As the World’s First Fashion Film Fest Turns 10, Its Goth Founder Reflects
The founder of one of the first fashion blogs and the first fashion film festival, Diane Pernet is just getting started.
Photograph by Ruven Afanador courtesy of Diane Pernet.
Walking on the streets of Paris with Diane Pernet is a peculiar experience. Everyone stops to stare at her: she wears sunglasses, a tall beehive hairdo, and a long black veil to her knees. Cars across the street, passersby, and even kids in strollers crank their necks to watch her float by; even jaded attendees at fashion shows can’t help but stare.
She’s used to it. The Parisian fashion blogger, who moved here in 1990 from New York to explore the heart of fashion, has been dressing like this every day for 30 years. “I get called ‘the queen of goth,’ but in fact, I’m not,” she said, strolling the 7th arrondissement in Natacha Marro custom-made platforms. “It’s just me; I feel comfortable in the color black.”
“One woman asked if I dress like this for attention,” said Pernet in her raspy voice. “I say, ‘I don’t dress for anyone but myself,’ and I don’t expect attention because I’ve been dressing the same way for 30 years.” (Previously, she used to wear patterned clothing, but it was the 1970s, and when she became a fashion designer in the 1980s, all black became her uniform.)
Pernet started her fashion blog, A Shaded View on Fashion, in 2005, after spending five years behind the lens as a video blogger (previously, she was a costume designer for indie films, a fashion designer, and a fashion editor for magazines including Joyce, Elle, and Vogue Paris). After her video editor told her she could no longer work for free, she started the blog because it was something she could run on her own. (As for her age, she says she is “older than [this writer] and younger than Yoko Ono.”)
“It wasn’t the thing to do; there weren’t fashion blogs,” said Pernet over tea at the Les Deux Abeilles café. But as one of the first fashion bloggers, she quickly established an industry niche. From her site’s launch, Pernet’s DIY fashion reportage, which ranges from interviews with Catherine Deneuve to Sex and the City costume designer Patricia Field, helped develop fashion blogging in its early stages. She developed a reputation for uncovering new talents. Pernet has been called the godmother for the world’s emerging fashion talent, having spotted talents such as Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia while he was still a student at Antwerp fashion academy, which she wrote about in an early blog post of hers from 2006 (“Headhunters take heed, Demna is currently looking for work and I think that the offers should soon be pouring in,” she wrote). In other words, it features fashion that wouldn’t always make mainstream news, from the Thai designers at Vienna Fashion Week to the rising African talents at Lagos Fashion Week.
Pernet still blogs by instinct. However, she takes a decidedly more organic approach than, say, her millennial colleagues. “When I blog, I want to feed people and give them things that are interesting. I’m just giving, giving, giving; it’s an 1980s mentality, I suppose,” she said. “Perhaps that means just creating with passion and sharing without the strategy behind of how are you going to turn this into money. Nowadays, you see blogs as a strategy and an income. They’re brand ambassadors. A lot of people make a fortune for being influencers, that’s what blogs are. But that’s not what mine is.”
Still, her interest in video was still tugging at her. “Ever since I started blogging, I had a driving desire to make a fashion film festival,” she said. So in 2008, she founded A Shaded View on Fashion Film, the world’s first fashion film festival; she had run another festival for two years under the name You Wear it Well (named after a Rod Stewart Song, no less), but she changed the name since it was “the easiest way to link it to my blog,” she said.
Now, the festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary from October 12 to 14 at Club de l’Etoile in Paris, with a program featuring over 100 films from 30 countries. It then travels to Rome, where it will play from October 20 to 22 at the Palazzo Altemps.
But what is a fashion film? It isn’t another perfume commercial. “It’s not ‘here’s the shoes, here’s the bag,’” said Pernet. “It’s storytelling where fashion is a part of the plot; it’s a protagonist.” This year’s program includes Ellen von Unwerth’s Ellen Picture Show, which reimagines the Rocky Horror Picture Show as a high fashion shoot, and a film by Francois Goizé that follows Karl Lagerfeld backstage with Kendall Jenner at a runway show. Michèle Lamy also stars in a short by Katya Bankowsky called Battle Royale, in which Lamy sucker punches opponents while wearing her chunky silver rings.
“When I blog, I want to feed people and give them things that are interesting. I’m just giving, giving, giving; it’s an 1980s mentality, I suppose,” she said.
After the film festival, each film goes on to have a life of its own. The fashion filmmakers that have shown at Pernet’s festival have gone on to do larger film projects, such as Tim Yip, winner of the 2008 ASVOFF Art Direction Prize for his short film, Kitchen (he also won an Academy Award in 2001 for his art direction in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). “I met him in China about four years ago and encouraged him to direct his own films,” said Pernet. “He started with a short film for ASVOFF 8, his second film, and now he is working on his first feature film. It makes me happy to inspire people.”
Over the past 10 years, fashion film has changed, too. Earlier fashion films were mostly commercial reels and runway edits, and the medium has now transitioned to a more diaristic look at the lives of models, behind-the-scenes profiles of designers, and fictional storytelling shorts. At last year’s program, filmmaker Ivan Olita’s Gaga On Gaga followed Lady Gaga as she put together an issue of V Magazine as a guest editor. Gucci Dreamscape, a Petra Collins-directed film made in partnership with the brand, tells the story of a grandmother’s living room gone surrealist, with Gucci eyewear playing a prominent role. Other films screened at the festival have featured Tilda Swinton, Kim Gordon, and Chloe Sevigny, as well as works by directors Wim Wenders and David Lynch. “Doing the film fest is like completing a circle to me,” said Pernet. “I love fashion and film. Here, I can support both.”
The point of the festival is to encourage people to keep making fashion films and also to encourage people to view fashion in a new way. “I hope to encourage people to reconsider the way that fashion is presented and for challenging the conventional parameters of film,” said Pernet. “The festival is definitely about both nurturing and leading the fashion film movement, but ultimately, it is about rewarding excellence in this increasingly important industry within an industry.”
“Some people say fashion film has finally blossomed now,” she added. “I say watch out, because we’ve only just planted the seed.”