Is objectivity dead? From the bias of bloggers (many of whom are compensated for their presence, their outfits and their views), the special treatment from buyers (some of which accept extravagant gifts in exchange for stocking a designer), the politics behind industry awards, and the favors associated with the red carpet placement of dresses, it seems that almost every facet of the fashion industry (much like every other industry) is motivated by something less-than-transparent. The latest example: Jalil Lespert’s film, Yves Saint Laurent.
The Guardian (which, to be fair, is certainly biased in its own way, as is every publication) reflected on the recently-released film, penning a slightly negative review based on its belief that the film is merely “an impossibly expensive promotional video.” The review continues on to say: “This is pure corporate self-endorsement, handsomely produced.” Worthy of note is that there are currently two YSL films making the rounds (you may recall the relatively recent drama stemming from the dueling films), and while both have gotten the go-ahead from Kering (YSL’s parent company) to use the French design house’s logo, Lespert’s film is the one that has been officially backed by YSL co-founder, Pierre Bergé. This fact alone seems to lend some credence to the Guardian’s claim of special treatment.
The review’s author, Peter Bradshaw, says he “longed for commentary”, but instead, was left with “the same absolutely unironic ‘catwalk’ scene: the creations, the stunned murmurings from deeply impressed audiences, and then the triumph as the designer himself is at last (unwillingly) dragged into the spotlight for wild applause. If any of his catwalk shows went badly, we don’t get to see it. It is a bit baffling, and the film’s purpose is the reverent mystification of everything that avowedly makes YSL special.”
Maybe, Bergé and Lespert struck a deal of some sort. In exchange for access to “nearly 5,000 dresses, 15,000 accessories and 35,000 sketches” from the house of Yves Saint Laurent, Lespert may have agreed to promote the design house more than he otherwise would have in the film, or per Bradshaw’s review, present it in a better light. Judging by Bergé’s treatment of the rival YSL film, which was directed by Bertrand Bonello, it seems that Lespert may be getting special treatment, in fact. Bergé, who was the designer’s longtime partner, has threatened to sue Bonello, saying that he “holds the moral rights over YSL’s work, his image and mine and have only authorised Jalil Lespert.” He has yet to file suit.
Our hypothetical deal between Bergé and Lespert ins’t exactly unheard of. In the making of Sofia Coppola’s film, “The Bling Ring”, the director reportedly struck an off the record deal with heiress Paris Hilton. In exchange for Hilton appearing in the film, allowing parts of the movie to be filed in her home and helping to promote the film, the movie was swayed in Hilton’s favor a bit. You may recall that in Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article, The Suspects Wore Louboutins, which inspired Coppola to make the film, Sales quotes Bling Ring member Nick Prugo as saying: “We found about, like, five grams of coke in Paris’s house.” In the film, however, the Bling Ring kids found the coke elsewhere (aka not in Hilton’s home).
So, it appears that bloggers may not be the only ones susceptible to compensation in exchange for brand endorsements; film makers are now, too?