Diane Pernet: experiencing fashion and the fashion film

...no stranger to NJAL, the international fashion figure hosts our newly launched Fashion Film section

by Mariel Reed
Diane Pernet is one of fashion’s most influential figures. Her presence and views are highly valued. She is not only easily recognised by her iconic head-to-toe dark draping, but also for her strong support for emerging fashion designers. Diane has also revolutionised the industry’s media output. As a world-renowned fashion critic, she has supported a new way for designers to express themselves; fashion film. She is not only credited with providing the first platform of its kind for the ‘fashion film’ genre to evolve and flourish, but also with helping ‘fashion film’ fulfil many of its early promises, which were to revolutionise the fashion industry, breathe life into static photography, offer a new outlet to filmmakers – and to trigger several important commercial, business and digital media opportunities across the fashion and movie industries. Based in Paris, Diane is a permanent fixture on the fashion scene and an international icon. Her site, A SHADED VIEW ON FASHION is essential to the creative industries. Her festival, A SHADED VIEW ON FASHION FILM has shot to success as the first dedicated to fashion, style and beauty. She is widely considered to have incubated the ‘fashion film’ from its infancy to the popular genre that it is becoming today. Diane has selected five films to debut NJAL’s new addition.

You were our first curator for our online shop back in 2009. We welcome you back to host NJAL’s newly launched fashion film section. Can you explain a bit about why you have chosen each of the five films?
ASVOFF4 Special Animation Prize: Exercise in Sartorial Deprivation by Davide Bedoni
I was drawn into this long before I knew that I would end up being in the film. There are three elements that are compelling in their own right but which also work very well together: the text by Angelo Flaccavento, Ivo Bisignano’s illustrations by and of course the direction by Davide Bedoni.

ASVOFF4 Best Soundtrack Prize: Praise Break (Director's Cut) by Eric Weidt
Obviously, the sound track is great and I love the trance-like dancing. But it also has a unique way of presenting fashion in the film, which is provocative and hypnotic.

ASVOFF4 Grand Prix awarded by MK2: I Want Muscle by Elisha Smith-Leverock
I love this film on many levels. It is a very powerful film whose subject is also about power, so that in itself is a simple but effective device. I also like the sound design, the colour and the dialogue. I like everything about it, really.

ASVOFF4 Best Art Direction Prize: The Fantastic Man Series by Lernet & Sander - The Camel Spin in Calvin Klein
First of all, it’s a pleasure to watch. You can’t overstate how influential that can be. It also has a novel approach to presenting fashion in a super clean, graphic framework.

Simulacrum & Hyperbole - We Can Find Beautiful Things Without Consciousness for Comme des Garçons Parfum - by Katerina Jebb
It’s intelligent and also has a sense of humor – both of which are qualities that are pretty rare in our business. Then there’s Tilda Swinton’s sensational presence and her effortless acting ability...

How does film as a medium successfully evoke emotion? Is this important in creating a successful fashion film? Do you think emotion is important in fashion, or is fashion purely sensory?
Personally, I can’t envisage a successful film – or a successful fashion collection for that matter – unless they evoke some strong emotions. Fashion can be experienced in other ways too, of course, but if it goes beyond the surface, then it will have a longer lasting effect. And much more to offer.

The Diane Pernet brand has rocketed to success through the mediums of art, film and fashion. What is your mission? What medium do you plan to conquer next?
My mission is to make the most complete and meaningful fashion film festival and to establish it in at least 5 cities – maybe more – where it will screen annually. I have a good team in place but I’m also still on the hunt for the ultimate group of partners including a global sponsor that will accompany the festival on all its travels. I can also envision some interesting branded merchandise for the festival and for my site that would serve either as cool mementos or useful products. Next up, a book perhaps and then after that, who knows…

Because there are so few rules when it comes to making a fashion film, there is a lot of poor quality film out there. How do you combat this poor quality? What do you look for in a good fashion film?
I look for the same things that I look for in a film. I want to be captivated by it within the first few frames. I expect to see arresting images, acting not posing, great sound design and excellent art direction. Basically, a fashion film that follows the same general principles as any other film is a good start – with the exception that fashion has to play the role of the protagonist. I don’t want to see a moving photo shoot, cheap short-cuts or predictable effects

What is your favourite sense?
Definitely the visual… although I’m also lured in by certain scents and fragrances.

The life of a Fashion designer is often glamourised. Young, aspiring designers are often charmed by the idea of creative freedom, world travel, fame and respect. Once these dreamers are brought back to reality, they arrive in a state of shock. Do you think it is important to maintain the persona of a “fashion designer” or should we be more realistic?
What I like about many of the Belgian designers, for example, is that they always seem to maintain that balance between highly expressive creativity and firmly grounded commerciality. One should never become a designer or a filmmaker with the express purpose of becoming famous. That’s a grave mistake.

What’s important is to learn your craft and find your own personal way of passing on a message. The reality of fashion is that it is a never-ending cycle of work. You have to be in love with it and make a lot of sacrifices before you gain fame or wealth – if you ever do. We all know that success can come to some in the form of fame and wealth but if these are the main things driving you, then you’d better consider doing something else.

The fashion market is oversaturated with new talent. At the same time, so many new blogs, platforms and websites claiming to be the fast ticket to success have arisen. Much like the chicken or the egg, which came first? How do we regain quality control?
We still need filters. In a perfect world, real talent would naturally rise to the top but that’s certainly not always the case. It’s true that some blogs have become fast tickets to success and, funnily enough, bloggers are now asked to be designers, which is another unusual twist in the fast-changing fashion system.

We’re in a state of flux and chaos – which has been beautiful and liberating in many ways and given rise to countless new opportunities. But the flip side, as you’ve suggested, is that the democratization of fashion on all these levels has also allowed for more substandard work to get exposure. I think it’s all part of the evolution we’re going through in the post-digital world and some of it will get corrected as new kinds of filtering comes of age. What form that will take next is anyone’s guess.

How important is artisanship to fashion?
It’s getting more important as each day passes. We live in an era of fast fashion so in order to differentiate your brand from the vast piles of clothes and accessories on the market, beautifully crafted designs will increasingly stand out.

In your opinion, what is wrong with the fashion industry? How would you change it?
I hope designers will gradually take back the reins from the businessmen and become the creative powers they once were. I do think the pendulum will probably swing back that way – to some degree at least. My big excitement now is to see what Raf Simons will do at Dior. That one single appointment will herald a huge change around the industry and also give designers, students and clients a powerful figure who they can respect at the helm of one of biggest maisons – someone who understands the meaning of reflection, modernity and meeting the challenges that face such a grand and historic house. So to answer your question, if I had a magic wand, I suppose I’d make more changes like this one.

In Olympic terms, who is Fashion’s MVP? Who is rookie of the year? Who gets busted for taking steroids?
I guess there’s no surprise knowing that my MVP would be Raf Simons.

In 2012, Christopher Kane would be rookie of the year in my version of The Fashion Olympics and Thierry Mugler would probably finally get busted for taking steroids. Or maybe Marc Jacobs, especially for all the pumping up he’s done for the Louis Vuitton coffers over the years.