Narrative & Non-narrative approaches

During early years where fashion films started, it was used to promote garments and products and it is similar to the adverts from nowadays. The influence of this came from the popularity and success of cinema during the 20th century. Newsreel format was used to feature popular fashion trends. On below is an example of the newsreel from 1960 Paris Fall Fashion Week which features fashions of the 1960’s. It was presented with new films which has got similar themes as well.

During 1950s to 70s, many famous fashion photographers for instance: Erwin Blumenfeld, William Klein and Guy Bourdin had established their fashion films and they have taken photography into a further step and level by using fashion films. These not only help fashion films more recognised and familiar for people, but also allow fashion films to define its own genre within film. On below is a fashion film done by Guy Bourdin. The fashion film features a female model and it focuses on the make-up, hair and styling of the model. I think the music compliments the mood of the film as the music creates a mystery and confusing atmosphere to show the inner struggle of the character. The way the model’s facial expressions change from being happy and later on, she turned depress.

There are three genres approaches within fashion film:

  • Conventional Narrative Fashion Film

Conventional narrative fashion film means make-up, hair and styling are used to support the character/s and the character/s are used to support the narrative. In conventional narrative fashion film, fashion play the role as an aspirational symbol.


Roman Polanski’s “A Therapy” fashion film was created for Prada in 2012. The film is starred by Ben Kinsley and Helena Bonham Carter. In the film, it has follow a narrative story line which the film is supported by defining the characters and also you can see there are specific scenes where focuses on the fashion products (e.g. the purple coat, heels). The fashion product (the purple coat) is supported by both characters which stand out the product even more and the dialogue and the narrative both link to the product as well. By using a female character at the beginning taking off the coat and the male character trying on the coat at the end, it links to the intention of the film which is written at the end “Prada suits everyone”. The use of humour where the man trying on the purple coat at the end and the way the brand Prada is a famous brand which makes the film more interesting.

Famous fashion photographers such as Helmot Newton, Deborah Turbeviller and Guy Bourdin promoted the use of narrative fashion film heavily from the use of a ‘product photo’. During late 20th century, fashion photography capture the movement of the body and the acting more in the way the model posed. The garment is important in narrative fashion film and it is used to support the characters played in the narratives created through photography. Classic famed actors and actresses of the modern cinema are used by the directors for the production of narrative in the fashion films. This influences the promotion of fashion heavily and also will let more audience recognise the fashion film. So therefore, many directors use famed actors and actresses in their films.

  • Organic Narrative Fashion Film

In classic cinema and narrative fashion film, all elements are subordinate to story-telling and it includes sound editing, cinematography, set design and fashion costume. Organic narrative fashion film means make-up, hair and styling are used to support the character/s in the film and is more focusing on fashion. The character/s are used to support the representation of the garment and the garment plays the most important role in the film. So this means that the characters may only be visible in lesser scenes throughout the film. The narrative is focusing on the presentation of the garment.


Lucretia Martel’s fashion film for Miu Miu, “Muta”, is a fascinate personal reflection from Martel about the transformative power of femininity and the way she uses “mute” and “transformation” for this film is because she want to show the idea of beautiful and also show mystery atmosphere within the film. The films was set on-board a ship anchored in a tropical sea and the film shows what is happening inside the crew.There are beautiful dressed and insects like female creatures and as you can see in the film that it is more focusing on the garments and styling of the eight models and the face of the models are unrecognised. The film features 1970’s styling and there are no dialogue within the film. We can hear mechanical and insect-like noises.

“Beneath their tortoiseshell shades, false lashes flutter, and a new private language is revealed, a morse-code of clicks and vibrations. The female chrysalides prepare for their strange metamorphosis.” (Miu Miu, 2011)

  • Non-narrative Fashion Film

Avant-garde, experimental film were a creation against industrialisation and they stood up to mainstream cinema. Non-narrative fashion film means make-up, hair and styling are used to support the character/s in the film and are also used as a support for the key fashion objects feature in the film. The theme is set to present the status of fashion as a designed object which is foregrounded. The film usually features innovative make-up and hair designs which complement the Avant-garde representation. Non-narrative film has got many techniques which inspires and comes from the cinema. It expands the consciousness by the use of abstraction, repeated patterns and other non narrative techniques.


Showstudio’s fashion film “Portent” by Nick Knight, is an example of non-narrative fashion film. The film is about romantic classicism between the male and female and it uses fashion to show the love story between the man and the woman. The clothing are delicate and most of the scenes in the film features vintage frames. I like the way how there are scenes which has got three frames in one scene and each frame capture the same people in different body movements. I think the fonts in the opening are quite interesting in the way that it is different to other Showstudio’s fashion film and it looks classic.The styling in the film links to the Victorian era and it has got a modern interpretations idea in it as well. The nudity scene links to many other Avant garde fashion films.



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