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April 21 2014

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Diane Pernet Loves Film, Fashion, and Zoolander

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diane-pernetFashion film is a curious genre. Oftentimes, the Style.com team is confronted with the typical pitch: a short little flick featuring haunting indie music, a pensive-looking model, a vintage bohemian ambiance, and, of course, a new collection. Sure, there are great ones (as evidenced by our Video Fashion Week series, which wrapped today), but more often than not, they’re cheesy and lacking in both plot and substance. However, according to former designer, renowned journalist, and A Shaded View on Fashion Film Festival founder Diane Pernet, this breed of cinematography is not fashion film at all. “Just because you’ve used a movie camera doesn’t mean you’ve made a film,” Pernet told Style.com. And she would know. Having launched her famed Paris-based festival in 2008 (it gets its name from her blog, A Shaded View on Fashion), Pernet now sorts through more than five hundred cinematic submissions each year before curating the lineup of films to be shown (and judged) during her grand event. As you can imagine, she’s seen the bad, the terrible, but also the spectacular.

Last weekend, thanks to a little help from the French Institute Alliance Française and Kering, Pernet brought New York its first taste of ASVOFF. She screened the festival’s greatest hits by the likes of Bruce Weber, Ellen von Unwerth, and Mike Figgis with the hopes of inspiring and enlightening her stateside fans. There was no competition element this time around, but Pernet, who’s as well known for her marvelously outré noir uniform as for her widespread work in sartorial cinema, hinted that she hopes to bring the full-fledged festival to the Big Apple next year. Also on her docket? The launch of a trio of perfumes, which debut on Style.com’s Beauty Counter this afternoon. Here, Pernet talks to Style.com about the role of fashion film, her frustration with runway shows, and why fashion flicks are so rarely taken seriously.

Oftentimes, fashion film is not taken seriously. Why do you think that is?

I think the reason it’s not taken seriously is that a lot of fashion photographers making films aren’t filmmakers. It’s their agents who are telling them, “You’d better get a video camera and you’d better make a film because that’s where it’s at.” And a film director has to think of so many different elements that you don’t think about in a frozen image. So a big problem is that some fashion photographers have a hard time making the segue. Of course, there are people who have made a nice entry, like Bruce Weber or Ellen von Unwerth who have been doing it for over a decade, or newer people like Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, and Inez & Vinoodh. But a lot of photographers are just making fashion photo shoots that move. That’s not a film. It’s a fashion shoot in motion and that’s not interesting. Not interesting to me, anyway.

A lot of fashion films that we see are almost a parody of themselves, with the indie music, the “deep in thought” models, the vintage vibe…With that in mind, what does it take to make a compelling fashion film?

I always use this as an example because it’s something everybody knows: A Therapy, Roman Polanski’s 2012 film for Prada. That’s an excellent fashion film. I personally like a narrative. I think you need a narrative if you’re going to hold somebody’s interest for three minutes. CO’s She Said, She Said [2013] by Stuart Blumberg, which won best acting in my festival, is a great example. It had a wonderful story. After my festival at Centre Pompidou, I got an e-mail from a digital person at LVMH that said, “Now that is a great way to show fashion.” Fashion film is not about just selling the product—it’s about creating an atmosphere. It’s a story. A great fashion film needs the same criteria as a feature film. Does it take you somewhere? Does it have some kind of emotion? And humor is always great. People in fashion need humor.

Does it upset you that so many brands are dubbing these moving photo shoots “fashion films”?

I get about five hundred submissions [for my festival] every year, and an awful lot are in that category. I think people still don’t have a grip on what a fashion film is—they still believe that if someone’s moving in front of the camera, it’s a film. So that’s a little depressing, but it’s getting better. People are starting to realize that it’s not about, like, here’s the shoe, here’s the dress, here’s this. It’s not an animated lookbook, for God’s sake. It’s a film.

Do you think that fashion film can stand on its own as an art form, or will its primary purpose always be to showcase a product?

I think it can stand on its own. There are a lot of fashion films that are made by actual filmmakers that are not just about a product, even when it is for a product. We have to move away from [product-centric fashion films] because they’re not very interesting. You want something that’s going to make you think. It’s just not about being pretty—it’s got to be more than that.

You were really the first major champion of fashion film. How did you come to be so passionate about it?

