One half of Kenzo design duo, Humberto Leon embarks on new territory as he takes up the director’s chair for the latest campaign film for fall/winter 2018. His directorial debut and part of Kenzo’s continued exploration of dynamic media, “The Everything” stars sc-fi queen and ultimate legend, Milla Jovovich, Insecure actors Jay Ellis and Regina Hall, and up and comers Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Sasha Frolova all featured in pieces from the KENZO fall/winter 2018 and KENZO La Collection Memento Nº3 collections. The nucelar familial structure gets turned on its head with this light-hearted drama about a family with special powers and a rare appearance in front of the camera by Spike Jonze.
Entrusted by Carol Lim & Humberto Leon to aid in strategy, casting, and all around creative is the man behind Black Frame and Framework, Brian Phillips, the innovate leader that merges art with fashion seamlessly. We spoke with Phillips on Framework’s involvement bringing the project together, working with Ethan James Green on movie poster campaign images, and why Kenzo’s is always on the forefront of casting talent, both established and on the brink of stardom.
How important is visual storytelling for an advertisement today? Do you think brands need to partake in more interactive communication channels to really engage consumers in this digital-heavy market?
Yes. The cornerstone of the work we do at Framework is story. Brands have an obligation to compel their audience and customers with something more than a well-crafted fashion picture. The best way to differentiate a brand is to tell a story that no one else is telling, your own unique story. We help brands evoke their own personality and create community through content that is connected to the core values of the brand, although not always the obvious ones.
Black Frame, and by extension Framework, has always blurred the lines between fashion and art as a collective. Why was your interest in this specific direction for your company and how has art framed your understanding of the fashion community and vice versa?
One of the greatest experiences of my career was working with the artist Francesco Vezzoli on producing a performance at the Guggenheim starring Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Elaine Stritch and Dianne Wiest based on a Luigi Pirandello play which is translated to English as “Right You Are if You Think You Are.” We turned the Guggenheim for a night into a fishbowl for essentially a table reading with the most famous actors in the world. It was a blazing critical failure, but it was spectacular. Francesco taught me volumes about how art influences our present, past and future and how essential it is to know as much about it as we possibly can.
With your work with Framework, describe the process of developing a concept/creative direction for a new campaign with brands like Kenzo? The emphasis on cinema seems to be a recurring theme – what is it about the magic of Hollywood and the moving image that matches so soundly with Kenzo?
Film is the most memorable and impactful form of creative communication of the last century. Ask anyone about their favorite films and there is a passionate response. Perhaps only music can compete in this respect. Yet, fashion brands have traditionally steered clear of film, probably because it’s expensive and incredibly time-consuming. We developed the film platform for Kenzo because it gave the brand a unique platform to connect with people and to make stories that weave the clothes into a narrative. So few brands do it and we wanted to take risks and really go there with incredible filmmakers and give them carte blanche. And we’ve fully done it, 6 short films later Kenzo is one of the very few brands with credibility in this space.
How was it working on such a monumental first with Humberto Leon’s directorial debut? Is it a coincidence we have two X-Men and Resident Evil queen, Milla Jovovich included in a story about “teenagers with unusual powers?”
Humberto wowed everyone. He wrote such a great story and was phenomenally passionate and curious in making this film. We are all in awe. Of course, we have all loved Milla for years and when we were casting, she just felt completely right. She’s superhumanly beautiful, iconic and it’s just the right moment to appreciate her and see her everywhere. The Fifth Element…Zoolander…Resident Evil…she can do anything!
Without giving away too much, take us behind the story for this season’s campaign.
I feel it’s a very personal story to Humberto of exceptional love, acceptance, camaraderie, and humor. It’s a very universal, albeit unique story and it is so well acted by the cast.
Describe working with photographer Ethan James Green and how did you come to the decision to collaborate with him this season?
We’ve worked with Ethan several times and his mastery of photography and capturing people in revealing, searingly personal ways just keeps getting stronger. Whether he’s working in black & white or color, you can really tell “oh that’s an Ethan picture.” It’s the attitude and the composition. I think Ethan had fun with this campaign because the actors could really embrace superhuman poses and that rarely makes as much sense as it did here.
When it comes to casting this season, what was the strategy behind including known and lesser-known faces?
For us at Framework, casting is so much fun and also so hard. We talk about a million names, but we always want to bring freshness and introduce new faces. We also want to throw some curveballs that people will get a kick out of. In this film, you have bright new stars like Alexandra Shipp and Ekaterina Samsonov, and then a comedic icon like Regina Hall, who you wouldn’t expect in a film like this, but yet feels so right for it.
Be sure to check out the film that launches September 7th, right in time for fashion week!