Talking Shaded Views With Diane Pernet
Documentary film maker, fashion blogger, talent scout, journalist, critic, photographer, and designer; what, or rather who, do all of these things have in common? Diane Pernet. One of the many reasons for Pernet’s status as fashion icon is the fact that she has mastered each aspect of the industry. Furthermore, it’s her who we owe thanks to, for establishing two of the industries most modern, widespread forms of communication: fashion blogging and fashion film.
Portrait by Alan Gelati & Artistic Direction by Marco de Rivera
Imagined in head-to-toe black, with her headpiece standing high above her, Diane Pernet is the original ‘fashion blogger’. However prevelent this title today, as every fashion devotee with an instagram account generously doles it out, Pernet is as authentic as it gets. Her website, A Shaded View On Fashion, leads by example, providing the industry with a point of reference and teaching up-and-comers how it’s done. A trailblazer at heart, her innovation continued after being the first journalist to delve into the world of the internet, as she went on to establish the next big thing, fashion film, and spread it globally. The first fashion film festival, titled ASVOFF (A Shaded View On Fashion Film), is (not surprisingly) just another one of Pernet’s ingenuitys. ASVOFF lives on the forefront of innovation, supporting new artists around the world and launching their careers, while promoting the fashion, style and beauty film genres.
Launch the gallery to look through some of the fashion films.
You were one of the first journalists to take advantage of the power of the internet, where you do see the future of journalism going, as everything becomes more and more digital?
I think it is how we consume and receive fashion that has changed with the era of blogging. Everyone is privy to fashion in real time, via live streaming and instant coverage thanks to sites like Nowfashion. The old way of presenting fashion to an exclusive few is over. The power of the once omnipotent fashion PRs is also changing because it really matters less if you receive a ticket to a fashion show because, at the very least, you can watch it from the comfort of your computer where ever you want to be or wherever you are.
Granted it is not the same experience but, more and more, the virtual experience of capturing shows is improving and advancing so that the gap between quality of the actual show and the show online is narrowing. Of course you can’t replicate the experience of being live when a true ‘fashion moment’ happens on those rare occasions in shows when something is exceptionally moving, emotive or touching. A few designers do go far beyond the conventional catwalk presentation but for the most part it is just people walking up and down a ramp wearing clothes. The mood around the show isn’t often a spectacle or performance art like it used to be. So the difference between showing on the catwalk and showing in a showroom is not all that much anymore for most designers.
The real reason that most people need to attend shows now is to be seen themselves. To be seen is to be important enough to be in a good seat or to be seen outside a show to be photographed for their style to be documented and disseminated around the world. Either way, ultimately, it is more about self promotion than about experiencing what is being presented by the designer.
Every print publication has a digital outlet, blogs and the net are for fast consumption, print is for more reflective articles. There is a place for both.
And what about the future of fashion: how can we save couture from the up rise of fast fashion?
Like anything the future depends on new talent. It is like when Givenchy retired and was replaced by John Galliano and eventually Riccardo Tisci. Givenchy and his clients were in their twilight years and there needed to be a younger market in order for the brand to continue to be relevant. Designers have to create something that has its own signature and understand that fast fashion spends a lot of time and money to make perfect patterns. If they are trying to sell their garments at high prices they better make sure they know how to cut and produce their fashion. They must have something to say that is not already on the market.
Couture is about dreams, high street is about giving fashion to the masses. They are totally different in their approach and it is not the same market.
Der Doppelgänger by Julien Landais
What do you find are the difficulties of achieving prominence in today’s digital world, where anybody can loosely consider themselves a fashion blogger due to their social media accounts?
I was writing for the online editions of Vogue and Elle which had only just launched, then, in Febrary 2005 I launched www.ashadedviewonfashion.com , which was one of the first or one of maybe three fashion blogs at the time. It’s hard to imagine that now when you think of the millions of fashion blogs that are around but the internet was still a pretty barren landscape for fashion back then. As you can imagine mainstream publications have limited space for non-advertisers and I wanted to cover the people and events that I found interesting, hence I launched www.ashadedviewonfashion.com. I think if you have a point of view that is authentic you will surface. Authenticity is what attracts me and it is really quite easy to sense when something is real or fake. I try to adopt the words of the great Mahatma Gandhi: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
What do you think are the advantages of blogging, over more traditional mediums like magazines?
