Bucharest Fashion Film Festival: Clothes are a language we use to negotiate between social constraints and personal desires

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In September, the fifth edition of Bucharest Fashion Film Festival took place in Bucharest and is the first event in Romania placed at the intersection between film, advertising and fashion. The festival once again brought together fashion, film and branding professionals, the best and latest fashion films, cult productions that explore the role of the costume in cinema, an outdoor exhibition, discussions and workshops with guests from abroad, new media installations and portfolio feedback sessions. This year’s theme: Transparency. Below, an interview with the founders of the first fashion film festival in Romania, Mădălina Cozmeanu and Ioana Diaconu.


You are at the 5th edition of the Festival. Who had the idea for this festival, where did you start, how did it grow?

The idea of ​​the festival came to us in 2012, when we first participated in the Fashion in Film festival, the London festival dedicated to film costumes. A few years later, the concept of fashion film festival started to appear in all European capitals. A fashion film is a short film that oscillates on the axis between commercial, experimental and art film, most often commissioned by a brand. We were encouraged by the momentum of fashion films and the effervescence of film festivals with this profile, where we were pleasantly surprised of the openness to collaboration from professionals active in quite different areas – fashion, film and advertising.

We organized the pilot edition of Bucharest Fashion Film Festival, initially focused on fashion film and quickly realized that it was too small a niche to keep the festival alive, so we included

feature films, to attract a wider audience with a penchant for aesthetics. Throughout the editions we have added new perspectives, that have evolved along with our interests, so that currently we try to treat clothing from a 360 perspective, we turn it on all sides: clothes in the fashion context, costume in the film, with an essential role in the construction of the characters, clothes in everyday life, as a depository of a multitude of socio-cultural meanings. Bucharest Fashion Film Festival now includes, in addition to the competition, fashion films and feature films – documentaries and classic or cult films that have impressive costumes, exhibitions, discussions and related events for the industry.


Is there a connection between Fashion, Film and Branding? What is this? Can fashion live without film?

They all have an inclination towards aesthetics (this doesn’t always imply beauty) towards the presentation of a story in a visual way for a wide audience. Each has its peculiarities, but they meet at this essential point: all use visual language to communicate an idea, a story. Over time

the three borrowed a lot from each other: famous designers made movie costumes that became classics (Yves Saint Laurent for Belle du Jour, Coco Chanel for Last Year at Marienbad,

Pierre Balmain for And God Created Woman), entire collections were inspired by movies: it’s not a secret that Raf Simons has a weakness for Lynch and that he is not the only one; Comme des Garçons’s 2016 S / S collection is inspired by Blue Velvet, the Rodarte sisters created a collection inspired by Sofia Coppola’s film The Virgin Suicides, the Gucci 2020 F / W collection was inspired by Fellini. Moving on to advertising, over time Gucci has collaborated with directors like Harmony Korine or Yorgos Lanthimos. And these are just a few examples with very loud names. Without film as inspiration, I suppose fashion can live, although it would be a great loss. Without film as a tool to transmit the vision and values, i.e without fashion film, fashion houses can’t ignore the momentum of video content.


Do the clothes really make the man? What is the Man – Clothes – Society connection?

What we choose to wear is involuntarily or consciously an expression of a personal attitude – the way in which we want to be perceived. Even the rejection of fashion is still a visual expression, it says something about that man. Clothes are a language we use to negotiate between social constraints and personal desires and can be simultaneously a mask and a means of expression. It can also satisfy the need to belong, but also the need to stand out. The coat can be a direct messenger for various subcultures, as in the case of Congolese Sapeurs, the indicator of an occupation, if we think of pilots or nuns or the indicator of a status – in the past, in some states in Europe ordinary people were not allowed to wear colorful clothes; these were reserved for the noble classes.


This year’s theme is Transparency. Why? What does Transparency in Fashion mean?

