Dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of fashion from an academic perspective, the quarterly journal Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture views fashion as a cultural phenomenon, offering the reader a wide range of articles by leading Western and Russian specialists, as well as classical texts on fashion theory. From the history of dress and design to body practices; from the work of well-known designers to issues around consumption in fashion; from beauty and the fashionable figure through the ages to fashion journalism, fashion and PR, fashion and city life, art and fashion, fashion and photography — Fashion Theory covers it all.
In this issue, we take a closer look at fashion and film.
The Dress section kicks off with Becoming Annie: When Film Costume and Fashion Converge by Lauren Boumaroun. The practice of adapting screen costumes has existed in various forms throughout film history, most recently manifesting itself as limited edition licensed clothing lines. In this paper, the author examines the production and consumption of screen costumes adapted for the retail fashion market using the case study of Renée Ehrlich Kalfus’s Annie for Target collection, based on her costumes for Annie (2014). Kalfus learns to negotiate seemingly conflicting identities while acting as ‘costume’ and ‘fashion’ designer simultaneously. Although the collection was made for children, the marketing capitalized on parents’ nostalgic attachment to Annie. The clothes allowed young consumers to appropriate the visual identity of fictional characters for their own self-expression through everyday cosplay. Boumaroun draws on a personal interview she conducted with Kalfus, advertising and marketing materials, and Annie for Target consumer reactions gathered from social media pages, YouTube videos, and blogs. Through a visual and discursive analysis of these materials, the author explores the process of costume adaptation and how both producers and consumers engage with film through clothing.
The Pictorial Programme in the Films of David Lynch: Artistic Belonging and the Phenomenon of Fashion by Ekaterina Vasilieva and Ilya Bannikov looks at art motifs in the films of David Lynch. For Lynch, the painterly foundation is a grand strategy which underpins more than just his mises en scène. The paper looks at the phenomenon of ‘pictorial thinking’ which, the authors argue, can be seen as the visual foundation of Lynch’s work and one of the ways in which he creates mythological space. Lynch’s pictorial system is a conceptual principle and important semantic element of his films. The pictorial programme of Lynch’s work is an instrument which not only forms the body of a film, but also maintains the balance between the real and the imaginary, the tangible and the spectral, the trendy and the everyday.
Pamela Church Gibson offers The Fashion Narratives of Tom Ford: Nocturnal Animals and Contemporary Cinema. Tom Ford adapts a second novel and once again transforms the environment of the central protagonist; Susan, mother and part-time teacher, now becomes a successful art gallery owner married to a millionaire. These changes create problems within the film, though they provide a perfect showcase for fashion. If the main narrative is centered on Susan, the second dramatizes the events of the novel she reads, while a third strand provides flashbacks. But Ford has created what is arguably a fourth narrative of dress, décor, and lifestyle. Consequently, this film characterizes more general trends involving the contemporary fusion of fashion and film, the appropriation of fashion imagery by the feature film and vice versa, and the overall impact of the promotional fashion video. The essay explores the prevalence of fashion within the contemporary mediascape, and the new ways in which fashion and film are interlinked.
This issue’s Body section opens with Ekaterina Zhiritskaya’s To Smell the Invisible: Deciphering Olfactory Signs in Cinematic Text (Based on Martin Brest’s Scent of a Woman). How possible is it successfully to fuse olfactory and visual experience, scent and vision? This paper briefly looks at how current visual practises from advertising to video art and from avant-garde perfume to documentary film, have attempted to resolve this contradiction. The author takes a closer look at perhaps the best-known film about scent, The Scent of a Woman. Starring Al Pacino, the story of the morose Lieutenant Colonel continues to be quoted by perfume lovers to this day. Upon closer examination, the film can be seen as something of an encyclopaedia of the beliefs (and prejudices) around scent in contemporary European culture. Through smell, different layers of meaning can be accessed: ‘male’ and ‘female’, ‘wild’ and ‘civilised’, ‘extreme’ and ‘everyday’, sparkling with all possible hues of cultural meaning, they help the characters build a whole range of relationships, offering the seasoned viewer a powerful olfactory dimension to the audiovisual experience of watching the film.
Kevin J. Hunt offers Eyes, Sight and the Senses on Film and in Fashion: Crossmodal Correspondences and Sensorial Empathy between Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (2000) and Johan Ku’s Selma Collection S/S (2014). Sensory studies emerged at the turn of the twenty-first century as a significant influence upon the arts, humanities and the social sciences. Study of the senses naturally tends towards the interdisciplinary because such studies provide a point of convergence between a broad range of scientific and socio-cultural research. Fashion theory is a subject area that is inherently concerned with issues of sensorial response. This article explores the concepts of sensorial empathy and crossmodal correspondences — whereby one form of sensory experience generates (or corresponds with) a response in another sense — through a case study of the relationship between film and fashion. In particular, this article analyses Johan Ku’s Selma fashion collection for Spring/Summer 2014, which was inspired by the character of Selma (as portrayed by Björk) in Lars von Trier’s 2000 film Dancer in the Dark. The article suggests that the filmic experience (of watching and hearing) evokes certain textural and sensorial responses that Ku thematically and conceptually transforms into physical and tactile designs as the basis for his Selma fashion collection.
