#Interview with Nick Rees-Roberts about film and fashion

Nick Rees-Roberts is the author of Fashion Film: Art and Advertising in the Digital Age published by Bloomsbury in 2018. He is also a Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and this year was a member of the jury at the Bucharest Fashion Film Festival.

While in Bucharest, Nick has made some time for an exclusive interview for Films in Frame in which he talks with Laura about what is a fashion film, how does its future look like and where do fashion and film intersect.

Nick, which industry interested you first: was it fashion or film?

Originally I come from media studies, my first two books looked on queer representation and aesthetics but through the lens of cultural representation. Over the last 10 years I’ve been researching and writing about contemporary fashion, mostly on menswear and on moving image

Where do you think they intertwine?

I think they intersect in lots of different ways. The history of film (from the late 19th century to the 21st) runs in parallel with the history of fashion and I think they have intersected from the beginning, in terms of promotion through commercial films and also documentary films.

Would you say that even fiction films made for cinema have a fashion component to it?

Some do, such as “Funny Face” or “Blow Up” – there are a number of examples of films about the world of fashion. Often they are critical of the fashion industry and most of the time fashion really is the second part of the story. I think it depends on the intention of the filmmaker and the production context as well.

I know you probably heard this question a lot of times, but for our readers, I must ask – what is a fashion film and how you think it started?

in the contemporary context, fashion film is defined by its format – films most of which are a form of promotion, whether they are branded or editorial. Generally, it involves a relationship between a brand, the media, and designers.

However, it depends what we are talking about because there are a few types of fashion film, the ones that look like traditional advertising – like the one David Lynch did for Dior with Marion Cotillard, the more artistic ones which can be experiments, the narrative ones and also the documentary ones, something like “behind the scenes” which gives consumers proximity to the backstage of fashion.

How would you describe the current state of the fashion film industry?

First, you might want to think if it is an industry? In the UK, for example, we could say there’s a sort of fashion film industry, what’s interesting it’s how it intersects with the film industry. Often the fashion film is seen as a subcategory of the fashion industry, and the film industry as something completely separate. I think they intersect when cinematographers and directors work both in fashion film & advertising and future filmmaking.

Do you see it growing in the near future?

It might be that the concept of “fashion film” disappears; what has happened since Prada in 2008 is that the major fashion brands have realized the potential of fashion moving image, so almost a decade. Since Instagram appeared it had an enormous impact on the commercial investment in moving image; we move towards content, formats are reduced, the style is changing, it’s becoming more about branded content.

Social media has been an important factor regarding how much brands are opening themselves to the public. Would you say fashion films contribute to the way people perceive fashion?

Brands started to create fashion that is Instagram friendly: what looks good, what would work well on Instagram and it’s the same thing with runway shows. Christian Dior for example, former Parisian haute couture house now sees itself as a design house and also as a studio, producing content. Brands have to constantly respond to the demands of consumers and the pressure is enormous. We are seeing fashion brands realize that as the public on digital platforms gets bigger, there might be some political and social expectations as well which they have to reply to. It becomes more inclusive.

Is fashion ultimately about emotions?

In part it is, yes. The affective appeal of clothing, why people respond to advertising often is not because of the concept or the idea, but it might be emotional, or sensorial.

Could you recommend our readers some really good fashion films?

Have a look at Prada’s production of fashion films, Muta by Miu Miu, films of Nick Knight which can be found on alongside other really good fashion films

Last, but not least how is your experience here at Bucharest Fashion Film Festival?

Very good, thank you. Very friendly people. The films are diverse, what’s difficult is to put your subjectivity aside to try to work out what is a good fashion film.

An interview by Laura Mușat

English translation by Andreea Toader

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