Well, my background is in film. That’s what I have my degree in, and I’ve always loved film and I’ve always loved fashion. I think from the first Walt Disney movie I saw in a drive-in, the fantasy of films just captured me. And as far as clothing, I was a designer for thirteen years. I think the real seed of it, though, was planted when I moved to Paris at the end of 1990. My first job was working on a feature film as a costume designer, and I realized how directors are really afraid of fashion. Of course, some directors, like David Lynch and Peter Greenaway, got it. But most are afraid that the fashions are going to take too much importance. But really, fashion is supporting the character, and it can be very subtle. Most directors just don’t understand fashion or they don’t give it the credit that it really warrants. That really made me think about the relationship between fashion and film.

Do you think the fact that directors like Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson, who have made films for Dolce & Gabbana and Prada, respectively, have elevated the practice to higher regard?

Absolutely. That’s why we like to always have one of our films presented at Cannes because we want more directors like that to be involved. I just met Alejandro Jodorowsky’s son, Adan Jodorowsky, who made this incredible film, The Voice Thief [2013], with Asia Argento. We’re going to put it in the next edition of ASVOFF. I want to always raise the bar, and I want more real directors. I think that’s important.

Do you think that something originally pegged as a fashion film could evolve into something that ends up being a mainstream feature?

Yeah, I hope so. I’d love that. And why not? Take Wes Anderson. I haven’t seen The Grand Budapest Hotel yet. But I think there are directors whose features you can call fashion films. We had William Klein two years ago as a special guest, and that film, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? [1996], was a fashion film. Or what about Zoolander [2001]? I love Zoolander. That’s a fashion film. I thought it was really interesting. And I love some documentaries, like the one on Diana Vreeland, The Eye Has to Travel [2011]. I loved that film. I thought it was really inspiring.

How do fashion films make us look at garments differently than a fashion photograph or a runway show does?

Fashion films are a dream. They’re all about desire. You’re seeing the garment in 3-D. I love a frozen image, too, so I’m not against print. I think there’s a value to that, and they can be something really beautiful. Fashion films are just another way to show fashion—not the only way. I’m not saying that fashion films are going to take over runway shows, because they’ve always been the most efficient way to show fashion, even though now, I think, for the most part they look pretty last century. I don’t think that will change right away.

Do you think it should change? Should we move away from runway shows?

I’d be happier to see more films and installations. I think so many fashion shows shouldn’t even happen. You spend so much time going from one end [of a city] to the other just to see things walking up and down the runway. If you’re going to take us somewhere, like Alexander McQueen used to or like [John] Galliano did in his day, or sometimes other designers like Rick Owens or Haider Ackermann do, there’s something special and emotional about a show. There’s a mood. But I don’t see that a lot anymore. I’ve talked to Rick Owens about this, and he likes the “tribe” experience of a show, but if you ask me, the main point of a lot of these fashion shows now is just to see who’s sitting in what row. I mean, who cares? I think they’re not necessary.

Photo: Courtesy Photo

Marco de Vincenzo Talks LVMH, Independence, and Commercial Success

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Marco de Vincenzo

Marco de Vincenzo: If you don’t know his name, you’d better learn it fast. The Italian up-and-comer, who has worked with Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi on the Fendi collection since 2000, recently secured financial backing from LVMH. LVMH has proven to be a strong supporter of fashion’s new guard—what with the creation its Young Fashion Designer Prize as well as its investment in Nicholas Kirkwood and J.W. Anderson—and bought a minority stake of De Vincenzo’s eponymous brand last month. Ever quick to the draw, Moda Operandi’s Indre Rockefeller has already scooped up the designer’s tactile, kaleidoscopic Fall ’14, and is offering it for pre-sale via an online trunk show, which runs through March 20. “I think he is an innovator,” Rockefeller told Style.com. “There are a number of designers who are doing beautiful things, but whenever I see Marco’s collections, it feels like he’s marching to the beat of his own drum,” she explained. “When you look at his use of color, texture, and print, it almost feels like he’s operating in another dimension. His Fall collection popped right off the runway, and for our purposes, it will pop right off the page as well.” That’s some high praise from a major retailer. “This was a very special season for me,” relayed De Vincenzo, who describes his woman as daring, classical, and hypnotic. “The timetable for a trunk show of this level is perfect because it’s so close to the show—the energy is still there,” he said of the Moda Operandi event. Here, De Vincenzo speaks with Style.com about LVMH, working with Silvia and Karl, and his plans for the future.

How has your role at Fendi influenced your design aesthetic? And what have you learned from Silvia and Karl?

