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For its recent Paris fashion show YSL took the unusual step of commissioning a film (shown above) to replace the usual catwalk show for its autumn/winter menswear collection. The film, directed by Colonel Blimp‘s Sarah Chatfield and Chris Sweeney, was the brainchild of YSL creative director Stefano Pilati and showed as part of last week’s Paris Fashion Show. Running at seven minutes long, it is a glossy affair, presented across three screens and starring Rome actor Simon Woods.
“Instead of doing a catwalk show, they wanted to do a film,” explains Chatfield. “After years of having men and women going down the catwalk, it gets really boring. They still think it’s fine for women, but wanted to try something new for the men. Plus it allows you to get up close to the clothes and the fabric, whereas with the catwalk you’re always at a certain distance. It is quite radical for the fashion world.”
“Stefano is quite renowned for trying to change things,” continues Sweeney. “He’s trying to get people to connect to the clothes, he feels that men can’t relate to models. He picked the lead man, Simon Woods, after he saw him in Rome. He already knew that he wanted the collection to be about David Bowie and particularly The Man Who Fell To Earth. He loved the way Simon looked and thought he could become Bowie – luckily Simon agreed to do it.”
Instead of holding a traditional catwalk show, the film was shown at YSL’s HQ, to a select audience of around 80 guests. It was displayed more in the style of an art installation than a fashion show, with the film shown across three large screens. The floor and seating in the space was created in black plexiglas, allowing the film to be reflected across the room. In a room adjacent to the screening there was a space with photographs from the shoot and the clothes themselves, which could also be examined close-up by the viewers.
“It was interesting to take on their ideas behind the collection and the clothes,” continues Chatfield. “David Bowie was one approach, and Stefano also wanted to show the different sides of the YSL men’s collection, which had a dark side, a romantic side… we found that interesting to use as a starting point. We approached it a lot like a music video and that’s what he wanted – I think that’s why he came to us.”
The film will hopefully be the first of many new approaches to presenting fashion shows, an arena that seems ripe for some creative innovation. “Stefano loved the whole process of making the film,” continues Chatfield. “He kept saying, ‘I can’t go back!’, but obviously it depends on how it is received. So far the press coverage has been very positive though. I think it was refreshing for them to do… and it was fun for us to be part of something in fashion that was considered really risky.”