On the 18th February, the British Council and British Fashion Council presented a screening premiere and panel discussion entitled “New Russian Fashion In Film” to showcase emerging Russian fashion designers and filmmakers through the new medium of fashion film. The event forms a part of the third annual International Fashion Showcase, which draws attention to emerging designers from over thirty countries. The Showcase is a part of the UK-Russia Year of Culture programme of events, the largest this year.

The medium seeks to challenge the norms of orthodox advertising methods and moving fashion shoots, as designers have now embraced film as an art form to exhibit their designs, rather than relying on mundane product placements.

The thirteen fashion films presented were a unique collaboration between Russian designers and filmmakers, spearheaded by acclaimed film director Kathryn Ferguson and fashion filmmaker Marie Schuller in a series of workshops at the Moscow Film School.

The event commenced with a reception, and after a short introduction by the British Council, the films were screened to the applause of audience members. The films utilised a variety of approaches, from narrative shorts to atmospheric videos, to capture the fashion designers’ thematic visions for their creations.

After the screening, distinguished Russian fashion insiders held a panel discussion, chaired by Marie Schuller and with Kathryn Ferguson as a special guest. The discussion revolved around the themes of Russian identity in a post-Soviet world, the current cultural scene in Russia, and the rise of social media as a platform for emerging designers to exhibit their talents.

Russian identity is currently in a flux after the fall of the Soviet Union, which can be seen clearly in Russia’s ambivalent political attitude towards the West as well as the Russian people’s soul search for a new identity. Jana Melkumova-Reynolds, Contributing Editor for Harper’s Bazaar Kazakhstan and a strategic consultant for international fashion labels, stated she feels this sense of a lack of identity. She summed up the contemporary Russian psyche: “I don’t know what to make out who I am”. Furthermore, she stated that today’s generation of Russian youth is the first to come of age in “no man’s land”, where the generation is searching for what they have left behind in the Soviet era as the new century moves forward.

Compared to other countries that have participated in the International Fashion Showcase, what impressed Ferguson in Russia was the designers’ willingness to explore their heritage to capture something unique in film. As fashion film continues rising, it will be important to not create the same clichés. Instead, designers and filmmakers must look to create new art, and the panellists encouraged this through the exploration of one’s local heritage.

Natalia Turovnikova, a Vogue Russia contributor and a top fashion blogger in Russia, stated: “In a globalised world where everyone is wearing Zara or Chanel, what remains unique is your own local heritage.” Turovnikova’s statement rings true-as culture turns increasingly homogenised through globalising forces, what will remain original is local identity. Artists can truly create unique works once they move past this global worldview to reach for their own cultural influences.

Furthermore, the panellists discussed the role of social media. The new medium of fashion film has only been made possible through social media, as artists now have a free platform to promote their work. No need to go through institutions anymore; the Internet provides a free place for all to promote their artistic endeavours.

Although the rise of social media has been celebrated as a freeing agent for artists and entrepreneurs, the economic gains are paltry. Large companies’ marketing departments gather enormous amounts of data on their customers, and spend a fortune on software analysis to understand how to appeal to their consumer’s tastes. This has led to smarter marketing practices, allowing for more traffic to the company’s website, and thus more revenue generated. However, an artist starting out of nowhere will find it difficult to compete to gain attention on the Internet. The Internet, by allowing everyone to have a voice, has created a dense jungle where to be noticed, one has to spend outrageous methods to gain attention and hold it. The only way to do so is through money; luxury designer houses may have a fortune to spend on generating traffic, yet an unknown artist does not. His voice will get lost in the density, and the cycle of large companies dominating the Internet will continue.

 

To find out more about the designers and filmmakers, visit:

http://design.britishcouncil.org/blog/2014/feb/17/new-russian-fashion-film-event/.