Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Friedrich Gray film and interview on Dazed Digital

Designer Ben Pollitt collaborates with photographer Tim Richardson on an atmospheric fashion film
Text by David Hellqvist | Published 23 March 2010

The Australian label Friedrich Gray, AKA designer Ben Pollitt, tells the sartorial story of an atypical neo-gothic hero. Silhouettes are slim and dark, often in leather and denim. Now based in the southern hemisphere, Pollitt has spent time in New York and his travelling experiences shine through his tough and moody designs. At the same time, the local and native influences are equally important. That's all obvious when looking at the film Pollitt has produced in collaboration with film maker and photographer Tim Richardson. The result is an eerie but beautiful art piece, boosted by Richardson's cinematography and Pollitt's sharp tailoring. Dazed Digital spoke to both...

Dazed Digital: Why use an alias, and where did Friedrich Gray come from?
Ben Pollitt: I figured the label shouldn't be based around my name, but that of a character who's story becomes the enigma of the brand. The literal references were Caspar David Friedrich and the experimental band "Gray".

DD: You mostly use dark and monochrome colours - is that why you don’t ‘believe’ in seasons?
Ben Pollitt: I use that palette to provide continuity amongst collections, the garments can then be mixed and layered. I feel the darker colours are easier to wear and add an anonymous element. So yes, the palette compliments the longevity of a garment's relevance.

DD: Often we see you using tight bottoms and loose tops – do you like playing around with proportions?
Ben Pollitt: I like the idea of distorting the silhouettes. Framing the contours of the legs, letting the upper body float on it its plinth.

DD: There is menswear in the film as well – where do you feel most at home?
Ben Pollitt: I move through both in a natural way, what's happening around me shapes where I want to be, it shifts daily. They have different meanings to me. Menswear is a little more self indulgent as I can wear the garments, where as women's its more conceptual.

DD: A favourite piece in the collection?
Ben Pollitt: The full length digital printed Merino wool dress with the leather arms. Emma wears this while traversing the rocks.

DD: Is leather, which you call "the second skin", your preferred fabric?
Ben Pollitt: It is the real skin in our garments. I like to experiment with washes, finishes, mixing it with contrasting weights and textures, and using it tightly and draping it off the body.

DD: There are some haunting and eerie nature shots in the film – is nature a big influence on you?
Ben Pollitt: It was for this collection. I visited an Edward Burtynsky photo exhibition and I was moved by the natural composition forms in his rock quarry series. We used the ridge lines to create interesting shapes and contours. The film was shot on the location of an old quarry by the coast, a truly mystical and voluminous place.

DD: What else inspired the collection?
Ben Pollitt: Leading up to the filming of the collection, we played the DJ Hell album Teufelswerk on high rotation to keep us moving. It has some really great tracks that helped drive the creative and allowed for a journey under pressure. I always have an album for a collection.

Tim Richardson is a New York-based photographer and film director. His work have been seen in, among others, V Magazine, Interview and Dazed & Confused. Of late, Richardson has also published several books, including the recent Physical Frequencies. His second film, Procession, was shown at the Strasbourg Film Festival.

Dazed Digital: You both photograph and shoot film – where are you creatively at home?
Tim Richardson: Recent projects like my Augmented Reality shoot with Katie Shillingford have become about integrating both mediums - sometimes simultaneously. The beauty of film is that it allows a more flowing connection to the model. It's more like visual choreography and has evolved to influence the way I shoot stills. So my way of working - my creative home - has really shifted to cover both mediums.

DD: Do you often work with fashion designers, such as Friedrich Gray?
Tim Richardson: I've worked with several fashion brands in the past. My relationship with Friedrich Gray is unique in that the project evolved from a my long term friendship with Ben. Knowing one another for several years meant that the project was a free creative exchange and that Ben trusted me that much more to interpret Friedrich Gray on to film.

DD: What’s the Pros with such a collaboration, compared to the bigger Nike and YSL jobs you also have done?
Tim Richardson: A young label like Friedrich Gray is a far more personal kind of project - both for Ben and myself. The smaller scale of the brand means that Ben and I worked very closely on the film from beginning to end. Also by nature of having a smaller budget the creative process is focused more on innovation and experimental approaches to achieve a clear aesthetic statement.

DD: Any Cons?
Tim Richardson: The budget is usually the biggest Con, which is no surprise. It just forces you to be more resourceful.

DD: Do you have any formal photo/film training?
Tim Richardson: I was an art director for four years, working with both photographers and film makers. So my training was 'on the job'.

DD: Where did you shoot this film?
Tim Richardson: We were looking for a location with an epic, almost 'science fiction' terrain. The extreme 'geology' and sun blasted coastline of Kiama, just outside Sydney, was perfect. To me, the location is really the third character in the film.

DD: Was there any obstacles during the filming?
Tim Richardson: The main obstacle was the landscape. Our shot list was very ambitious - which meant constant movement - a lot of climbing and heavy lifting to get around the terrain. The blasting sun also took its toll on the crew, giving most of us a tan of the very red variety...

DD: How does working with fashion aesthetics compare to commercial and art work?
Tim Richardson: I've always felt like fashion is an aesthetic collision point. Historical and contemporary cultural references meet within the creative process of designers and image makers in a way that is unlike any other medium. By its very nature fashion photography and film demand a kind of constant visual innovation. Other fields like art and commercial work require a progressive aesthetics - but not at the same heightened speed.

DD: Can you give any examples?
Tim Richardson: I just finished a film for installation at the Venice Biennale - a collaboration with UK choreographer Rafael Bonachela. We started work in August 2009 and the work is showing in Venice in June 2010. For me art means I stay with a project for so much longer, its demands a different kind of attention. What attracts me to fashion is a sense of constant evolution.

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