Besides aspects like ‘immediacy’ and ‘interactivity’ which are unique to blogs and other online media, I believe that the most important elements determining whether any blog is successful are the same elements that determined whether early style ‘fanzines’ like Dazed & Confused, iD and Interview later evolved into successful magazines. So, with this in mind, in order to set yourself apart from the rest of the bloggers, you probably need at least three essential components to your personality: a strong point-of-view, a unique angle or selling point and a voice that helps to nurture a loyal, intrigued audience of readers. But, unlike printed magazines which have limitations due to cost, the number of potential blogs is endless so blogs need to be even more vigorous and rigorous than print did in the old days.
“MADAME FIGARO” by Ellen Von Unwerth
What do you think the fashion world needs more, and less, of?
Well, as most of us know all too well in this business, the power structures of the fashion industry are skewed in the opposite direction — almost to the disadvantage of most emerging talent. This is nothing new because for more than a decade fashion has been in the hands of big corporations and giant conglomerates. That’s just the way of the world now. But I do think that most things in life are cyclical so I have some hope that there will be emerging new opportunities for some of the best emerging fashion talent. That’s already beginning to happen thanks to new business models and start-ups on the internet. And it’s very much in the zeitgeist. You can sense a newfound hunger for creativity among some of the industry’s more influential people. Hopefully this will help to place more value on creativity and innovation going forward.
For my part, I’ve always tried to champion creativity. That is what interests me. I was an independent designer for my own brand for 13 years and I like to support talent not just in fashion, but also film directors, artists, musicians, it is all connected in my world. It is never easy to be original so I want to provide a platform where talent can be nurtured and I don’t lose interest once they become successful. It gives me great pleasure.
You have career experience in many different sides of the creative industries, as photographer, fashion designer, filmmaker, blogger and talent scout. What’s next?
I’ve just launched 4 perfumes and am working on my autobiography.
How did ASVOFF come about?
The very first fashion film festival I did in 2006 — on the 3rd of August, 2006. It was called YOU WEAR IT WELL. I created it with a contributor for my blog at the time. It was launched at Cinespace in Los Angeles and it then travelled to 12 cities in the first year. To be honest, it was a curated program but it was not a fully fledged festival like ASVOFF is today. The name was just lifted from Rod Stewart’s lyrics to “You Wear it Well”. It just made sense with a fashion film festival.
The idea behind ASVOFF was always to develop the festival and nurture fashion film globally as well as offer a platform for dialogue between the fashion and film industries. In the Paris flagship edition, we have conferences. We can also now say that the ‘matchmaking’ element – which was one of my other goals – has begun to happen. ASVOFF is now putting together a director and a brand to produce fashion films that we have a direct hand in nurturing. The very first ‘baby’ in this incubation period of films of this kind was for Renault, and the director is Marcus Tomlinson. I plan on developing this aspect of the festival more and more in the future.
Can you explain the goal behind ASVOFF and the effect you hope it has on the future generation of artists?
I believe fashion film will eventually stop becoming an ‘alternative medium’ for capturing and expressing fashion. It will be another medium on the same footing as photography. It does still need to grow, but in such a short time it has already worked its way into the communication plan of every single brand. The fact that every brand – no matter how large or small – is now making fashion films, is testament to the fact that fashion film has a bright future. So is the fact that fashion film festivals are popping up everywhere now.
ASVOFF 7 took place Nov 21, 22, 23 at Centre Pompidou. This edition paid special homage to Alejandro Jodorowsky. We had a conversation with the producer of The Dance of Reality, Alejandro’s recent feature film with the sound designer Adan Jodorowsky and with Brontis Jodorowsky who played the principal role in the film, and with Alejandro’s wife who the costume designer of the same film. And of course finished with Alejandro after the screening of The Dance of Reality. We were very happy with the 7th edition and now are working on how to make the 8th edition even better. It is a challenge but we are up for it.
As far as the festival goes, how do you decide whom to show? I imagine it is a very difficult decision, compiling the “best of” in the creative communities of fashion, film and art.
