Archaeology of Fashion Film Workshop

21 – 22 March 2018

Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London and British Film Institute

 

Handschoenenfabricage, France, 1924
Workshop setting at the BFI, Stephen Street, London

Participants: Caroline Evans, Jussi Parikka, Marketa Uhlirova, Lucy Moyse Ferreira, Marie-Aude Baronian, Sally Anne Bolton, Jo Botting, Ros Cranston, Oriole Cullen, Bryony Dixon, Kathryn Ferguson , Leah Gouget-Levy, JJ Guest, Tom Gunning, Jenny Hammerton, Eirik Frissvold Hanssen, Pamela Hutchinson, Nico de Klerk, Claire Robertson, Patrick Russell, Claire Smith, Raven Smith, Francis Summers, Marcus Tomlinson, Jay Weissberg

 

Musical accompaniment: Stephen Horne

 

 

This intensive workshop, spanning two days at two venues, was a follow-up activity to a half-day workshop we had previously held at the British Film Institute in November 2017. It brought together a diverse group of 26 researchers from across fashion and cinema history, fashion curation, film archiving, and contemporary image making and contents commissioning.

 

The project team proposed a working definition of ‘fashion film’ to mean short, presentational, largely non-narrative films dedicated to the display and promotion of fashion but certain genres of film were included to test this boundary (films containing a basic narrative, ethnographic film, ‘costume’ film etc.). The selection of films shown on Day 1 emphasised a deliberate confrontation of historical and contemporary material, contrasting moving image cultures during two periods of major technological and cultural transformation under our investigation: the era coinciding with silent cinema (1890s-1930) and the contemporary era.

 

We showed 76 short films and film excerpts in total, which we compiled in collaboration with the following international film archives: British Film Institute; EYE Film Museum Amsterdam; Archives françaises du film, CNC; Lobster Films, Paris; Gaumont Pathé Archives and National Film Archive, Czech Republic. Though most of the films we watched were made available in a digital format, on Day 2 we watched a number of films on 35mm, in a cinema setting.

 

We structured the two days into eight sessions:

 

DAY 1

 

  1. FRAMING FASHION FILM: WHAT IS IT AND WHERE ARE ITS HORIZONS? (Moderated by Oriole Cullen and Marketa Uhlirova)

 

  1. CONTEMPORARY FASHION FILM: WHAT IS IT? TECHNIQUES OF MOTION AND TIME & STORYTELLING (Moderated by Raven Smith)

 

  1. SILENT CINEMA’S FASHION FILM (Moderated by Jay Weissberg)

 

  1. SETTING THE SCENE, FILMING FASHION ‘IN MOTION’ (Moderated by Tom Gunning)

 

DAY 2

 

  1. FILMING LUXURY AND DETAIL: MATERIALITY, TEXTURE AND THE ROLE OF COLOUR (Moderated by Eirik Hanssen)

 

  1. BODY, MOVEMENT AND CHOREOGRAPHY (Moderated by Caroline Evans)

 

  1. DISPLAY, ADVERTISING AND PROMOTION (Moderated by Nico de Klerk)

 

  1. FILMING THE PROCESS (Moderated by Patrick Russell)

 

Each of the sessions discussed films in relation to particular genres, concerns, themes and questions, ranging from settings and mise-en-scènes to filming conventions, choreography and gestures, to colour technologies used, to advertising rhetoric and production aspects of process film. The discussions were extremely interesting; they managed to truly zero in on a number of fascinating and largely unexplored aspects of fashion film.

 

The event proved to us that multi-disciplinary workshops and collaborative thinking in general can be a really productive means of not only advancing knowledge but also stimulating desire for new knowledge. Finally, as we had suspected, the participating fashion industry professionals (Marcus Tomlinson, Kathryn Ferguson, Raven Smith, Sally Bolton, JJ Guest) proved absolutely vital to our investigation, in attuning us to the realities of moving image production, circulation and consumption within and beyond the fashion industry today. It was a rare privilege for us to be able to stage a conversation between young, contemporary filmmakers, eminent film historians, and specialist fashion curators, who are never usually in dialogue with each other.

 

The conversations will become the basis of a book, to be announced soon.

 

– Marketa Uhlirova