The reel thing
A new breed of fashion films are blurring the lines between advertising and creativity, and Belstaff's Outlaws is a fine example
Words by Ryan Thompson
Fashion films have become something of a rich genre over the past decade as luxury brands seek new, creative ways to tell stories about their brands and cultivate a more immersive relationship with audiences. This shouldn’t come as any great surprise: cinema and fashion have always informed one another, and yet fashion films are somewhat different.
The commercial aspect is almost always explicit - given there is a product or brand to market - but the truly interesting fashion films blur the division between commercial enterprise and creative direction. Films such as First Kiss by Tatia Pilieva for Wren, Sky Watcher by James Lima and Yuko Shimizu for Trussardi, and Prada’s A Therapy, which saw Roman Polanski direct Sir Ben Kingsley and Helena Bonham Carter on the psychotherapist’s couch, are all, in their very different ways, agents of inspired suggestion, asking their audiences (and very particular fashion-aware audiences at that) to consider the respective brand in unfamiliar environments. If human beings are creatures of association, then the great fashion film should act like a neurotransmitter, facilitating new creative connections to amplify our perception of the brand.
In Outlaws, Belstaff’s first foray into the fashion-film genre, we find the leather-clad David Beckham thundering through the Mexican desert in the guise of a mysterious drifter, a maniacal film director hot on his tail. Although it’s Beckham’s inaugural leading role (he has previously had unrecognisable cameos, most recently in The Man From UNCLE), the Geremy Jasper-directed flick (executively produced by Liv Tyler) should be considered a genuine creative short first, and a clever bit of marketing a long second. Interestingly, Belstaff set up a side arm - Belstaff Films - and partnered with the award-winning Legs Media, which suggests that film and digital development will continue to be a major focus for the brand.
Indeed, ever since Belstaff moved back to London in 2012, it has completely eschewed the traditional marketing model of print advertisements in favour of a more dynamic digital and events-driven campaign. It’s a bold step, but one that appears to be working. Belstaff has opted for presentations rather than catwalk shows during London Fashion Weeks, creating a completely immersive event that enables it to really deliver the brand’s messages, while still allowing the serious fashion media to see and even feel the collection before the party starts.
Invariably, the world’s media will devote the most column inches to scrutinising Beckham’s role in Outlaws, but, whether he bombs or booms is not really the point: for Belstaff, it’s another feather in a promotional cap that fits the brand well.