Fashion Film is growing as a genre as filmmakers begin to advance the communications of luxury brands.
We came across Ehsan Bhatti is his work with Louis Vuitton’s ‘Spot the Difference‘ video — a collaboration between artist Yayoi Kusama, retail innovators Selfridges, and LVMH. We caught up with the young filmmaker to discuss ‘fashion film’ and the thinking behind Spot the Difference.
Tell us about your background and how you got into this project.
I studied Architecture but felt the need to explore a variety of visual mediums so went on to study Graphic Design. I began experimenting with moving image as well as learning about branding and visual culture. I was shooting art-films and shorts which were being nominated for festivals and competitions whilst juggling DJ-ing and freelancing in advertising agencies; it was exciting times.
I’d always been into fashion and the only video content coming out of fashion brands were poorly executed behind the scenes or Hollywood budget fragrance commercials. Before the term ‘fashion-film’ was even appropriated I discovered a gap in the market. The fashion and luxury industry was struggling to keep up and and make the transition from a static to moving image paradigm. I began working directly with brands on creating films that still look and felt aspirational, but could hold the viewers attention.
I was approached to direct the project by Breed & Craft, a digital agency collaborating with LV. The brief was simply to create content that could create intrigue for the Louis Vuitton / Kusama / Selfridges pop-up store launch.
Describe the relationship between fashion and film.
Fashion-Film is still such a grey area. The industry is still in such a strange sense of limbo, some luxury brands are realizing that exposing their trade secrets, or producing poor production value content is actually of detriment to their meticulous image. The bias of budget between stills and film is finally shifting where the more progressive luxury brands realize they need to avoid videos shot on stills cameras and that if they do produce content it needs to sit in-line with the look, feel and cultural integrity of their own brand. Traditionalists fail to look beyond print media, when in fact their audience has embraced more dynamic, personalized and interactive platforms.
My intention is always to create watchable, unpretentious and warm fashion films that don’t take themselves too seriously. By producing something that engages the audience or has a tangible end objective, I can justify the commercial advantages of film to fashion clients.
What’s the concept behind the two videos you did for Louis Vuitton?
Although the client wanted content that they could seed out to a UK audience, I wanted to ensure films spoke the same language as the Kusama collaboration and that interactivity was inherent to the idea as opposed to an additional afterthought.
The Kusama collection is drenched in endless polka dots in all sorts of quirky colours and sizes, so the concepts stemmed from an idea that ‘no two dots are the same’. I came up with the idea of exploring two dots in particular – as if observing them under a microscope, almost as if they are two uniquely different living cells.
Each film is supposed to be a polka dot, hence the circular tracking movement around the set. Shot in one take each, the uninterrupted flow of loop references the idea of infinity, an inherent theme in Kusama’s work and also the name of the collection. The scene itself takes visual cues from the whimsical poem featured in the Selfridges windows ‘Love Forever’ by Kusama. The narrative is simply about getting dressed up: ‘let’s go an see our boyfriends in high heels’ etc. whilst the interactive element is the hook.
How would you compare creating fashion film to something like making a music video?
Going back to the MTV Boom – the heyday of music videos, the Cunninghams and the Gondry’s had a new platform where they could explore the visual language of film removed from narrative or a dramatic structure. It’s exciting times as once again the same creative opportunities present themselves as Fashion Film takes off.
The ability to see how clothes move, the structure and construction is one thing, however as a medium it’s the most potent way to create an identifiable character, in a setting or scene that evokes an emotional response. Fashion is about creating characters and lifestyles we aspire to. Film or moving image is the medium that brings characters to life.
Who are some other noteworthy figures in fashion film and/or fashion designers?
I think what Christopher Bailey has done for Burberry has revolutionized how fashion houses communicate. Britishness is at the heart of Burberry’s brand; London especially, is synonymous with progressive thinking. Burberry has set a benchmark for integrating technology, innovation and of course moving image into its brand, thus transforming itself into one of the coolest labels on the planet.
What’s a trend that makes you optimistic about the future?
I appreciate how technology is enabling film / better quality film to be viewed beyond the TV or laptop environment. Brands need to know there content will be seen by the right people, their presence on iPads, billboards, mobile phones etc… is becoming even more of a priority. Film is far more expensive and technically demanding to produce than stills, but if done properly the message outake far outweighs other forms of advertising – that sounds like advertising jargon but it’s true I swear.