When I started working at Fendi, I was a young boy. I owe all I know about this job to the opportunity I’ve had to observe and work with those two very important people—Silvia and Karl. I learned what it means to be free and to constantly want to reach my own goals and to create new ones. Working on bags together with Silvia gave me the opportunity to completely understand the balance that transforms a beautiful object into a big commercial success. I consider myself very lucky to have built my knowledge in such a context.

Did your role as a consultant at Fendi help facilitate LVMH’s investment in your brand?

Of course. Through Fendi, LVMH has had the time and opportunity to get to know me both as a creative and as a person. I love my job more than anything, and because of that, I dedicate most of my time to it. I believe that this dedication has been understood and appreciated.

Why did you feel it was the right move to sell a minority stake of your business to LVMH?

Being an independent designer is not easy. You can be noticed and arouse interest in people, but there’s a moment when you can’t satisfy what the fashion industry expects from season to season by yourself. You need to create and experiment, and you need money to do so. Furthermore, if you don’t have enough resources and a good team working with you, it’s hard to guarantee high quality concerning production and distribution. LVMH is giving me the possibility to grow.

Marco de Vincenzo

We’ve seen big fashion companies investing in several emerging and independent designers in the last couple of years. What are your thoughts on this? And how do you think it will affect the fashion industry and help it evolve?

I think that all this can facilitate a real generational turnover—not only via hiring talented designers to reshape established brands, but also by helping new names. It’s very natural to invest in the future of fashion because nothing lasts forever, and innovation is essential in every creative field.

What are your plans now that LVMH has invested?

From now on the game will become more serious. This does not mean that my last years of work were a game, but it’s true that more resources, together with a strong, pure, and creative vision, can make miracles. My business is becoming more definite.

Can you tell us about your aesthetic? What excites and inspires you?

I leave instinct to guide me without any limits. My aesthetic varies—it’s a harmony between very different themes. Optical illusions, kinetic art, and visual and tactile 3-D concepts are some of my starting points, together with the idea of being well dressed, and typically Italian.

What would you like to see change in the fashion industry?

Unfortunately, I know a lot of very talented designers who had to give up their projects because they were alone and were not accepted by the fashion industry. This must be avoided. A substantial project always needs a group of different [supporters and creatives] to be built. In my opinion, it’s very important to have a good team working together.

Photo: Getty Images; Courtesy of Moda Operandi

A Sign of the Times: Vanessa Friedman on the State of Fashion Criticism and Her New Gig

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Vanessa FriedmanChange is a’comin’. In the last six months, The New York Times’ key fashion critics and journalists—Eric Wilson, Cathy Horyn, and, most recently, Suzy Menkes—have departed the publication. (Wilson decamped to InStyle, Menkes is headed to International Vogue, and Horyn left for personal reasons.) But that’s not to say that the paper—which, thanks to Wilson’s wit, Horyn’s rapier pen, and Menkes’ learned insights, has offered up some of the most entertaining and informed fashion reporting of the last two decades—is losing its clout. Yesterday, the Times confirmed industry suspicions when it appointed Vanessa Friedman, formerly of the Financial Times, as its chief fashion critic and fashion director. Like her NYT predecessors, Friedman, who became the FT‘s first fashion editor in 2002, has a knack for not only critiquing fashion, but for helping us to understand it in a broader historical and cultural context. All one needs to do is read her recent takedown of Jeremy Scott’s first Moschino outing—which opened with the line, “Kiev was burning and in Milan, Jeremy Scott made his debut at Moschino with a series of bad jokes”—to understand what I’m talking about.

Friedman insists, however, that she is her own journalist—not Cathy Horyn, not Suzy Menkes—and when she dives into her new post next month, she plans to stick to her guns and honor her own voice, rather than focus on living up to the reputations of those who came before her. Here, Friedman speaks to Style.com about her new gig; the state of fashion criticism; and why, despite all the Internet’s white noise, readers still crave an expert opinion.

You were just hired for one of fashion journalism’s most prestigious positions. But why, in this day and age, is fashion criticism so important?
I think any kind of criticism is important, whether it’s fashion or another form of cultural analysis. And I think it always has been. There is a lot of talk about the rise of the blogger and social media and how everyone’s ability to become a critic has made formal critics less important. But I think what everyone is finding is that there is room for all sorts of opinions, some of them educated and some of them just literal. And I think the Times is an incredible platform to bring an educated, contextual, impersonal, analytical, historical, multicultural analysis to a forum, whether that’s books or music or movies or fashion.

