Case study: Presenting diversity through the lens of luxury brands with NOWNESS
MA Fashion, Film and Digital Production (MAFFDP) students at London College of Fashion (LCF) produced fashion film campaigns for digital video channel NOWNESS to present diversity in a culturally responsible and commercial context through the lens of a luxury brand.
For a 15-week Knowledge Exchange project, students attending the ‘Narrative Content for Digital Platforms’ Unit of study on the MA Fashion, Film and Digital Production (MAFFDP) course were set the challenge to produce 8 fashion film campaigns to explore the following research question about diversity and representation in Fashion Film:
How can digital fashion film present diversity in a culturally responsible, as well as commercial context through the lens of a luxury brand?
The second part of the brief, accompanying the innovative narrative fashion films, included the creation of a 360° release campaign that celebrated a brand of their choice and aligned with the NOWNESS creative cues: emotional, sensorial and visual storytelling.
Students were briefed by the course team to
- research a luxury brand
- consider how they could re-think contemporary brand narratives through fashion film
- imagine what the future of fashion film looks like
Students then went on to pitch their campaign ideas in person to NOWNESS’ creative and commissioning team at their studios at 180 Strand. Building on the team’s feedback, the students moved from development to film production organisation processes, supported by the course team through pre-production and production.
At this point, students coordinated their shoots with a variety of stakeholders; hiring locations, kit, crew, talent, props and liaising with clothing hire from fashion houses to realise their films. Upon reaching post-production, NOWNESS arrived on site at LCF to review the ‘rough-cuts’ for a final round of feedback before the deadline.
At the end of the project, NOWNESS chose the multi-disciplinary film ‘The Ultimate Samsara’, directed by Chenshuo Xu and Soso Gao (creative director) and Ziyi Wang (art director), as the winning film.
Based on research about the fashion brand Sankuanz and their concept of chaos and order, the film explores the representation of masculinity in modern society in an Asian context, using 3D technologies to create a highly detailed virtual environment.
“To reflect and expand on these themes [of chaos and order], the film incorporates Chinese traditional and modern architecture, Chinese sacrificial Nuo dance and symbolic masks situated in a futuristic digital landscape. My aim is to present Chinese culture in an innovative and culturally responsible manner and to investigate human identity in the metaverse via digital reincarnation.” - Chenshuo Xu
Another film titled ‘Traces of Love’, directed by Zoe Cheung and edited by Lauren Bilodeau also received an honourable mention. The film was shot on 16mm by MAFFDP 20/21 graduate Laura Aguilera Martin and explores British-Asian dual identity. Laura is currently pursuing a successful career freelancing as a cinematographer and camera assistant and was hired by Zoe after being impressed with her grad film ‘Nostos Erda’, also shot on 16mm.
The project resulted in a deeper awareness of the importance of representation and diversity in commercially branded fashion film and encourages filmmakers to remain in dialogue with brands regarding cultural narratives on screen. A deeper ethical awareness is needed to make significant changes on screen through the depiction of authentic stories that represent the human experience.
Through the students’ engagement with NOWNESS, a platform known for investing in and showcasing cultural narratives that open up conversations about diversity and representation, provided an opportunity for students to realise that they can harness their own stories as inspiration and use their culture as currency for their filmmaking. Furthermore, pitching their ideas directly to NOWNESS through an authentic industry scenario helped build confidence significantly in all the students who participated.
Finally, the three filmmakers behind the winning film gained mentorship from the NOWNESS team for their Master’s Projects, which premiered on NOWNESS Global, Asia and China on Monday 01 August 2022.
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