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The Rise of the Fashion Film

When I started this blog in 2008 I would’ve never written about film. I’m the first to admit that I know nothing about the film industry, aside from what I’ve learnt flicking through Little White Lies magazine. It just eludes me. However, as we move into 2014 it’s impossible for me to ignore the prevalence, and importance, of the ‘fashion film’.

The theme of this year’s Costume Society study day was “Shooting Style: Fashion on Screen”. Both Nathaniel Beard and Pamela Church Gibson emphasised the importance of this medium. Nathanial presented footage of early fashion films, whereas Pamela gave an overview of its evolution and current examples. (My friend Lori tweeted throughout the conference, and put together this brilliant Storify thread of the day).

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Gareth Pugh at Pitti

Making his Italian fashion debut with a reimagining of the Sistine Chapel, Gareth Pugh showcased his designs at Pitti Immagine #79 via a film created by Ruth Hogben. Projected onto the ceiling of Orsanmichele, a 14th-century church, Pugh’s collection, which was inspired by religious iconography and Florentine opulence, melded with the grand traditions and art of the ancient city.

“Basically we’re doing a film like a fresco. So the screen is going to be the ceiling and the idea was to, rather than just bring a new collection, bring the universe, the Gareth Pugh universe, to introduce who I am and what I do to a new audience,” Pugh told Vogue only hours ahead of the grand unveiling.

“The idea is that the audience will stand in a cloud. We’re using the top space in the old building and it’s quite a journey to get up there and it feels very high. This evening we’ve got this smoke so it’s like you’re in a cloud, looking up into this world.”

And Pugh’s world is one of considerable imagination, attention to detail and hard-work. When the designer appeared as part of the Fashion East line-up, back in 2005, he was a solo endeavour with no financial backing and no means of bulk production.

“I do what feels right to me. Back then I didn’t have any worries with regards to making clothes that would sell in shops. When Lulu [Kennedy, founder of Fashion East] asked me to do Fashion East I had just left college and a lot of people present their stuff there when they have factories and production in place. I didn’t do that so ever since I have been playing catch up,” recalls the designer, who has since gone on to open a standalone shop with Hong Kong-based retailer I.T. Group and become a regular fixture on the Paris Fashion Week schedule following his ANDAM award win in 2008.

He added, “You have to remember, when I’m showing in Paris I’m showing next to people like Givenchy and Yves Saint Laurent and huge houses that obviously have teams and teams and armies of people to do things for them.”

But teams and teams and armies of people aren’t really what Pugh would want anyway, preferring instead to maintain control of his vision, something which is very important to him and through which he finds film to be a perfect outlet.

“For me it [film] brings back control. With a live show you only have a certain amount of control over what you do. When models go out they can fall over, photographers can take bad pictures, the models can have their eyes closed, the outfit could be blowing some weird way that looks awful and obviously those pictures of my work or my show define me as a designer for the next six months. If those pictures are awful, I’m not going to be very happy,” says Pugh, noting an instance in which a catwalk look was lost due to a wardrobe malfunction where an intern mixed up the outfit. “But shit happens,” he levels.

Gareth Pugh S/S 2010 Film Prequel

It was always going to be hard to know what to expect from Gareth Pugh’s second film, directed by Ruth Hogben, which was presented last night at New York’s Milk Studios as part of M.A.C. and Milk’s collaboration this season. It could not possibly have been a fashion film given that his show in Paris was going to be taking place in a few weeks time. Instead, in the loading bay, on a giant suspended cube, four extracted ideas of the collection were presented on the four facets, representing elements of fire, wind, earth and water. As new-age as that sounds, it needs to be seen to be fully understood (film now live on SHOWstudio) as even Pugh admitted it was a hard piece to describe in words. For those familiar with Pugh’s work, it is an enticing ensemble piece that does exactly what it set out to do; prequel the show. For those not so familiar, they might have taken away an essence or a mood of what Pugh’s aesthetic is all about.

Dazed and Confused spoke to Pugh and Hogben about their second collaboration.

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