The last year rang the alarm on several things that were wrong with our pace and many of the industries have been affected by this, noting a need to return to community, to be more vulnerable and open to each other and to not care so much about appearances, in the context of increased empathy. This has translated into greater transparency in fashion

communication, bringing the teams and people behind brands in the spotlight, not just the designer. Of course it was just the beginning, the fashion industry needs a lot more effort in this regard: transparency in the cycle of production and suppliers, in terms of work ethic – whether or not the rights of factory workers are respected (this is also a local problem; there are many international brands that produce in Romania in factories where employees often work in improper conditions), transparency in terms of mental health and the pressure on people who are active in the industry- there is a fairly long line of designers who have suffered from chronic depression or who have commited suicide. These are some extreme examples, but unfortunately not as rare as we think. Fashion has the need to no longer wrap the world in continuous glamour and to show its human side as well.


What did the pandemic fashion industry do during the pandemic? Fashion shows were over. Can fashion live without them?

In the context in which fashion shows were no longer possible, the designers resorted to innovative formats to present their collections, many sliding to the video area, to animation, CGI, stop motion. We have in competition this year such films that present a collection through new methods and present new opportunities to take the show online. Two of them are The Butterfly’s Dream, by Eugene Leung, for the Australian brand Injury and Heiopei by Susanne Deekan – both can be seen online in the competition section of the festival. There are unlimited possibilities to expand a show in new media, another example being digital clothes, a phenomenon that has grown precisely in the context of the pandemic.


You will also address the Veil, especially after what is happening in Afghanistan. How do you approach the story of the Veil? When did this item of clothing appear and how did it manage to embody the weapon of religious control systems?

Starting from the general theme of the edition – transparency, the common denominator of the films in the Dressing The Cinema section will be the veil, a controversial object that often carries political, religious and psychoanalytic meaning and that has, over time, aroused contradictory interpretations in the field of “the politics of the gaze”. In fact, there is a fairly heated debate in France right now about wearing it in the public space.

Traditionally, the veil has often been seen as a control system that removes women from the visual field and limits their visibility in the public sphere, in order to protect them from shame. We find the same purpose served by bridal veils and hijabs and other types of veils. But there are very different interpretations of the veil, when its role has religious origins: some theorists see it as an instrument of oppression, while others point out that it can also function as an empowering tool. As an object of some orientalist fantasies, the veil can also become a fetish object.

One of the movies in the Dressing the Cinema section, The Day I Became a Woman, although a fictional film, scores, more metaphorically, but still explicitly, the meanings of the veil in the Iranian space. Because we actually happened to have this year two Iranian films in the selection – the other, Chess of the Wind, a gothic thriller banned by the regime in 1976 and declared lost, then brought back to the public’s attention in 2020 at the Cannes Film Festival- it was very interesting to observe how women were portrayed in Iranian cinema, depending on the political landscape. Right after the 1980s, women who did not wear a veil were “cut out” of both Iranian and imported films. Subsequently, in the mid-1980s, a visual grammar was developed that allowed the inclusion of women, if they wore a veil, but discouraged close-ups on their faces and the exchange of glances. So, they were often presented in long, static scenes, filmed from a distance, that did not allow the public to see the outline of a moving body. Women were completely desexualized, treated as if they would all be sisters. One of the consequences of including only women wearing veils in movies was forcing the directors to represent all the spaces in the film, even the bedroom, as if they were a public space. This resulted in a distorted representation of the reality of women, which in real life does not wear a veil in the presence of relatives in their own homes.


What are the cracks in the fashion industry?

In addition to the above, I would add the encouragement of consumerism, of fashion that has become a fetish. Massive discounts offered by large aggregators of brands throughout the year, leading to the devaluation of products and, implicitly, of the work done to create them – some consumers only buy products at a reduced price, leading to overproduction that  results in the discharge of huge quantities of clothes in landfills. But I would not like to end in an apocalyptic tone. There are solutions for many of these problems: brands could provide repair services for their products and recycling or use recycled materials, create using upcycling methods, etc. These things are already happening, but still on a fairly small scale.

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