Representing the creative future

Discover the graduate film of ArtEZ BA Fashion Design

The Arnhem course has preferred graduate films over shows since 2020

To show or not to show, that’s the eternal question. As fashion education moves increasingly towards concept-based approaches in an effort to tackle the accelerating production speed of our industry, more and more programs (and the students that participate in them) are questioning the validity of a graduate presentation that only allows each collection a couple of minutes of showtime. Add to that our growing climate concerns and a recent pandemic, and you start to wonder why the format still exists in the first place. There is the entertainment value of the spectacle of course, always a fan-favourite, and the shared emotions of a live experience, never to be underestimated. 

The fashion design department of the ArtEZ university of the arts in Arnhem managed to combine the best of both worlds. For the past three years, their graduate shows have been transformed into a graduate film, giving both live and online audiences a chance to discover the designs in detail.

We spoke to Rachid Naas who, together with Michiel van Maaren, directed the film. The art director (and co-founder of the Dutch Fashion Council) has been producing the shows of ArtEZ since 2007 (after having been mindblown by the students’ work a couple of years prior). Here, Rachid takes us through the advantages of working with moving image and the challenges of working in such big teams. Let the film ‒ alongside the beautiful work of the students themselves ‒ be an inspiration to students and teachers looking to step away from the trodden path.  

What was your initial reaction to the idea of doing a video instead of a show? 

I have been doing the graduation shows at ArtEz since 2007, and I had already mentioned that I wanted to make a film instead of a show years ago. This is because the appeal of a show seemed to diminish and with a small film you can tell more of a story.

In January 2020 I told one of the board members of the Academy that I really wanted to make a film and then Covid hit. That graduation class really had a hard time ‒ as did all graduation classes in the world ‒ they graduated months later and without a show. That’s when we decided, very last minute, to make a video. Now it’s 2022 and we made the 3rd video and, to be honest, we are ready for a show again.

The advantage of a film is that each student really gets the attention their collection deserves, there is no audience, and you can experiment a lot (since everything is edited afterwards). The disadvantage is that you miss the emotion: the live reaction of an audience, the younger students helping backstage, the nerves minutes before the show starts, or even the tears after the last show.

In such a big group of graduates, styles and ideas can be very eclectic. How did you harmonize their work without losing their individuality?  

The location is basically the red thread throughout the film, and we extended the time frame for each student to a maximum. I also started by filming each collection on a regular catwalk to ensure we could capture that spirit and have the looks filmed from the front and back.

Did you negotiate with the students about what you wanted to achieve? 

From day one I asked the students to give me their briefing on the mood of their edit. Also, if they have any details that we must film or a specific mood for the models or film team. After getting all these individual briefings, it is key to ensure that what they ask for can be achieved without losing time (or exceeding the budget) ‒ 23 collections and 23 opinions are a lot. They had the opportunity to send me examples of other videos or shows they liked. On the day itself, we filmed each collection for about 20 minutes including their “wish list” of details or movements. They were not involved in the editing due to time restrictions. It would have been impossible to include everyone’s feedback at that stage.

It was exciting to see their reactions before the first audience viewing. They were surprised, positively shocked, emotional, and happy. I mean to see your graduation collection on a big screen ‒ that must be surreal! Only one student was not happy with the endresult.

That sounds amazing! And what was the official screening like? 

There were two screenings, one was organized by the students themselves in Amsterdam at a new creative space, the other was organized by the academy as part of the graduation show in an art house cinema in Arnhem and was on view for a week. The audience loved it, all the viewings in the cinema were sold out and the “premiere” in Amsterdam was a success. Judging from the stories overheard at the bar and on Instagram, the visitors really liked it. Also, the head of the department received a lot of reactions from people within the industry after the film was placed online.

Would you recommend it to other fashion programs? 

To experience a graduation collection as a movie and to see details of clothing from up close is a positive thing for the interested audience. And to feel the different stories told even if it was just by the music or way of filming, is a way of ensuring the students can share what they have envisioned.

So my answer would be yes!