A Conversation with Diane Pernet at ASVOFF5, Paris, Part 1 of 2

When Paris-based fashion icon, Diane Pernet followed her dream to create a fashion film festival (ASVOFF – A Shaded View On Fashion Film) she knew she was onto something fresh and innovative that challenged the boundaries of film and, further, looked at the way fashion and style is visually explored, taking it to a new and very conceptual level.

Since ASVOFF’s launch in 2008, it has surpassed all expectations by filling a niche no-one knew was even lacking in cinema… and it’s now a full blown and hugely popular film festival, showcasing fashion and style inspired feature films, documentaries, conferences, performances and installations.

Boasting the involvement of names such as Mike Figgis, Chloë Sevigny, Nick Knight. Chris Cunningham, Róisín Murphy,  Tilda Swinton, Steven Klein, Dita Von Teese, Bruce Weber, Yves Saint Laurent, Gucci, Gareth Pugh, Sergio Rossi, Hussein Chalayan, Orlan, Daphne Guinness, … And even the festival locations are as glamorous as the celebrities: the Jeu de Paume, the National Gallery, Guggenheim Bilbao,  Palazzo Morando, Milano (with Vogue Italia), the Scope Art Fair in New York….

Creative Mapping attended the three day festival in Paris in November and spoke more with founder Diane Pernet about this unique event:

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CM: Who is ASVOFF (A Shaded View on Fashion Film Festival) for?
The whole idea of a fashion film festival is that I don’t want it to be just for fashion people, I wanted it to have a broader appeal – (it’s for) anybody interested in creativity, basically… Creative Mapping (laughs).

CM: When did it begin – and what inspired you to start this festival?
I’d thought about doing a fashion film festival for more than ten years, but there wasn’t enough material out there, so I couldn’t actually put anything together. Then in 2006 Eley Kishimoto, the British-Japanese brand, asked me to make a road movie for the launch of their menswear collection, and I did, it was called The Adventure of Pleasure and it was done with the Gumball Rally which is this race with fast guys, hot girls… you go 3000 miles in six days. I sent the film to one of my contributors for the blog and he said are you gonna screen it in LA and I said why not.  The next day my contributor, from Mexico, EGR (Enrique Gonzalez Rangel) out of the blue sent me a short film. I looked at it, I really like and I thought I don’t just wanna show my film, let’s do a festival – but to call it a festival in 2006 is more of an exaggeration – it was more like a curated program.

In 2008, David Herman my co-producer, who I’ve been working with for five years, saw an article on me and You Wear It Well (the first curated program/festival) and contacted me to say do you want to show it at Jeu de Paume, Paris. So, I said, of course, and we met with the director there (Director of Cinema). At that time (the festival) was still called You Wear It Well, but I was in the process of separating from the person I co-curated with. We did – in two years – twenty-four screenings, and he was responsible for (just) four so it wasn’t quite balanced.  It became kind of this weird battle and I said you have a copy of the films in LA and I have a copy of the films in Paris, this is my initiative here, I’m going to screen the films at Jeu de Paume and you can do what you want.  It turned into a really weird situation with him contacting all the directors, saying I took his idea – when it was my idea to start with, calling the director of the museum, the PR person… I found out from one of the directors, they sent me this letter they’d received from him. I had to write to each director and say there’s a change in organisation and I’ll be working on this alone, if you have any problem with your film being screened to the jury let me know… everything else is the same; Jeu de Paume, it’s three days, the last three days of Avedon there; anyway that was the beginning of working with David Herman who has been a great asset – he’s good on strategies. I’m just someone who’s really good on passion and an idea, pioneering through things, but I don’t really have strategy.

CM: How do you choose the participants of your film festival(s)?
People that mean something to me, actually.  Like this year the big excitement, because I’ve been trying to do it for four years, was getting William Klein, because when I think of fashion films, I think of Who Are You Polly Magoo as being THE iconic first fashion film… (So), we’ve being trying to get William Klein for four years, and until he got in Centre Pompidou last night he could (easily have) just said no, I’m not coming. I wanted him to announce his film before (it screened), then come on for a Q&A after. He said to David I’m not doing that, I’ll come after. I sent a beautiful Mexican girl, very seductive, to pick him up and take care of him and (smiles) he got here.

Another iconic person involved in the festival for two years is Rossy de Palma (Spanish actress and muse of Pedro Almodóvar. I like strong women who are pioneers in what they do and they are originals.  Orlan (artist and ASVOFF President 2012) is someone whose work I’ve really admired, as well as (admired) her as a human being, for a long time. She’s someone who’s had a huge influence on Lady Gaga for instance. If you look at Orlan and the body of her work, she’s the original.

Claude Montana: I was a designer for thirteen years and I didn’t look at other people’s work much as I think you have to have tunnel vision, but of course I knew who he was (Montana) and really admired (his work). I asked Claude to choose five films – five iconic fashion films – and his favourite was Auntie Mame, which was made in 1958. (I asked) Gotan Project, because he’s one of the people I ever met (in Paris) and asked him to pick out the best fashion moments in music video – and he had great ones. And I asked Glen Adamson from the V&A Museum to pick out five best moments in video art and also I asked Now Fashion to pick out the five best fashion moments in ASVOFF 5.

Dominique Isserman is another one that I asked on this edition because I love her work and I’ve known her for years, and she just did these films like 8 Moments, Leonard Cohen – absolutely beautifully filmed with an iPhone. We projected it on the big screen and it looked perfect.

Daphne Guinness was with us last year too, and it’s really through the director Joseph Lally, she produces his films and she stars in them. They really collaborate, they are very tight. I never met him (Lally), I only knew his work. He doesn’t like to take planes and he’s based in New York. Last year he said to me could I let Daphne Guinness present my work, my films, because he doesn’t want to get on a plane, so that’s how I met Daphne.

CM: Can you tell us about this year’s festival winners?
It’s interesting, the winner of the Grand Prize is Jessica Mitrani – she’s from Columbia but lives in New York. She had a film in the festival in 2008, it was a very conceptual film, Two Feet On One Shoe, she did a whole series. She submitted a film that got accepted, then this one came in – Headpieces for Peace – I just loved it, but it was 6.5 minutes. I told her I really love your film, the way it is I can put it out-of-competition, but I’d really love it in competition. I had no idea it was going to win the Grand Prize, I just knew I really liked it because it works on so many levels; religion, politics, human nature, it’s got a sense of humour and I was really happy that that is the film that gets shown in MK2 because we want to enlarge the audience to people who like film, you don’t have to be a fashion person to come to ASVOFF and I don’t want people to think it’s that niche… it’s for anyone who wears clothes and watches films.