.  The difference being of course that Galliano is an exceptional talent and that seeing these deceptive details give the Artisinal collection in particular, so much more heft and weight – especially as I didn’t see the show myself and bafflingly, none of these details seemed to come to light in most of the reviews.

It made me think that there might possibly be an alternative way of presenting haute couture.  As opposed to spectacle and showmanship, of which Galliano himself said today that “today, a little goes a long way”, the focus should be back on the clothes.  A designer could reveal, explain and ultimately enlighten an audience with detailed presentation of every ensemble.  Seams and stitches would entrance.  A show of skill would sell itself.  As I said on Twitter, I really would rather see an hour of insightful anecdotal presentation straight from the horse’s mouth as opposed to the five to ten minute monosyllabic shows that currently blur from one to the other.

As one person asked Galliano whether haute couture was still relevant, with a simple gesture of lifting a skirt and impressing an audible audience, he showed that what’s not immediately visible to the eye is precisely why haute couture matters.  And as many of the conversations batted around these Vogues Festival talks also broached the subject of how social media was affecting the speed of fashion, sitting for an hour or so listening to a designer talk about what actually went into the making of these precious garments sounds like a surefire remedy to slowing things down.  Enough to make an audience really listen and be engaged and pass that messaging on when reporting to the masses.  More gasping please.