Haute couture (literally: high sewing) recently mounted an unprecedented, but not unexpected, assault on Vimeo and YouTube, producing highly-stylized, short films to announce, display, and ratify their various new collections. Indeed, this trend is probably the next hottest platform waiting to be exploited by fashion designers as they seek to move beyond the conventional runway show.
Apparently, runway shows are outmoded and expensive. They're pass? because there are only so many ways a catwalk can be jazzed up. No matter how many slick props and glitzy backdrops and grandiose lighting effects are utilized, in the end, the performance is nothing more or less than beautiful supermodels with impeccable bodies caparisoned in chic clothing pirouetting, posing, and posturing. Besides, runway shows are costly affairs, especially when bang-per-buck is considered. A few hundred onlookers are physically present, which means mass exposure is dependent upon the few fashion writers and fashion photographers in attendance.
Most marketing experts agree that any type of luxury goods make a bigger splash and sell better when surrounded by a fascinating story, a hook. Hollywood producers and MTV picked up this long ago. Music videos engage their audience by structuring the music around a mini-plot, whether some dude, who, as he mows the lawn, notices how hot Stacey's Mom is as she parades around the pool in her skimpy white bikini, or a drinking party in somebody's backyard, where "ya' gotta' keep 'em separated," a la Offspring. And Hollywood, which never misses a marketing trick, puts James Bond in the latest BMW or Jason Statham in the quintessential Audi.
People love stories. Stories sell.
So it's not surprising that fashion designers have decided to jump on the bandwagon. Mini-films or 'fashion videos' allow designers to merge the impact of a stylized commercial with a truncated screenplay. The salient thrust of fashion videos is this: viewers, whose likes and dislikes are the by-products of mass media, and who are bored and seeking something new and exciting in their humdrum lives, are transported into the never-never-land of the story. Once there, viewers are persuaded that they too could have that kind of life, exude glamor, and be surrounded by beautiful people. The secret, of course, resides in wearing the right kind of clothes, clothes that reek of chic. If they just had that, they'd ooze mystical sensuality too. And then, then they'd be happy.
A caricature? Not really, for that's what all marketing is trying to do ' appeal to the senses, the emotions of the viewers, the consumers. And as downbeat and condemnatory as the preceding paragraph sounds, it's not meant as an indictment. It's a simple fact of marketing.
Let's take a look at some recent examples of fashion videos or short films as devotees like to call them. I like to refer to them as haute couture porn.
Rodarte, a brand hailing from California, produced and disseminated This Must be the Only Fantasy
. More than likely, the premise of this fashion video borrowed its fantastic elements from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
or maybe from Avatar
. Twelve minutes in length, the video is set in L.A., which is a magical realm wheredelicate fairies and handsome princes engage in martial contests dressed, naturally, in haute couture. The star of the production is Elijah Wood. Musical score provided by Beach House, a trendy new-wave band.
The film's cogency comes from the audio and the video working in tandem, but it's the eyes that are being seduced. Seduction occurs when humans see something beautiful, repeatedly. Repetition results in desire. We see it ' whatever it is ' over and over. In the end, we want it. And of course, couture is a visual brand by any definition. This explains why the film works. It sends a signal from the eye via the optic nerve to the brain, which translates into what is seen. In this case, Rodarte's fashionable clothing.
is the title of the short film produced by Phillip Lim. Sonomama
is a Japanese term, which, in translation, means "as it is, as you are." The translation reminds yours truly ' the author ' of the American expressions: "It is what it is" or even "shit happens." But enough about that. The stars of the short flick are Kiko Mizuhara, a Japanese actress, and Louis Simonon, who, together with a biker gang called Black Shadow, roam the slick, glistening streets of Tokyo, in pursuit of adventure of some indefinable type. In other words, although undeniably glossy in aspect, the film pushes the envelope of the term stylized way past the point of superficial. It makes the stylization of Miami Vice
look amateurish. The problem rests in Lim's autumn line of clothing, which the actors wear (and which makes them look like participants in some freaky-deaky S & M performance), and the blatant rip-off of the vampire motif, a la Twilight
. Okay, admittedly there aren't any bloodsucking Dracula wanna' bes in Sonomama
, but the protagonists do a lot of heavy sighing as they gaze at each other with puppy dog eyes, a la Bella and Edward. And the whole look of the mini-film resembles that of Twilight
Gianni Versace, usually referred to as Versace, is an Italian fashion label founded by Gianni Versace in 1978. The first Versace boutique was opened in Milan's Via della Spiga in 1978, (though the Versace family are from Reggio Calabria) and its popularity was immediate. Today, Versace is one of the world's leading international fashion houses. | Photo: Versace |
Now don't take that the wrong way, either. I devoured the Twilight
series of books and their accompanying movies. I expect Bella and Edward to be constantly drowning in a mushy, sugary swamp of young love. It's part of their attraction. I do not expect haute couture porn stars to engage in the same display of emotional excess.
If Phillip Lim is reading this, I semi-apologize for being semi-nasty about his production. I feel certain you design and manufacture some really cool clothes, Phil. And if I ever get into leather duds, I'm sure I'll check out your line. Essentially, this is one of those stick-with-what-you-know things.
Never one to be out done, when it comes to being in the vanguard position, Karl Lagerfeld debuted his haute couture porn film on Vogue.com, which of course, is much more hoity-toity than slumming with the proletariat on YouTube. But YouTube has numbers, billions of people visit and post and share on the site. Still, there is no denying the snob-factor associated with Vogue. And since Lagerfeld has a knack for promotion, one assumes he knows what works and what doesn't work.
Lagerfeld's flick revolves around Cara Delevinge, who is present at a dinner party that is eerie and thick with otherworld spookiness, kind of like dining at the Munsters without the comedic elements. Cara, as you would expect, is adorned in the designer's latest creations, which emphasize fur, reminiscent of a 'Gorsuch' catalogue on steroids. The choice of Ms. Delevinge indicates oodles of perspicacity. She emanates a subdued sensuality that complements the clothing without detracting from it, as would perhaps be the case with a spicier, more illustrious star.
All in all, Lagerfeld's production, which is called A Dangerous Invitation
, is well-rendered. The big question, though, is do such productions work? Are they efficacious? We'll have to wait for the answer because it's simply too early to reach a definite conclusion. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see just how many other designers jump into producing similar films and, more significantly, how viewers respond.