Some say fashion critics aren’t always treated with the same respect as other reporters. Have you found that to be the case? Does fashion criticism deserve the same amount of respect as other forms of reporting?
Honestly, I haven’t found that to be the case. You know, I currently work at a highly financial-oriented newspaper, and I feel as legitimate and respected here as anybody. I think that if you treat your subject with seriousness and respect, other people tend to treat it the same way. The Times has a history of treating it that way, and I think that’s terrific. What’s interesting about fashion at the moment is that it has become a pervasive element in the general pop cultural conversation because of social media and the rise of visuals as a primary communication device. The first thing everyone talks about, whether they’re talking about film or music or presidents, is what they’re wearing. And that makes fashion a really interesting subject to look at, and one that’s relevant in a very broad context.

Given the power of advertisers these days, do you think it’s possible to be an unfettered critic? Do you feel you’re able to say what you want to say?
I’ve never, ever had an issue with this. It’s never crossed my mind and it’s never been something that’s been brought up to me. My feeling is that if you are a critic, what’s important is to be fair, and people respect that. They may not like it, but they are fine with it. And if you’re not willing to say when something is bad or a mistake, then when you say it’s good it means nothing.

What is your vision for the Times? Are you planning on changing anything?
I think it’s too early to say. I’m really excited to get to the newspaper—which isn’t going to happen for a couple of weeks—and meet everyone. Clearly, I’m a different person, a different writer than Cathy or Suzie or anyone else, so whatever I bring to the table is a specific point of view. But I think I’ll see when I get there.

In that same vein, how do you see yourself fitting into the team and the history of the New York Times in respect to Cathy? She had a reputation for being a spectacular—but often ruthless—critic. Do you aim to be the same?
No. I aim to be me. I would never aim to be the same as Cathy. She was terrific, and I have enormous respect for her and read everything she wrote. I loved sitting next to her at shows, I loved talking to her about lots of things—fashion and beyond. But we’re different people and we’re different writers. What I do will be different.

Your Moschino review was pretty sharp-tongued. What kind of response did you get to that piece?
Some people liked it, people agreed or disagreed. It was mostly via Twitter. I think Jeremy [Scott] tweeted his Facebook likes. But no one said anything, no one called me from Moschino and said, “How could you do that?” There was a reason I said what I said, it wasn’t just gratuitous, and hopefully I expressed that. I really look forward to seeing what he does next. Continue Reading “A Sign of the Times: Vanessa Friedman on the State of Fashion Criticism and Her New Gig” »

Can’t Kick the Swoosh: A One-on-One With Nike CEO Mark Parker

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Nikes

Clad in his signature blazer, light blue shirt, dark jeans, and black sneakers embellished with gleaming white swooshes, Nike CEO Mark Parker took the stage in Barcelona last week like the Steve Jobs of sports gear. A crowd including just about every soccer journalist in the world, along with a smattering of international fashion and lifestyle media, had gathered in the Spanish city, where football is worshiped with religious fanaticism, to see Parker introduce Nike’s latest project: the Magista football boot. (That’s a soccer cleat to you, Yankees.) The new shoes will be worn by more than seventy players during the World Cup in Brazil this June.

The Magista’s radical design features a knit upper with a collar that covers the ankle. Not the most exciting footwear development for those who aren’t concerned with ball control, but as with any Nike announcement, it offered an occasion to consider how the sportswear giant will continue to keep a foothold in style.

Many Nike innovations—Free, Flyknit, Lunar—find a second life in the fashion world. For Parker, who got his start at Nike in 1979 working as a footwear designer, that’s an unintended side effect of the process. Even so, it was impossible to escape the swoosh during the Fall ’14 shows, as everyone from Susie Bubble to My Theresa’s Veronika Heilbrunner mixed Nikes with their high-styled fashion week looks. And then, of course, there’s Riccardo Tisci, whose admiration for the brand has manifested in a much-buzzed-about range of collaborative kicks. Here, Parker talks to Style.com about authenticity, the sport-fashion crossover, and what it means to be an innovator.

“Innovation” is a word that gets thrown around a lot when you talk to people at Nike. From a design perspective, what does the word mean to you?
Well, it is a word that I think, just in the general vernacular, gets thrown around too much and abused. I’m not speaking about Nike necessarily—just in general.

For us it actually means creating a product that is truly new and better, so it’s about improving. We’re a performance-based company; we strive to help athletes get better and realize their potential. But “better” is a key word.

