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Why narrative needs to beat product showcasing in fashion films

Prada recently released its new Real Fantasies film for autumn/winter 2013/14. The short spot is an abstract meander through both the men’s and womenswear collections – a showcase of a “distorted normality”, as the brand refers to it, which sees a series of domestic moments randomly assembled together.

The majority of coverage off the back of it has highlighted exactly that. But certain titles have knocked the spot’s “disconnect with the product”. Despite the fact the models are fully decked out in items throughout, one particular article suggests the user is “conflicted with understanding the story instead of noticing the collection”.

It then refers to the idea of the film being distracting through being too heavily focused on narrative. Wow.

Actually, the one thing fashion DOES do, and as I’ve written about substantially before, is push out ads based on selling product rather than campaigns built around selling ideas. The seasonal focus of such work means more often than not they’re tied heavily to the aesthetic of the collection, rather than the core concept of the brand. To fit with the pace of consumption in today’s digital world, it’s this that needs to change.

In other sectors the opposite is the aim. Nike strives to convince us we’re all athletes; its campaigns accordingly about personal performance over buying product for instance. Meanwhile Dove shares the idea of real women and their beauty rather than the fact it sells soap. Beer, electronics, automotive… they all do their own version of the same.

Storytelling, though not a new phrase for advertisers by any means, is THE key buzzword in marketing today. With the volume of content out there, it’s about connecting with consumers in a way that goes beyond pushing individual items in order to even get their attention – we’re all savvy enough to know we’re being sold to, so offer us something extra to make us love you. Fashion has a phenomenal ability to achieve that with the tied in emotion, or aspirational appeal we all feel for such brands, yet it’s not really explored it so far.

Of them all, Prada should be given credit for attempting to do this. In fact I’d argue the Real Fantasties spot in question, being as abstract as it is, doesn’t push as much of a narrative as it could (though this is undoubtedly the point). Its main autumn/winter 2013/14 womenswear campaign does a far better job in comparison, focusing on nine hopeful young actresses auditioning in front of a ruthless casting director.

In the past it’s done even more so – its three-minute short, A Therapy, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley, directed by Roman Polanski in 2012, is a particularly strong example. In that instance, it’s the story that is the focus – it draws the viewer in, engages them as true entertainment should, yet through a subtle twist places the jacket as the thing everyone walks away remembering.

A lot more fashion films could do the same.

By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.

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