The Culture section this time around opens with Marketa Uhlirova’s 100 Years of the Fashion Film: Frameworks and Histories. This article outlines a preliminary history of the fashion film, a multifaceted form that can be traced as far back as the emergence of cinema but has only recently ‘exploded’ thanks to advances in digital image production and dissemination. The article carefully negotiates the fashion film as a form that must be considered within multiple frameworks, namely cinema and the new media, fashion industry, entertainment, and art practice. Above all, the fashion film has come to embody a growing interest, within the realms of fashion promotion, image-making, and experience, in the expressive and marketing possibilities of movement and time. Unlike photography and other static imagery, the fashion film unfolds in time (as if somehow fulfilling a potential only suggested in photography or illustration), and, unlike the fashion show, it fixes fashion as image. Still, the fashion film is understood here not in isolation from these forms, but rather through their intermedial links, which have intensified in the ‘digital age’: fashion shows were among the vital early platforms for the exhibition of the fashion film, and fashion photographers were in the early 2000s their principal producers.
Raphaëlle Moine contributes Saint Laurent on Screen: Fashion Icon, Doomed Artist, or Celebrity? The two recent ‘competing’ French biopics devoted to Yves Saint Laurent — Yves Saint Laurent (Lespert, 2014) and Saint Laurent (Bonello, 2014) — underscore the tensions between biographical discourse and discourse on fashion. On one hand, while the representation of a tortured genius tends to eclipse the creations of the designer, on the other hand, the importance of the relationship between Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé also attests to a historic moment in the linkages between haute couture and the fashion industry. Although these two biopics regard this moment with nostalgia, turning Saint Laurent into ‘the last of the greats’, they clearly inscribe their protagonists in a contemporary culture of celebrity, in which the world of fashion actively participates: something that can be observed both in the films themselves, and also in specific circumstances attending their production. Similarly, a comparison between these two films suggests the ways in which biopics about fashion designers, by celebrating what is known these days as ‘French-identified global brands’, serve simultaneously as a strategy to promote the label and as a strategy for finding an international audience for French cinema.
Graham H. Roberts presents Leader of the Gang: Gosha Rubchinskiy and the Death of the Catwalk. Of all the fashion designers to have emerged in Russia in recent years, few are more remarkable than Gosha Rubchinskiy. He first made his name as a fashion photographer and designer of street wear, before being signed up by Adrian Joffe at Comme des Garçons in 2012. One of the most interesting aspects of Rubchinskiy’s work is his video output. Rubchinskiy’s unique brand of moving image completely ‘transfigures’ the fashion film, raising important questions about the role and status of the fashion designer, the limits of the fashion film, the workings of the fashion system, the role of the catwalk, and indeed the nature of fashion itself. These questions are the focus of this article, which discusses three of Rubchinskiy’s films in particular, namely Transfiguration, The Casting of Alexey and The Day of My Death.
Sarah Gilligan’s article Sun, Sex, and Style in Smart Cinema: Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015) examines the ways in which costuming plays a pivotal and disruptive role in A Bigger Splash. Through Tilda Swinton’s virtually mute performance as recovering rock star Marianne Lane, the intersections between clothing, the body, and performance construct a visual language dominated by desire, touch, conflict, turmoil, and disguise. With costumes designed by Raf Simons at Dior, in collaboration with Giulia Piersanti, an aesthetic of stylish resort wear is showcased to a niche audience. Although A Bigger Splash attempts to position itself as a European version of the American ‘smart film’, Gilligan argues that it is a ‘Euro-pudding’: a well-intentioned European coproduction with transnational scope, that aspires to art film status, but is devoid of broader social or political resonance. Through the casting of Swinton, ambivalence is commodified and used to promote luxury designer fashion to an aspirational audience rich in cultural capital, that wishes to distance itself from mainstream celebrity culture and Hollywood blockbusters.
Maria Claudia Bonadio and Maria Eduarda Araujo Guimarães offer Telenovelas: Consumption and Dissemination of Brazilian Fashion. This article addresses the importance of telenovelas in launching fashions in Brazil and their role in the translation of the international fashion scene for Brazilians between 1978 and 2001. This study analyzes the costumes of three female characters from three Brazilian telenovelas which were broadcast during prime time on the Rede Globo de Televisão (Globo Television Network — the broadcasting station that since the 1970s has had the highest viewing figures in Brazil, largely due to the appeal of its telenovelas). The telenovelas represented are Dancing Days
In this issue’s Events section, Charlotte Nicklas presents Tradition and Innovation: Recent Balenciaga Exhibitions.
Alex Esculapio reviews Items: Is Fashion Modern? at the Museum of Modern Art, New York(1 October 2017 — 28 January 2018).
Ksenia Borderiou visits MARGIELA / GALLIERA,
In this issue’s Books section, Kevin Almond offers a review of Zero Waste Fashion Design by Timo Rissanen and Holly McQuillan (Fairchild Books, 2015).
Ekaterina Vasilieva contributes Discourse Theory: The City and Its Space — a review of the Russian translation of Agnes Rocamora’s Fashioning the City: Fashion, Paris and the Media (М.: New Literary Review, 2016. (Series: Library of Fashion Theory magazine.)