We take input from everyone, so the innovation process at Nike is driven by being incredibly observant; by the relationship we have with athletes; and by the deep, personal connections we have. We don’t just think about what athletes need to perform but what they need as individuals, as people with opinions. It’s not just about performance but aesthetics, too. So all of that gets factored in along with the latest in technologies, materials, components, and processes to improve.

You mentioned aesthetics. Often the big Nike innovations trickle down into the Nike Sportswear line, or they wind up being used by people who aren’t just concerned about performance but about fashion and style. At what point does that enter the equation?
Along the way. In many cases, after the fact. We don’t set out to try to be fashionable. That’s a by-product or a result. That’s fine. But we’re driven by trying to solve problems, and those problems are primarily functional problems.

We do, as I said, take into account the aesthetic, because that’s really important as an athlete—how do you look? When you look at yourself in the mirror, you want to look like you’re fast, you want to look like you’re strong, you want to look like you’re expressive, you have your own personal style. That’s part of the process, but it’s not like we’re sitting there saying, “We need to create something that is driven by trying to be fashionable.”

I think the authenticity and the uniqueness that comes from solving problems—the form that follows the function—is what makes us interesting from a fashion standpoint. Continue Reading “Can’t Kick the Swoosh: A One-on-One With Nike CEO Mark Parker” »

The 2014 Whitney Biennial Looks to the Future

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Untitled Video Still (isla de la juventud) by Gary Indiana

Today, with the opening of the 2014 Whitney Biennial, which runs through May 25, an era will end. The show marks the last staging of one of the art world’s most famously forward-looking events in the Marcel Breuer monolith at Madison Avenue and 75th Street before the museum decamps to its new Meatpacking District digs in the spring of 2015. This year’s BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP-sponsored show boasts works by 103 artists—both emerging, like duo Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst (below), and established, like Sterling Ruby and Gary Indiana (above)—and comprises a dizzying array of mediums and vernaculars. Three curators (Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner) brought in from outside the organization were each tasked with filling one floor of the museum. Style.com sat down with director Adam Weinberg to talk moving, the future, and why three heads are better than one.

On the eve of the last Biennial in the current space, what is the mood? Excitement? Nostalgia?

It’s forward-looking. I think the great thing about the Whitney is while we have a great history, it’s always about looking forward, and it’s an understanding that you always have to embrace where you are now. To keep your eyes on the horizon but not lose track of where you’ve come from. It doesn’t feel nostalgic to me—it feels right.

Did the upcoming relocation lead you to take a different approach to curating this year’s show?

It did. We brought in three outside curators, and each curator was given a floor of the museum. So it’s basically three exhibitions in one that complement one another and connect to one another but are distinct shows.

Was there any interaction between the curators to ensure a somewhat unified final product?

They met with each other; they got to know each other; they talked about artists together. There were some artists whom they all three agreed they were interested in having, and then they would decide who would best belong where. But otherwise, they did it independently.

Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst

How much does the space influence the show’s curation?

Quite a bit because it becomes the frame for the show. If you took the same group of artists and installed it in the new space downtown, it would be a different show. It doesn’t mean it’s not similar, but it would feel different. The concept of physical space changes how you experience it.

What is the new downtown location going to afford you for the next Biennial?

A lot of outdoor space. We have 14,000 square feet of it at the new building. And then we have dedicated performing arts space, which could be used for performance or installation or video. It’ll feel very different.

How do you think that the Whitney is going to fit into the largely gallery-driven downtown art dynamic?

I think it will offer a good contrast because the galleries are not primarily devoted to providing a context of work, and they’re not primarily devoted to scholarship. They pick their artists they believe in and they support them, but their primary role in the end is to support their artists and sell their work. We’re not selling the work. Not directly, anyway.

Does public reaction to past Biennials play into your approach to curating?

Never. No. You can’t curate through marketing. We care about the audience, but you have to start with the art, start with the artist. Our job is to get a sense of what’s really happening. And I truly believe that the real audience is people who want to know what’s going on. The audience is determined by the content and character and quality of the work and not by going out and asking people what they want. I mean, there are a lot of museums that now go out and they have all these voting things. That’s fine; that’s their approach. But my approach is what is our mission, what is our history, what is our connection, what drives us? And that is being active, and the visions of artists working in a particular moment. And it brings people out.

Photos: Gary Indiana, Production still from Untitled (Stanley Park), 2012-14; Relationship Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, 2011