About Archaeology of Fashion Film


Archaeology of Fashion Film is the first research project to systematically investigate the hidden history of fashion film in the silent era between 1900 and 1929, and its legacy for the rapidly changing field of fashion communications today. Based at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London and the University of Southampton, the project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and runs between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2019. In an era witnessing a rapid proliferation of the digital moving image across commerce and culture, we pose questions about the historical legacy of the rapidly changing field of fashion communications.


The study of fashion film has been neglected in both film and fashion histories, and in the fashion industry it is often assumed to be a novel product of the digital age. Our project redresses this by conducting extensive archival and filmographic research into fashion film of the silent era, and by subjecting these findings to a comparison with the practices of emergent digital fashion film in the early 21st century – another period of rapid technological and cultural change. We use ‘media archaeology’ as an innovative, non-linear method of connecting these two periods. Although not historically proximate, each period acts as a critical prism for understanding the other.


More broadly, we also investigate the potential of media archaeology approaches to ‘rewire’ established fashion history methodologies and to inform contemporary fashion practice.Emphasising the transformative effects of film on fashion, our project forges a new understanding of film as a ‘fashion medium’ and as a ‘fashion object’. It will make a significant contribution to scholarly studies of the history of fashion, of film, and of fashion film, and will change how contemporary fashion filmmakers and other media practitioners understand the history of their discipline and the media cultural context for their own creative and commercial work.


Positing fashion film as a unique hybrid of two industries with distinct practices, resources, and motivations, the project’s interdisciplinary approach provides a new historical and theoretical framework for understanding this important and increasingly popular phenomenon. To that end, the project brings together scholars with combined expertise in film history, fashion history and media studies, and practitioners involved in various aspects of contemporary fashion film production.