Showcasing Spring/Summer 2020 menswear, Britt Lloyd’s fashion film Kind of Blue is deeply inspired by the work of emerging designers Ludovic de Saint Sernin, Saul Nash and Kiko Kostadinov. Comprising juxtapositions and contrasts, the film brings together sections of society - masculinity and romance - that do not typically mould together as easily as they could. The fragmented whole is woven together by one song, that neatly provides the beat for breakdancers, hooves, crashing waves and the fluid movements of ballet.
Here, director Britt Lloyd talks through her film-making process and creative initiative, with Maisie Bowker.
Maisie Bowker: What was the concept of the film?
Britt Lloyd: I was commissioned to make a film that showcased menswear Spring/Summer 2020. Instead of approaching it like a normal editorial, where people create a concept and then pull in the clothes from different designers, I wanted to focus on three specific designers and create visuals based on their collection and concept. I chose Saul Nash, Ludovic de Saint Sernin, and Kiko Kostadinov - all of whom are pushing the boundaries of menswear in different ways. I interviewed Kiko and Saul to try and get into their heads, understand their references, and what they were trying to say.
MB: How did that sense of the real translate into your casting?
BL: I wanted an organic and realistic portrayal of a group of boys, and for the human element to come through strongly. Especially with Saul's clothes, he makes clothes for his friends to wear, so it was important to showcase his clothes on real people, in a real environment.
MB: What does that look like in practice?
BL: I try to be humble and open when I'm filming with people, so that it’s never ‘me versus them’. I like to create an environment where someone can be themselves. It doesn’t matter whether I'm a female or a male - what matters is my personality. I don't think I'm aggressive or patronising, I think I'm welcoming. I like to do street casting so that the talent and I are not strangers to one another when we walk on set.
MB: The film veers between freedom and control. How much did you direct the dancers’ activity?
BL: The balletic part focuses on the dancers’ forms and movement, so they become shapes. We shot that in the studio, so, naturally, my camera angles and lighting were much more controlled. I’m not a dancer, so the dancers almost directed themselves, but they knew the type of movements that I wanted, and the setting in which they would have to perform: a table of a four by four foot square.
On the other hand, the dancers in the Saul Nash clothes at the end of the film are a breakdancing collective, they all train and work together. I wanted to simply document what they do and their relationships with one other. The beauty of these scenes isn't just the impressive dancing. What makes it heartfelt and enjoyable is their emotions and their interactions. You have one guy in the middle dancing, you have three on the outside, cheering him on.
MB: You’ve used Suite bergamasque, from Claire de Lune by Debussy for the soundtrack - what drew you to that piece?
BL: I was reading a Man Ray autobiography, and he wrote about the first film he made in Paris in the 1930s, but, at the time, they couldn’t capture audio. So they would play the film and the music accompaniment would come from a single pianist who would play his immediate reaction to the film. For Kind of Blue, I felt it would be enough to watch something beautiful and have some beautiful music in the background, and it didn't need to marry any more than that.
MB: You're a female director filming men dancing in soft, romantic clothing. How were you seeking to represent or redefine gender?
BL: I like shooting men because I think the male form is very beautiful, it’s the most visually pleasing thing for me - it’s not a sexual thing, it’s the ability and power. I like filming dancers, musicians, boxers, athletes - people that really push the human body. Often there is this viewpoint that women are soft and delicate, and men have to be aggressive and non-emotional. And often the music to breakdancing videos is aggressive, sporadic and uneasy, yet what they're doing is extremely beautiful. Breakdancers have every right to be captured dancing to piano music, because it's just as beautiful as a ballet dancer doing a pirouette.
MB: Talk me through your cinematography approach.
BL: I didn't study film in school, so I don't have a hugely technical background. However, I think that has given me more room to experiment. Rather than doing things that are technically right, you do it because it pleases you visually. I go on my gut feeling and emotions - if I like it, then I do it. With the shots of the dancers’ silhouettes, it wasn’t working at first and I kept pushing - sometimes you just have to pick it up, turn it around and start again until it clicks into place.
MB: Where did the name Kind of Blue come from?
BL: The real answer is that I was looking for the soundtrack and was drawn to jazz. There’s a Miles Davis album called Kind of Blue, and it felt right. Jazz is all about the emotions, and I think that title matched the visual mood of my film - there’s a blue section but also an underlying feeling of sadness throughout. The film is not intended to have a narrative, so the name doesn’t need to explain anything - it just needed to fit.
MB: Did the film turn out the way that you had hoped?
BL: Yes, I think so! When I approached this film, I knew I was studying three separate designers with many different influences, so I knew that I wanted to make the film in a free-flowing process, rather than the typical approach of doing it all in one go. I shot one day in the studio in London, the blue scene in Peckham with the group on location, then went to Cornwall and shot the waves, and then Gloucestershire to film the horse. I was most worried about how well all the different elements I had shot would go together - and I’m very happy. When I started, I knew I wanted every element of this film to be mine: even if things weren’t perfect, they would have been touched by my hand. I want my imagery to have stamina and power, but in doing that, the imagery became romantic as well.
Kind of Blue is part of SHOWstudio’s series of S/S 20 fashion films, the first of which was L’AN 2000, by Remember You Were Made To Be Used.