Because the format our fashion film competition is a short film, I think it’s important that something grabs my attention within the first 30-seconds or so. It’s got to touch me on an emotive level. There’s room for all kinds of emotions, moods and subgenres but I really do need to feel it. No matter how stunning the cinematography, that alone is not enough. Often, I find that it is almost a visceral reaction, but of course it can be powerful through subtlety too or even through a gradual crescendo. But in any case, I want to see real films. They can be abstract and not necessarily have a conventional narrative, but I want potent storytelling through the moving image. I do not want to see a fashion photo shoot set to motion. That is not fashion film.
Generally speaking, I think that there should be more real film directors and less fashion photographers masquerading as film directors. I want to see a unique aesthetic and a clear scenario helps too. Sound is a key aspect but it cannot be used as smoke and mirrors if there is not a good structure to the film. Again, generally, I’d rather see more actors than models — unless the model really can act. And certainly the director doesn’t have to come from a fashion background to make a great fashion film. In fact, some of the best fashion films I’ve seen have been from people without a fashion background but who have found a visionary stylist to collaborate with in order to make something outstanding.
LA DANZA DE LA REALIDAD by Alejandro Jodorowsky photo by Pascal Montandon Jodorowsky
“I think that runway shows are feeling very last century and that film is the new medium for fashion.” What do you think this means for the future of fashion weeks around the world?
Clearly my focus is on fashion films and not on catwalk shows. The ‘fashion film’ phenomenon has opened the door for small and medium sized fashion brands to make video ads for the very first time. Previously, before the internet developed to a point which became suitable for ‘fashion film’ to flourish, only the giant fashion brands had enough budget to make video ads, because TV and cinema advertising rates were the only outlet and they were very expensive. But now, ‘fashion film’ can be accessed — without any additional cost to the brand — from their own websites, through social media sites or video channels on the internet, so this means brands only need to pay for the production of the film, not advertising space itself. And even the production costs for ‘fashion film’ can be a lot less expensive than traditional TV fashion ads in the past. This works because the spirit of ‘fashion film’ is typically one where there the consumer expects brands to push the boundaries a bit more and to not necessarily be quite so precious about things.
As for how fashion can impact bigger issues and the broader culture, I think that’s pretty obvious. But I guess people need reminding from time to time. Just look how fashion brands can tackle social issues, like the recent campaign shot by Bruce Weber for Barneys, dealing with gender identification. We’ve also started to see older models suddenly appearing on magazine covers and in ads and the rise of sites like Advanced Style. Fashion is guilty of being prone to fads so the impact of these movements might not be as long or go as deep as we’d like, but fashion is somehow a lens on the state of the collective consciousness.
Your personal style is recognized by head to toe black and an accompanying headpiece, what are your favorite wardrobe pieces?
My Dries Van Noten coats, spring and fall, Shirts by Boudicca, Skirts by David Szeto, accessories by Mario Salvucci, 1-100, Bijules and Vernissage Project.
What does being a fashion icon mean to you?
Never give it any thought.
Who are icons you look up to from fashion’s past and present?
I don’t think that I really had icons but for sure I’ve been influenced by people like the designers Charles James, Madame Gres, Schiaparelli and by film directors: Mike Figgis, John Cassavetes, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Luis Bunuel, Visconti, Pasolini and icons like Anna Magnani. They changed my perception of fashion and film.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your career thus far?
Last weekend when Alejandro Jodorowsky and his family, Adan, Brontis and Pascale were all on stage at ASVOFF 7, when I paid tribute to the master and his family. Prior to that meeting Mike Figgis, Jerry Schatzberg and William Klein. Mike Figgis because he, like the other two, have changed the landscape of cinema and have made an impact on fashion film. I love Mike Figgis, the body of his work and especially “The 4 Dreams of Miss X” starring Kate Moss in her first acting role for Agent Provocateur. Jerry Schatzberg and his first film which was a fashion film, “Puzzle of a Downfall Child” (1970) starring Faye Dunaway as a model on her way down and William Klein for “Who Are You Polly Magoo” (1966) because, in my mind this was the first fashion film.
What is your WILD wish?
If I say it out loud it just might not happen