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...if you couldn't work on your own and relied on other people's ideas you wouldn't have an artistic identity.
During your undergraduate degree, you studied philosophy. In his Lectures on Aesthetics, the German philosopher Hegel divides art into 3 stages in history, symbolic, classical, and romantic art. Do you feel that fashion can be classified into stages in history as well? How does this classification effect fashion film?
I am not sure that I agree with Hegel’s theory for a start, and less so when applied to fashion. Hegel suggests that we should consider how human thought has evolved as a whole over time - and so we see art in historical stages. Part of this is dividing the idea at the core of the art from its manifestation - these three stages describe the relationship the idea has with its visual outcome.
I am not sure fashion concept is ever as removed from its physical manifestation as art can be. Hegel’s theory is based on expanses of history so huge that we see man’s thought moving as one, in unified stages. Fashion film has not had the breadth of time to see if there are notable stages in its development.
How have your studies in philosophy affected the way you work now?
I would say that studying any academic subject can be useful preparation to going to art school and eventually becoming an artist; learning to think through other people’s ideas rather than spend too long emoting and living inside one's own imagination. There is a lot of self indulgence at art school, in fashion and most of the arts. I think it is good if you can see your work for what it is, and not just from your own vantage point.
I think I get when the humour in my drawings is puerile, or when my ideas won't appeal to a certain client. I think studying philosophy maybe gives me the right amount of self-doubt. And, perhaps pushing myself to do three years of exams in philosophy was a good training in commitment, when what I really craved doing was taking photographs and painting.
In today’s digital age, how do you feel access to fashion has changed? Is exclusivity still important to fashion or has it adapted to its new environment?
The ease of access we have with the internet is amazing. It allows anyone to see a show, or browse through a collection very quickly, whereas before, you might have had to buy piles of magazines or visited countless shops. I think the high end brands still want their identity to be one that is aspired to, not consumed in the same way that we do with items on high street sites, where the turnover is fast.
Their exclusivity is ultimately maintained with their pricing, and it only goes to fortify this that thousands of people can browse their sites, but only dream of purchasing - the cyber-window shoppers.
Last year you made a film for Chanel where you only hinted at referencing the iconic double C logo. How do you see symbolism has changed in the past ten years? Is branding as important as it used to be or do we desire something different?
I think that branding will always be integral to a fashion company doing well. Branding needn't be explicitly linked to enforcing a logo, or a tagline, it can be about creating a mood around a collection, or winning over a new audience.
As a film maker, if you can deliver a feeling of elegance you might have branded Chanel more sensitively than if you drop the classic CC in one too many times. Our audiences are smart and get bored by basic symbolism, but if we play with it and subvert it a little, it can be engaging.
That film got you a nomination for the New York Fashion Film Festival’s favourite film in 2011. How do you find the different fashion capitals reacting to (embracing/rejecting) fashion film?
I think that all of the fashion capitals have bought into the importance of viral films for spreading awareness of their brands. I don't really see a distinction between them on this front and probably throughout major cities all over the world. It is interesting that the leading creatives behind these films have a tendency to from London, or England. Maybe it is something to do with the quality of the art schools, or some tradition of British directors.
How do you feel the medium has changed the way brands communicate with their audiences?
Brands now have soundtracks, narratives and movement to emphasize why we should want to be one of their girls. Films allow brands to offer a form of escapism into their 'world', and can momentarily transport their audiences from their desks to some sort of fantasy... this is of course if they are any good.
Some fashion films follow a linear plot, while others are completely abstract. Which do you think does a better job representing a fashion brand? Is a plot needed?
Not at all. I think there are several routes to making an attention-grabbing film; it could have a fun plot, but equally could just be a visual exploration of a collection. I think a film with a lousy narrative has got to be the worst though, so maybe they are best avoided unless the script is properly written. I think the Jalouse film is a quite smart approach to using a narrator and having a short punchy script.
With your work, you often do collaborations, either with brands or other artists. As a filmmaker this can have many benefits in terms of adding new dimension to film. Is collaboration important?
Collaboration has always been part of any fashion shoot as much as it is in any of my films in that you tend to have a stylist, set designer, photographer, etc. As a Director & Illustrator I am very hands on across all elements: story-boarding, planning, art-working, and editing - I guess I can be quite controlling, but what I do is very specific. But you need the magic to really happen on the day with your whole team, or no matter what I add/edit the film won't be amazing.
Do you feel that collaborating with brands can dilute your own artistic identity?
I think if you couldn't work on your own and relied on other people's ideas you wouldn't have an artistic identity, or one that wasn't parasitic. But if your voice can be heard through a project and complimented by your fellow artists this can only be a good thing - surrounding yourself with ideas that sometimes clash with your own can only breed greater creativity.