Kraftwerk Berlin

Long estranged cousins, fashion weeks and fashion film festivals are coming together in 2021.

This month, they are aligning in Milan and Berlin, driven to each other by the challenges wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

“No runway shows and no physical audience weakens the fashion industry as a whole and this is why we decided to join forces,” said Philipp Ulita, managing director of the Berlin Fashion Film Festival, which runs from Jan. 18 to 20 alongside Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin at Kraftwerk, a sprawling, raw event space that was previously a power station. “It’s about fashion storytelling. That’s why BFFF invites its network of experts in the fields of conceptual storytelling, brand communication and state-of-the-art filmmaking to present its strength and how both sides can benefit from each other.”

Looking ahead, the Berlin festival plans to present its awards during the spring 2022 collections in the fall.

Ulita said a lightbulb went off last year when the festival, founded in 2012, starting receiving submissions directly from fashion brands that had opted out of typical runway shows and sought digital communication channels.

Enter organizers of key international fashion weeks, who had quickly constructed online platforms to host the designer films, with a slew of media partners in tow.

In Italy, the Camera Nazionale della Moda’s digital platform will host a collaboration with Milan Fashion Film Festival, or MFFF. The latter event, launched in 2014 by Constanza Cavalli Etro, will kick off on Jan. 13 and continue until Jan. 19 in conjunction with Milan Men’s Fashion Week. It will stream on the Camera’s platform, the festival’s official site and

In the past, fashion film festivals — which have proliferated worldwide over the last decade — largely pursued their own timetable, sponsors and audience, typically more aligned with the film world than the fashion scene. An exception would be the London Fashion Film Festival, which has run concurrently with the British capital’s September fashion week for eight years running.

According to Ulita, bringing them together is simply common sense.

“Filmmakers strive to produce projects for impactful clients: What better way to find them than at a fashion week?” he asked. “And what better way for a fashion designer to find the perfect collaborator or inspiration on how to tell your brand story, besides a festival that celebrates and curates the films that specifically tell fashion?”

According to him, digital-savvy fashion audiences have high demands on the look and feel of a commercial spot. “The task at hand for filmmakers is to create bridges, and film festivals are platforms where players from different fields meet and network to bring both industries forward,” he said.

Cavalli Etro characterized MFFF as “the younger digital sister” of the seasonal runway shows. “To be together was something that always made sense to me,” she said in an interview. “During a crisis, you must join forces and fight together for the same goals. It’s hard to do it all on your own.”

That said, Cavalli Etro noted that fashion films and fashion shows are “two completely different products created with different goals. One cannot supplant the other, but fashion films, as in what was shown in this pandemic moment, can be a good emergency resource for brands when the physical shows cannot be done.

“The digital world is the new reality and we can give a rich contribution of researched and quality digital content to the platforms,” she added. “A lot of brands and designers create new videos and fashion films with filmmakers to communicate a message, values, to engage their audience and to have more content within their platforms or social channels. It’s a new way to talk with their customers, to create engagement and empathy.”

The Milan Fashion Film Festival is to showcase 200 films from about 60 countries in its competition, along with a program of conversations and feature films.

Berlin and Milan showcases acknowledged it’s been a difficult year for sponsorships, and agreed that joining forces with fashion weeks ultimately makes festivals more appealing in terms of marketing and communications.

“My predictions for 2021 is that fashion filmmaking will continue to gain territory at a fast pace within the industry,” Cavalli Etro said. “It has become an indispensable communication instrument for brands and designers all year long.”

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