Directed by Hervé Demers and styled by one of Montreal’s most established stylists Olivia Leblanc, Winds Of Autumn is a breathtaking fashion film introducing the world the spectacle that is Montreal Fashion Week. Showcasing collections from Anastasia Lomonova, Martin Lim, Anomal Couture and Helmer, the idea for the film was to present the work of four local fashion designers in a unique northern, autumnal landscape. Choosing to shoot the video near an immense lake where 150,000 snow geese gathered at dawn, a phenomenon which only happens during one week every year, the results shine on screen.
Beginning her career as an assistant for Renata Morales and Duy, Leblanc was hired by Elle Québec shortly thereafter and has contributed with many production companies, ad agencies and magazines. Some of her most notable clients include Elle, Zink, Flare, LOULOU and Dress to Kill. Giving a special place to discussion and intellect in her work, Leblanc also carries out extensive research in artistic direction to make sure every piece of clothing she creates delivers a coherent and homogeneous message, which is clearly evident in Winds Of Autumn.
Leblanc’s innate sense of style and Demers beautiful cinematography create the perfect marriage as they indulge in the whimsy and otherworldliness of the natural event by focusing on the movement and organic elements of the garments. Portable spoke exclusively to the director and stylist about the stunning collaboration with gorgeous results.
Portable: What was the idea or the story for the film? Who, what or where inspired by and in what ways did you highlight the garments?
Hervé Demers: It started with the landscape. I had seen this gathering of 150,000 snow geese on a small lake a few years ago and knew I would eventually do a project there. It could have been a narrative film or a fine arts project, but then this fashion film proposition came around: showcasing the fall/winter collections of four Montreal designers in a unique setting. The movement of the birds, the constant wind in the hair and the clothing against this northern landscape—I thought this backdrop was the perfect complement for the lyrical qualities of the garments, while also evoking their origin.
Olivia Leblanc: The models inspired me to go for a mood similar to an old Chloe campaign…The director wanted the video to promote Montreal designers and the main inspiration came from the inherent grace of the wild snow geese. I went for collections that were both feminine and romantic.
P: Who, what or where are your influences?
Hervé Demers: I have been interested in the fashion film genre for a while, but I’ve only seen a few directors who seem to bring a strong cinematic approach to the genre. So, apart from the usual inspiration I draw from movies, music and photography, I would say there are three incredibly talented women, notably in fashion films, who are inspiring virtuosos of the film language: Stephanie di Giusto (Vanessa Bruno), Kinga Burza (Kate Spade) and Sofia Coppola (Dior). I love their films because they effortlessly transcend the boundaries of the fashion world. They are, above all, interesting works of the moving image aimed at the celebration of beauty. Everyone can appreciate them.
P: What trends were you focusing on and why?
Olivia Leblanc: I was not trying to focus on a particular trend at all, but mostly on the mood and the feeling we wanted to portray.
P: What fascinates you about the relationship between fashion and film in comparison to a still image?
Olivia Leblanc: I always loved fashion videos. I think it gives a feeling and a personality to the garment. You can widen the spectrum of the visual presentation by telling an entire story through a collection.
Olivia Leblanc: The people around me and those that I meet while traveling. Cinema, Art photographers & Music are a big influence to me…
P: What is your background, have you had any formal training?
Hervé Demers: I’ve studied visual arts and art history, but since graduating from college, I’ve been mostly involved in filmmaking and photography. Producing and directing narrative shorts. This was mostly personal work, along with some commercial projects. I must say that my knowledge of fashion is somewhat limited and comes essentially from my interest in the history of design. I tend to approach the “fashion” aspect of these projects more intuitively in terms of colors, textures and shapes, while relying on the expertise of the designers and stylists I team up with. In this particular case, Olivia definitely had my back!
Olivia Leblanc: I’ve been styling for TV shows, fashion campaigns, music videos and celebrities for the past eight years. I’ve studied fashion and cinema.
P: How did the collaboration with Olivia Leblanc come about?
Hervé Demers: I was familiar with her work through her long-term collaboration with Ève Gravel. Their lookbooks are always full of these subtle combinations of hues and shapes that only come with talent and experience. I needed both her sensibility and her knowledge of the Montreal fashion scene to bring a cohesive direction to this “editorial” project. For example, I saw colors that interacted very subtly with the ochre tones of the autumnal locations, sometimes with monochromatic combinations, sometimes with subtle complementary contrasts. I knew not only that would she understand exactly what I was going for, but that in doing her work, she would also surprise me.
P: What fascinates you about the relationship between fashion and film rather than just a still image?
Hervé Demers: When I studied the history of photography, it struck me that the only commercial genre that played a key role in the medium’s aesthetic advancement was Fashion. In art history books, the work of Irving Penn was never too far away from Robert Frank’s. So I realized how fashion photography could sometimes attain a high-degree of artistic and formal refinement, while paradoxically being the basis of a billion-dollar industry. As a filmmaker, I’m eager to see what role fashion film will play in this industry over the next few years. What kind of online creative space will it become for directors and visual artists? Will it remain as free and interesting as it is now? The thing is, if the brands and designers want to have any marketing impact online, they will need to hire people who can create films that are creative and original enough to inspire massive online sharing. They will need artistic value. Otherwise, people won’t share the usual ad. And the brands will have a hard time reaching the younger generations, who seems to have lost interest in television (or should I say: the medium you can’t stream, skip or download!).
P: What equipment and techniques did you use and why?
Hervé Demers: It became clear during location scouting that we had about 15 to 20 minutes to film the snow geese lifting from the lake at dawn. After that, they would all be gone and we’d have to move on to other locations. The makeup, hair and styling had to be ready before sunrise at 6 a.m. And it was about a two-hour drive from Montreal. . . So you can imagine the crazy schedule. These restrictions, along with the fact that we had to shoot it all in a single day, dictated a few technical choices: multiple cameras that needed to be small and portable. Cameras that perform well in natural low-light conditions. The 5Ds were an obvious choice. They are not perfect cameras, but for projects aimed at the Web and with no dialogue recording, they’re still pretty good. With the appropriate lenses, of course!
P: What is so special or unique about fashion in Montreal? How do you think the fashion scene in Montreal is evolving, changing and growing?
Olivia Leblanc: We have a lot of talented creators but unfortunately we often don’t have the money and density of population to support their success. I try to promote them as much as I can and incorporate them in my work to bring them as much visibility as possible!