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The Fabric of Movement

In her February Sixth Position column, Danielle Georgiou looks at how dance is used in two current fashion house campaigns.



published Sunday, February 22, 2015

 

Dallas — Dance is definitely having a moment right now thanks to the ad campaigns for the 2015 presentations of rag & bone and Bottega Veneta—the former featuring Lil Buck and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and the latter using ballet and modern dance to showcase the design house’s Spring/Summer 2015 menswear and womenswear lines.

For rag & bone’s Fall/Winter 2015 campaign, they released a short video that is a study in movement as much as it studies their clothing. Hip-hop master Lil Buck displays the flexibility and breadth of the fabric. To bend the clothing in a way that allows his rubberiness and flow to still come through—the clothing is not restricting—shows the life that this clothing could have in your closet. Ballet master, and overall, dance king, Baryshnikov just looks cool. It’s hard to make this man look uncool, but wearing layered rag & bone, which in the fashion world, is the epitome of badass clothing, he just became even more relevant.

Since he first came upon the scene, Baryshnikov has been making ways in the dance world. Now in his 60s, he’s back on our minds, and back on the dance floor. His smooth footwork and exaggerated posture—he makes that sad-clown slump look so attractive—shows off the structure of the clothing. You too could be Baryshnikov if you buy that jacket. You could be like Lil Buck and choreograph the movements of your hat, if you get that rag & bone one.

While I wish there had been some more concentrated dancing and a more solid (and maybe unexpected) resolution between the “battle,” the video accomplishes its goal: it makes you want to buy some rag & bone clothing, for your boyfriend or husband; even, for yourself. It also continues the brand’s desire to expand the story of their clothing. It’s a little bit classic and a little bit urban, and pairing their designs with these two dancers that perfectly embody that idea, creates an interesting and memorable campaign. Based on the hits it’s getting on YouTube, it’s been a very successful foray. And it makes sense. When you think about it, what better way to show the versatility and life of clothes than through movement?

Bottega Veneta’s short film, “Emotion of Sound,” works to answer that question. The recently released ad campaign draws up creative director Tomas Maier’s personal relationship with dance. He was inspired by the journey a dancer takes while on her way to rehearsal. He was even quoted as saying that it was the “woman who has beautiful posture, moves her arms gracefully, and has a dancer’s walk” that was the impetus of this video. The soundtrack also utilizes dance by taking sound captures of the clothing as it moved on the dancers’ bodies.

While you can view the film online, it will also find another life at the Bottega Veneta’s store in Ginza, Japan. As part of the performance art/fashion show installation, customers can stand in front of a screen, casting a shadow that will then be transformed into an animated Bottega Veneta-clad dancer.

But it’s really no surprise that dance is inspiring these designers. There is a recent history of dance and fashion combining forces. Most famously, the current Under Armor campaigns with Misty Copeland. Cole Hann’s 2014 print campaign utilized the talents of dancers from the New York City Ballet. Lavin’s Fall 2011 campaign video featured a handful of models dancing to Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me,” and racked up more than 100,000 views on the day it premiered. They revisited the idea of using dance in their Fall 2012 when they cast a fierce 82-year-old Jacquie “Tajah” Murdock, former Apollo Theater dancer. British designer Vivienne Westwood teamed up with the English National Ballet to provide costumes for the company’s 2013 publicity shots.

(Then there is the ad that we should never ever speak about again: the 2014 Free People viral video campaign for “barre-ready dancewear.” That girl was not a dancer.)

I think it’s safe to say that the process of designing clothes is a dance in and of itself. Take the basic idea of creating a mock-up of a piece of clothing on muslin. Some designers like to work from a pattern so that they have a structure from which to build a piece from. But then there are some who would rather drape a garment, and use improvisational techniques and live in the moment. The same can be said for dance. There are choreographers who carefully plan out each little step, each little breath, and each little flick of the wrist to develop an intricate structure. On the other hand, there are choreographers who would prefer to use improvisational techniques and work collaboratively with their dancers to discover what structure can be created, or if one is even needed. But in each case—and the same is true for fashion—once you create whatever structure you chose, you can create your piece, your garment, and repeat that idea over and over again, for more people, for different sizes, because you have already built the base.

In The Intimate Act of Choreography, the authors write that “dance isn’t sewn together hit or miss like a crazy quilt…careful attention must be paid to organization all along the way, as the dance grows from single movements to short and long phrases, to sequences and sections, and on its way to becoming a completed piece.” Fashion pays the same amount of attention. The way the hand manipulates the needle as weaves in and out of fabric creating couture patterns resembles that of choreographic structures that crisscross through space. The way a dancer can bend their body to simulate an action or a gesture, is similar to the way a lapel can lay on a shirt or the way the hem on a skirt can be straight or cut on a angle.

At the end of it all, comes the runway. The show is all based on dynamics, energy, time, and space. The same way a dance is composed to make an impact—be it the slightest of one, or the boldest of one. It’s all a performance. You’ve got to give them the ol’ razzle-dazzle. The fashion world understands that. So does the dance world. And we get to live in this moment with them both.

 

» Danielle Georgiou is a dance educator, critic and writer. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) and is a working dancer and performance artist. Her column Sixth Position appears the third or fourth Sunday of the month on TheaterJones.com.

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The Fabric of Movement
In her February Sixth Position column, Danielle Georgiou looks at how dance is used in two current fashion house campaigns.
by Danielle Georgiou

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