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Nov 29, 2016
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Fashion's not-so-commercial cinema moment

Nov 29, 2016

Fashion seems to be having a cinema moment. Major labels from Burberry to Moncler, and retailers like H&M, are producing glossy cinematic productions, directed by major international directors and starring celebrity actors.

A Moncler puffer jacket seen in the last scene of the brand's Brave dance and music film, directed by Spike Lee - Moncler

Burberry started the trend earlier this month with a three-minute biographical film about the British label’s founder, Thomas Burberry. The film is directed by Asif Kapadia, author of the Oscar-winning documentary 'Amy', starring Sienna Miller and Dominic West.

The clip set the tone for a slew of short releases, which while promotional by association with their fashion label patrons, hardly look like ads. The Burberry film is officially part of its holiday campaign and does show a cast often clad in the historic house's iconic rainwear (and scenes with lots of inclement weather). However, it is as just as much a period piece and could easily be mistaken for a feature film trailer.

Next came Prada’s foray on November 15, a new David O. Russell film (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle). “Past Forward” is squarely in the art film camp, 12+ minutes long, a black-and-white Hitchock/Antonioni-esque short feature that follows three women — Freida Pinto, Allison Williams, Kuoth Wiel — on their way to separate romantic rendez-vous. And all, of course, impeccably dressed in Prada. Still, no one collection is on display, especially no recent for-sale clothes.

Miuccia Prada reportedly gave the American director full artistic freedom, which Russell found very motivating: "In 'Past Forward' I saw the opportunity of taking a cinematic journey to the heart of different layers of filmic memories, of slices of life and emotions, with no other intention than creating art."


Only a few days later, Moncler made fashion headlines with its release of 'Brave', a new musical short film by Spike Lee. The premiere coincided with the brand’s fanfare opening of its flagship in New York, but that is pretty much where commerce stops and art takes over.

The cast includes appearances from Ansel Elgort and Linda Evangelista, as well as a lot of celebrity and less famous singers and dancers. But it only shows one single product for sale in the very last shot: a down jacket designed by Thom Browne, part of large American Flag puffer jacket installation he created for the flagship, the proceeds of which will be donated to charity.


Fast-forward to Monday, when H&M dropped its holiday campaign, a 3-1/2 minute Christmas-themed clip starring Adrien Brody and directed by Wes Anderson of Grand Budapest Hotel fame.

In 'Come Together', Brody plays a conductor on the H&M Lines Winter Express railroad, which has been delayed, meaning Christmas will have to be on board. The passengers are attired in H&M wear and the film does end with a clear call to action: “H&M – In Stores Now.”

But it is also a showcase for the quirky, unmistakable directing style of Wes Anderson, complete with his muted palette and anachronistic settings. In fact, only the beginning and end of the film give any clue at all that the cast might be wearing H&M clothing and much of the film itself simply tells the story of organizing an impromptu holiday celebration on an old-world train speeding through a wintery landscape.

Wes Anderson is a familiar film director in the world of commercials, having been previously recruited by Prada for its 2013 holiday campaign. This 7.5-minute film is a preview of how fashion and clothes has increasingly taken a back seat to the art of cinema in productions by fashion houses.

Still, the film’s star, Jason Schwartzman, one of Anderson’s favorite leading males, is attired in a bright yellow leather jacket emblazoned with the name Prada on the back -- just in case there is any doubt about who’s who in this slick production.

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