An ode to la mode... and more

An interview with the makers of 'Act! Cut! Play!'

Fashion lives! Not just statically, in photos in magazines, but dynamically on the catwalk – but also, for the past ten years, in moving images. Fashion films are visually surprising, but the story is often thin as a sheer blouse. The Act! Cut! Play! project challenges makers from different disciplines – theatre, film, dance, fashion – to change this.

 

Interview by Iris Stam.

 

“Nike was the first brand to make a fashion film, in 2007. The next year, A Shaded View on Fashion Film appeared in Paris, made by fashion icon Diane Pernet who embraced this exciting new genre. Since then, the fashion film has become an attractive way for designers to present their collections. Fashion houses often bring in well-known directors – Prada, for example, who managed to get Wes Anderson.” The speaker is Branko Popovic, fashion designer and one of the founders of FASHIONCLASH. This international platform gives designers from a wide range of disciplines the opportunity to show their work at fashion events. Branko continues: “Fashion films are short, like video clips. Fashion plays the lead role. They vary a lot in quality. The good films have a narrative, but the storylines are not particularly exciting. I mean a girl in a dress, is that a narrative? In my experience, films by young designers with a limited budget are often better than those put out by the big brands. They dare to experiment more.”

 

To a higher level

Flemish Arts Centre De Brakke Grond also likes to experiment by pushing the envelope. Veerle Devreese – Visual Art and Culture programmer until December 2016 – found Branko Popovic to be the perfect partner for the interdisciplinary project Act! Cut! Play!, in which MoMu - ModeMuseum Provincie Antwerpen is also participating. Veerle: “Both parties have indicated that the fashion film genre is developing rapidly in the Low Countries. At present, the aesthetic element is still the main focus, at the expense of narrative. We thought: can we create a platform to take fashion film to a higher level? Can we offer makers from different disciplines – theatre, film, dance, fashion – a chance to investigate the possibilities? We saw the potential and decided to make some budget available. In March 2016, three teams were formed, each made up of three talents from Flanders and the Netherlands. They worked together on the development of a short fashion film, from start to finish. Each film is the product of solid production values, a coherent narrative and has an individual feel. The process was not a simple one, but was seen as a valuable form of creative cross-pollination. Looking beyond your own specialist area, learning from others and in so doing developing a new creative vision.”

 

Learning to speak one another’s language

Fashion designer Marie-Sophie Beinke formed a team with theatre-maker Suze Milius and filmmaker Femke Huurdeman. The result was Ménage à trois. Marie-Sophie: “It was a great experience, we had complete freedom and financial resources. I had been dreaming about making crinolines – those enormous stiffened petticoats – for a long time. And for this film I got the chance. I felt like a little girl who’s been given a great big cake covered in candles! The cooperation with Suze and Femke was very educational. All three of us are strong characters, and we all have our own ways of working. And our own views on theatrical art and the visual. It was a challenge, but that’s what made it so wonderful. We complemented one another.”

 

“In a co-production like this, you have to learn one another’s language”, filmmaker Leen Michiels says. Together with choreographer Jelena Kostić and designers SchuellerDeWaal she made Your Approval is Not Essential. “We didn’t know one another. We had to feel our way. You are all equal, but sometimes you have to take decisions based on your own expertise. Or make it clear to the other where you are going. I didn’t always have the strength of imagination or the knowledge to see the choreography a basic movement can grow into. And Jelena sometimes needed me to explain how her choreography could contribute to the narrative. To contribute to the story and building tension, I wanted the clothing to sometimes just be half seen. The designers didn’t mind this at all. So in the end it all came together nicely in the film.”

 

Studio Dennis Vanderbroeck made The Parallel Pyramid Platform with filmmaker Daniel van Hauten and fashion designer Emmanuel A. Ryngaert. Dennis: “The pitfall of a project like this is either it ends up being one big compromise, or you end up sitting on your own little island, defending your artistic individuality. The challenge is to find a common denominator and create something new, together. The fashion world seems to take itself extremely seriously and doesn’t seem to be able to laugh at itself much. This is why it was interesting to investigate the fashion film genre. The result? A film with sixteen actors inspired by American Ninja Warrior. A film with humour and a surprise ending.”