The fashion film as a discrete genre is a relatively recent phenomenon — though the marriage of fashion and film is hardly new. As a visual medium, aesthetic considerations have always been at the forefront of filmmaking, with choice of costume being one of the most important aspects of creating a movie.
Fashion has a long history of influencing film and film fashions. We need not look further than Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, where Diane Keaton’s eccentric menswear-inspired outfits influenced an entire generation of women. The partnership between fashion designer and director is a longstanding one, too: Coco Chanel and The Blood of a Poet, Hubert de Givenchy and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Yves Saint-Laurent and Belle du Jour, more recently, Tom Ford and A Single Man. It was only a matter of time before the fashion film became a category all its own.
The fashion film does not have as many limitations or constraints as other genres, it need only showcase clothing to qualify. They come in a diverse number of packages, with or without narrative structure. The 15 fashion films chosen below are the year’s most successful experiments in communicating the tone of a collection, be it through a narrative like Free People’s dynamic love story “Roshambo” via the innovative animation of Kseniya Simonova’s “Lady Dior Moscow.”
Celebrating 60 years since Christian Dior imagined “dressing women’s smiles” in lipstick, this is not just an educational—but is also an artistic—tribute to the man himself. It walks us through the history of lipstick, the color red, which symbolizes power and vitality, as well as the iconic women who’ve represented the fashion house.
Lena Dunham directed this video for Rachel Antonoff’s fall 2013 collection. In classic Lena Dunham fashion, it’s a mash up of all the best parts of Girls, Frances Ha and The Royal Tenenbaums.
In an ambitious project, Salvatore Ferragamo released an eight part romantic set in cities around the world: Florence, Los Angeles and Shanghai. With a distinct Woody Allen vibe (think Annie Hall meets Midnight in Paris) it stars actress Kaya Scodelario and Tom Ellis.
This hilarious spoof stars Lizzy Caplan, who breathilly mocks hipster culture with one-liners like, “I DJ sometimes,” and, “my guy friend who’s good at computers is reformatting my blog.” It hits all the major fashion clichés: the dreamy filter, unnecessary French and records from the 60s.
Prada presents a short film directed by Roman Polanski, about a therapist whose patient’s Prada fur coat speaks to him. Helena Bonham Carter is perfectly cast as the melodramatic rich woman whose stories are ultimately eschewed in favor of the coat.
“This Must Only Be Fantasy” is a true piece of video art—eerie and fantastical, it captures the spirit of the brand through experimental techniques and surreal imagery. It stars Sidney Williams, Guinevere van Seenus and Elijah Wood.
Keira Knightley stars as Coco Chanel in Lagerfeld’s 20 minute black-and-white masterpiece. Set in Deauville, Normandy, it pays homage to the first lady of Chanel in the best possible way.
Featuring MadTV’s Bon Qui Qui assisting high profile clients like A$AP Rocky, Alessandra Ambrosio and Simon Doonan, Alexander Wang’s Spring 2013 video is the funniest of the year. The video helped in making Wang more accessible—tearing down the walls that high fashion tends to create between brand and consumer.
Kenzo’s pop art-inspired short film for their Resort 2013 line features the bright, bold and daring patterns that put them on the map. This high energy short captures the personality of the brand perfectly: electric, funky, and always leaving you wanting more.
Barneys New York Spring 2013 video look book is reminiscent of American Powerpuff Girls cartoonist Craig McCracken. Between the fun soundtrack and quirky animation, this is a video you are going to want to watch again and again.
Cary Fukunaga directs this beautiful short film set in the rolling plains of East Africa. Though the highlight of this film is the stunning African landscapes, it also tells a love story—“I love the animals, the land, it’s beautiful… it’s where it all started.”
Reminiscent of 1980s video art, Quentin Jones has employed stop motion animation to create this groovy piece. It’s snappy, succinct and to the point—perfect for the digital age.
This video is a live performance of sand animation done by artist Kseniya Simonova. If not the most interesting film, it is definitely the most impressive. It was originally done for the opening of the “Inspiration Dior” exhibition at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.
Setting the tone with a jazzy soundtrack, this installment of Miu Miu’s “Women Tales,” directed by Ava DuVernay, speaks of the importance of feminine bonds. At almost 10 minutes, it’s one of the longer fashion short films, but it’s well worth the watch.
Featuring Chris Abbott and Sheila Marquez, Free People’s dreamy film follows the story of a Brooklyn couple and their games of roshambo. It is meant to convey the story of their February catalogue.