New York Fashion Film Festival founders explore the genre of fashion films

Each year, the New York Fashion Film Festival gathers aficionados of fashion and film for an evening of exploration and discussion about this new genre of fashion film. The festival is a collaborative effort between Stephen Frailey, Bon Duke, Chris Labzda and Jimmy Moffat and is held at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.

The festival highlights the best fashion films of the year, and doesn’t differentiate between films shot by novice filmmakers and those backed by big budgets and a Coppola. Showcasing emerging talent is important to the founders of the festival, as the genre of fashion film continues to mold and evolve. In the last decade the prominence of fashion films have grown exponentially. Easier access to equipment, and the ‘more-is-more’ work ethic we’ve adapted to as a society has lead creatives to explore their talents in many different fields . This kind of attitude is what has allowed fashion designers such as Tom Ford the opportunity to try their hand at directing. The festival echoes this attitude, as it offers a platform for directors who are able to work in different disciplines.

Fashion films demand a fine balance – they must be able to show the clothing without actually having the clothes overpower the narrative – to sell without being overt. Fashion films continue to grow and evolve each season as it becomes increasingly more popular for fashion houses to show a video alongside each collection. It’s been a fast turn around time, helped by the advent of social media and the global reach of these films. And they do not disappoint. From elaborate, sweeping productions to reviving hilarious sitcom characters, directors have blended so many genres to create the new genre of fashion film.

Because fashion films have become so integral to the business of fashion in such a short amount of time, it leads to many questions about its future in fashion. What other interactive opportunities could come from the merging of fashion and video? Will still images and fashion films live side by side?

We headed to Manhattan to interview three of the four partners of the New York Fashion Film Festival, and asked them to share with us their opinion on what makes a good fashion film, their first recollection of a fashion film and their plans for opening up the festival in other markets.


Check out our favorite films by Monica Menez, Danny Sangra and Gareth Pugh 

Fashion film director and photographer Bon Duke on the importance of communication

New rules. It’s the unspoken mantra that is moving the creatives of today. Everyone is looking for fresh ways to push ideas forward, to do things as they’ve never been done before. It’s an emboldening time to be an artist; you get to open all of your own doors, or maybe decide they aren’t doors at all. From Beyoncé dropping her album at midnight with no promotion, to the legions of street artists that are earning an income from “defacing” property, there is no form of conventionality when art and commerce are joined.

The outcome of a multitasking society is the multi-professional – someone who can cohesively manage several occupations in different fields. It’s a difficult balancing act, the key to longevity seems to be the ability to perform well in each sector, and there is no one doing it better than Bon Duke. He’s a Brooklyn (born and raised) based fashion photographer/director/co-founder of the New York Fashion Film Festival. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan with a masters in photography and film and since than has platooned forward shooting Alexa Chung for the cover of Time Out, celebrity portraits for Ciara and Eve for Block Magazine  and filmed with Nowness for Chloe . His videos are an enchanting mix of expression and emotion with a suggestion of something more sinister.

Bon toys with all of the perceptions of the fashion industry. He understands how to blend fashion seamlessly into his videos without it making it all about the clothing. His videos have a vision, a narrative, in a few minutes, you’re transported, made to feel something, beyond an admiration for the shoes.

He’s accomplished so much in a short period of time, yet his aspirations only climb higher. He’s looking into some entrepreneurial options and hopes to one day create a scholarship program at his alma matter. Beyond all of his accolades, Bon is an example that the ceiling is only as high as you set it.

We visited his Brooklyn studio mostly to hang out and watch him paint, but also asked him to share with us his thoughts on his love of photography, how he learned to communicate and why doing just one thing isn’t enough.