Fashion film is not in its infancy but it appears stuck in a type of seclusion, held within the fashion industry like a most prized possession. Now more than ever before, fashion films have been stretching their arms out, trying to grasp the film industry as its own. Narrative plots are seeping into a medium once known for advertisement campaigns and experimental films often created by fashion’s most significant visionaries.

There are times where the term ‘fashion film’ is used to describe a narrative film, be it drama, comedy, romance or otherwise, that is perhaps centred around a character in the fashion industry or one whereby fashion, or more specially costume has become a central focus. Such films: The Devil Wears Prada, CluelessFunny Face and Annie Hall are often of mention. They also pop up if you search the term online. However, these are not what one would necessarily consider of the medium. To also mention is that other titles do pop up within this search: Dior and I, Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer, and Bill Cunningham New York; and though these fashion-centred documentaries, they are somewhat closer and do begin to show where the gap is being tightened for mainstream audiences.

But with the lines blurred, how does one differentiate between the aforementioned and what really is a fashion film?

Fashion films are often created and used for fashion brands, specifically in the luxury fashion sector. They are visual mediums of film, short film and sometimes video art that aims to experiment within filmmaking to advertise a brand or market a brand through visual experience. The focus of fashion film is thought to be aesthetics, seduction, bewilderment, awe and a verity of other elements to maintain an audiences attention, whilst creating a vital impact on current or potential consumers. Essays have been written and debates have been had, as with any subject within the arts, subjectivity rules much of what can be said on fashion films. But we can explore the topic much easier if we look at fashion film as two separate categories: Experimental/Art and Advertisement/Narrative


To look closely into the core nature of fashion film, we don’t need to look any further than at the hub and universe of it all- London’s most unique and prestige spaces dedicated to fashion film and illustration, SHOWstudio.

Since 2000, Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio has been one of the most powerful and creative hubs of fashion film. SHOWstudio is also an online space that holds not only an archive fashion films from the past, but that also works now with new technologies to bring cutting edge fashion films to the forefront, as well as fashion interviews and live catwalk shows. In their own words: “SHOWstudio has worked with the world’s most sought-after filmmakers, writers and cultural figures to create visionary online content, exploring every facet of fashion through moving image, illustration, photography and the written word.”

Their archive holds several of Guy Bourdin’s early fashion films. Bourdin is a prime example of an experimental fashion filmmaker. Sensual, surreal, unique and aesthetically pleasing. Many of his films were raw and unedited and not used for commercial purposes but for artistic expression.


These really do fall within the same category now. Though one would say that story is paramount in narrative film, in fashion, the heart of the concept is to sell.

Jean-Paul Gaultier is a fashion designer who has been linked to fashion film and has become one of the a prominent figure in blending experimental, art, advertisement and narrative film. But it is  filmmakers like Ava Duvernay, Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze and Sean Baker, who are bringing fashion films to a mainstream audience.

One in particular pops up: A Therapy. And this is this the sort of film on topic here. A Therapy is a 2012 short-film of four minutes, directed by Roman Polanski (Chinatown, The Pianist, Bitter Moon) and commissioned by Prada in promotion of the brand. Prada aficionados will know of Prada World- a virtual atmosphere that lives off of the physical exhibitions, catwalk shows, publications, pop-up events, films and the brands eponymous collections. The site also features a whole host of short films. Some call A Therapy art-house, other call it a narrative short-film.

When Kenzo’s then new perfume came out, created by Carol Lim & Humberto Leon and KENZO Parfums; it had it’s own short film directed by Spike Jonze. The film’s shorter version often made it to television, whilst as a whole, the film became more recognisable than most. Shortly after, Kenzo came back with another film. The Realest Real was written and directed by Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia). For Kenzo’s Autumn/Winter 2016 campaign, the film had a story, albeit a somewhat quirky conceptual film was developed. Nevertheless, Kenzo wanted to explore “the invisible digital walls that separate us from our favourite personalities and icons, and the curious conceit of a dream come true.”

Miu Miu is another fashion house, subsidiary of the Prada brand, which developed a series of Women’s Tales- an ongoing series of short-films in partnership with the Venice Film Festival. Since its launch in 2012, thirteen films have been made by a variety of female directors including Miranda July, So Yong Kim and Agnès Varda.

In 2013, The Door by Ava Duvernay (13th, Selma) became one of the most famed within the series outside of the inner circle of the fashion industry.

The evolution of fashion film: from advertising, to experimental and narrative filmis an article written by Marianna Michael. You can read more articles on her site or find Marianna on Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter.