The way that we talk to each other online is drastically different than the way we converse with each other in real life. That disconnect is mined by Carrie Brownstein in her directorial debut for fashion brand Kenzo's latest short film.
The six-minute effort, which the brand describes as "a surreal look at the invisible digital walls that separate us from our favorite personalities and icons," imagines if we married the people we write "marry me" (in this case Kim Gordon) to online or if the women we commented "mom" (in the film it's Natasha Lyonne) to on Instagram or Twitter became our mothers.
Brownstein's The Realest Real, with actress Laura Harrier in the lead role, is the latest film from Kenzo, which has been using short films instead of traditional advertising for its last three collections, and earlier this month released a perfume ad from Spike Jonze.
"We just wanted to break away from the monotony of ad campaigns," said Humberto Leon, creative director and designer, along with partner Carol Lim, of Kenzo. "There's a rhythm to ad campaigns that we've really fought, and when you look at the body of work that we've done for Kenzo, you see how we've really fought and pushed the boundaries for us and this to us."
Leon added: "Treating the ad campaign as a secondary, as a support system for a film, feels like a really organic move for us. Clothes can be on any body at any time and the context and the authenticity of the storytelling is where you get to play."
The fashion brand kicked off its film work with director Greg Araki and his short film Here Now. That was followed by Sean Baker's Snowbird, which earned the fashion brand acclaim, making the shortlist for the inaugural Tribeca X award and winning the Berlin Fashion Film Festival.
"The kind of traction that we've seen, the feedback from consumers and the media, from fans of the brand and the industry is really encouraging," said Brian Phillips, president and chief executive of Black Frame, the agency behind Kenzo's branded film foray. "[The films have] stood out in the landscape of what other fashion brands are doing."
The attention the brand has received for its film work was magnified earlier this month when it released its collaboration with Spike Jonze, launching the company's first perfume ad.
"Kenzo World with Spike Jonze has amplified that to a new level," said Philips. "The traction we've seen online has been explosive and really put a strong stamp in the film community on the types of directors, both emerging and established Oscar winners, that Kenzo is connecting to."
The brand's approach to film isn't just about cultivating buzz online—though it certainly helps—but about creating a wider fan base for Kenzo.
"It's diversified the types of people that are attracted to the Kenzo brand and that's really been our goal, to reach outside of the fashion world," said Philips. "Stylish people exist in music, film, entertainment and fashion, all of these communities, and giving them an in-road into the brand that isn't only about models and the runway has been something there's a huge appetite for."
Working to create something a bit outside of fashion's traditional advertising isn't entirely new to Kenzo's creative directors. Humberto Leon and Carol Lim are also behind Opening Ceremony, where they collaborated with the likes of Spike Jonze, Chloe Sevigny and Jason Schwartzman to create content that's non-traditional. Still, the film push at Kenzo has taken their work to a new level.
"When we were thinking about what the next chapter of ads would be for us we decided to say let's work on short films with directors we love and let's make movie posters as our print ads," said Leon. "It's a slightly different way of thinking, and I think in many ways the thing that's most unique about the videos and the way we works towards them is that they're not necessarily fashion videos but instead mini-films."
Added Leon: "I always tell our collaborators that I want the Kenzo film to feel like a body of their work. I want it to feel like something that, when they're showing what they've done in the span of 15 or 20 years in terms of films, I want it to live within their portfolio rather than it feeling like a commercial job. I think that slight twist makes every film that we've worked on feel more authentic."