NEW YORK — “The way there was a camellia for the past, there will be a camellia for the future,” proclaimed a cartoon Karl Lagerfeld to a cartoon Coco Chanel as the flowers swirled around their heads. The illustrated fashion titans were on-screen in Ruben Toledo’s short film, “Fashionation.”
“It’s a love poem to French fashion,” said Toledo of the film, which was introduced Thursday night at the French Consulate by Nordstrom president Peter Nordstrom and Didier Grumbach, president of France’s Chambre Syndicale. The movie, which was jointly funded by the department store and the Chambre, combines Toledo’s love of cataloging, the alphabet and what he calls “the language of fashion.” As designers’ names and letters of the alphabet marched across the screen, he journeyed from Azzedine Alaïa to Yves Saint Laurent, tossing in even the likes of Paquin, Lapidus and Delauney.
Toledo spliced his witty illustrations together with archival runway and atelier footage from some prominent houses, as well as current interviews with Karl Lagerfeld, Sonia Rykiel and Christian Lacroix. The artist cast a wide net. For his pit stops at Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Dior, for example, Toledo covered both past and present, transitioning from Cristobal, Yves and Christian to Nicolas, Tom and John.
The audience seemed to eat it all up. Even the relatively recent footage of the early Nineties modeling triumvirate Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington vamping on Thierry Mugler’s runway sent a hush over the crowd, while a scene of a model donning a clever Schiaparelli wrap-around dress elicited appreciative “oohs” and “aahs.” One of the most memorable segments was the finale (after Z for “Zee End”): footage of a 1954 event staged to promote Parisian fashion when couturiers sent dozens of models streaming down a staircase at Versailles.
Although Toledo originally envisioned “a four-hour ‘Gone With the Wind’-type epic with an intermission and a cast of millions,” creating the 28-minute film still took the better part of the past four months. The artist, who worked with Ink Tank, an animation studio, jokingly estimated the time it took to get his drawings together as “two million years.” But in spite of the time factor, he has retained his enthusiasm for the project. “We were like kids in a candy store,” Toledo said of researching it. “I could have done a full-length movie on every designer.”