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Diane Pernet: Why fashion film will usurp the catwalk

Drenched in black with her ever-present lace mantilla and catseye sunglasses, Diane Pernet is one of the most recognisable figures on the fashion landscape. But it's not just her iconic and unvarying look that has gained her recognition; she is one of fashion's true digital pioneers. On 7 October, Diane hosts the fourth annual fashion and film festival A Shaded View Of Fashion Film, (ASVOFF) at the Centre Pompidou. This season, she'll be joined by a judging panel that comprises the likes of Manish Arora, Daphne Guinness and Rossy de Palma. We caught up with Diane at Paris Fashion Week.

Diane Pernet: Why fashion film will usurp the catwalkPhoto: Getty


ASVOFF is now in its fourth season - what made you put together the fashion film festival in the first place?

When I first started this back in 2008, somehow I instinctively knew that ASVOFF would fill a much needed creative gap. But what I could never have anticipated was just how quickly the cross-over between fashion and film would evolve from wild experimentation into a bona fide art form and a valuable commercial outlet. To begin with, I think the 'fashion film' was born out of a real need to breathe life into the old static medium and set fashion in motion through the magic of cinema. What ASVOFF does is to give people in both industries – and talented outsiders too – a platform to let this genre flourish. Hopefully, by rewarding excellence in the field, it also keeps pushing them to push the boundaries forward too.

Four years on, how has the film festival changed?

The two disciplines have grown even closer thanks to the incredible impact of the digital revolution, new commercial realities and a mutual fascination between fashion and film industry leaders. But it's not only that. As online, tablet and smartphone media channels grow ever more important, 'fashion film' is also filling important business niches and offering artistic solutions to challenges we could never have imagined even a few years ago. It's also creating totally new, sometimes unexpected opportunities as it goes along. In the beginning no one had any idea what a fashion film was. In the past few years the entire industry has picked up on the idea that the best way to express the atmosphere of their brand and to reach the widest audience without any sell-out date, was to produce a fashion film. The luxury brands like YSL, Prada, Chanel picked up on this early on as did the lesser-known brands like Boudicca, Bernhard Willhelm, Jeremy Scott.

What does fashion film mean to you?

Of course fashion films have been around since William Klein gave us Who Are You Polly Magoo in the 60s and in the late 70s Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and Serge Lutins created amazing fashion films for advertising. The history of fashion film dates back decades ago but it has only been in the last few years that the medium has virtually exploded. In fashion films, the designer has more control of his work and costs can be more easily controlled. What interests me the most is the interaction between the fashion element and the power of cinema.

Why is fashion film work so relevant now?

'Fashion film' makes perfect sense in today's world where we have the live streaming of catwalk shows, click-to-buy video e-commerce functionality, behind-the-scenes and fly-on-the-wall fashion brand documentaries – not to mention video ads spreading virally like wild fire through social media networks. There's something in the bigger picture too, you know. Fashion is still a hot topic for reality TV shows; there are biopics of fashion designers coming out left, right and centre; designers are moonlighting as Hollywood film directors – and actresses as designers. I don't think there has ever been a better moment for a festival like ASVOFF than now."

Does the fashion industry still need to catch up?

Frankly I find the classic catwalk format a bit "last century". With the exception of a few shows like Rick Owens, Comme des Garcons, Junya Watanabe and Haider Ackermann, I think a film and an installation often arouses something more inspirational; reaches a wider audience and expands the market immensely. Although the fashion industry looks like it changes at a rapid pace on the surface, fundamentally its anachronistic. It's not about to let a big part itself which supports the livelihood of so many people from show producers, models, photographers, hair and makeup... to disappear.

Would you ultimately like to see it usurp the role of the catwalk? Honestly? Yes, I would like to see fashion films overtake catwalks as the favoured format of presenting new collections but I don't delude myself into thinking that this will happen any time soon. Too many incomes are dependent on the existence of catwalk presentations, for one. And secondly, when they're done well, they are a timeless and classic style of presentation. I think it would be more interesting to make fashion shows a form of entertainment for the public where the audience would pay and they would be happening at the same time that the clothes were actually on sale at the shops.Things are already beginning to evolve in this way anyway so why not take the bull by the horns and make some brave decisions? At least that way, the industry would be able to steer it in the direction that works best rather than being reactive to an evolution that's probably inevitable anyway.

Who working within the fashion film genre inspires you? Who are the pioneers and why?

William Klein and Peter Knapp are certainly the real fashion film pioneers. More recently, of course, there is Nick Knight and SHOWstudio, which paved the way for fashion in motion, and of course Bruce Weber, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Steven Klein, Erwin Olaf, Steven Meisel and Ellen Von Unwerth. One of the most interesting fashion films of late is Lucrecia Martel for Miu Miu.

How do you decide what to include? Basically the criteria for a fashion film is much the same as for any other film. Number one, I ask myself does it touch me in some meaningful, emotive or challenging way? Then I examine the direction, the sound, the styling, and question whether there is a narrative of some sort and what the reason is for it to exist...

And what doesn't make the cut?

What I don't include, no matter how beautiful they are, are fashion films that seem to me to be nothing more than fashion shoots with movement. A fashion film needs to offer much more than that.

In the past the fashion industry has been (in places) cautious of all things digital – is this changing? What is your experience of this?

I certainly experienced fear of the internet in Paris in many ways – especially amongst the fashion industry. At first they felt that the democratising of fashion was destructive to the industry. I think it is slowly changing here now because the internet is certainly not going to disappear and everything is immediately available to anyone curious enough to search for it. Before they liked to make it only available to the privileged few but now the establishment and the gatekeepers of the industry realise that the gate is wide open so they'd better adapt or perish.


ASVOFF begins 7 October until 9 October. For more information visit www.asvoff.com

ASVOFF4 TRAILER from diane pernet on Vimeo.