In Conversation: Carlo Brandelli and Nick Knight Discuss the Kilgour Film
30 December 2013
For 2014, Carlo Brandelli returns to Kilgour – the Savile Row brand where he was Creative Director from 2004 to 2009, and which he modernised and evolved into a 21st-century fashion house. At the time, one of his main creative collaborators was photographer/director Nick Knight, who, along with Carlo, created the distinctive visual imagery for the brand. To mark Brandelli’s return to Kilgour and the new chapter in the brand’s history that this represents, the designer and photographer have again collaborated, creating a short film that expresses a new direction for this cornerstone of Savile Row and modern British menswear.
Carlo, you are back as freelance creative director for Kilgour. How do you feel about it?
CB: Well, I was flattered that the new owners approached me to come back and, to quote them, ‘finish what I started’. In some way it is a validation of the work that was done originally. Coming back in a freelance role this time around is also key – as people may know, I was always working on more artistic projects too, and to use those experiences and ideas for the new Kilgour is exciting.
You have engaged with Nick again as a creative collaborator. What is it about his work that you like and feel is appropriate for Kilgour?
CB: We have a similar aesthetic and vision. I have collaborated with Nick on all my advertising and photographic campaigns for all my projects for nearly 15 years – there isn’t another choice for me. Nick consistently makes beautiful, articulate and modern images; the collaborations feel very easy to do, we always come to the same creative conclusion and we always look to the future and move forward.
Nick, you’ve worked with many well-known designers and houses over the years, including, notably, Yohji Yamamoto, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent. How do you see the Kilgour visual aesthetic, as a photographer and director?
NK: Carlo makes the vision very pure and modern, which is correct for menswear.
So how did the idea for a launch film come about?
CB: We needed to show the new thinking behind the brand. People may remember the campaign stills and the idea of playing against narcissism – reflection meant as contemplation. The idea was to take those images and make the ideas move through film. I hadn’t made any imagery for Kilgour since 2008, when I staged the Paris fashion show, so it was important to show the progression in the thinking – film seemed to be the medium that met that requirement best.
Describe the aesthetic you are aiming for in the film.
CB: The artists that interest me have always used glass as a medium too; Gerhard Richter is a good example. Glass is a very pure material; it can be transient in nature, especially when you catch a fleeting reflection. I was interested in creating an installation that suggested a section of a modern city – a glass city if you like – where fragments of reflections could play through the set.
Are there any influences or inspirations we should be looking for?
NK: Layers of thought and reflection.
CB: My work has always had a strong architectural narrative; the glass maze is also a comment on thinking, a single route of thought when you hone in on an idea.
How did you choose Tara Ferry to compose the music?
CB: I met Tara and knew him as a musician; the collaborators I work with usually bring their own very high level of skill and professionalism with them, and beyond this, I like to use the collaborators in the semiotics of the work – it is more real. When Peter (Saville) was art director for Kilgour he also modelled for some of the campaigns; the fact that he appeared in the semiotics is incidental to the contribution that he made to the project as a graphic designer and art director. Tara also modelled for the film, but it was the musical score that I wanted from him. Obviously, the fact that his father is Bryan Ferry suggested to me that his musical aesthetic would be really informed. We sat and talked about influences. I gave him both ends of the spectrum, classic to contemporary, just like the brand (from Debussy to Kraftwerk), and he came up with the score immediately, as if it was meant to be – a few classical piano notes underpinned by modern synthesisers.
What would you say to people who point out that as a fashion film this one doesn’t show you the clothes?
CB: Well, firstly it is not a fashion film; it is a film about a mood and style. I don’t think menswear at this level is about fashion per se. Beyond this, people understand that the influences on brands are varied – bespoke, craft, design, good architecture and intelligence are ideas you can apply to any good project. If you communicate the correct messages that relate to the brand, you do not necessarily have to always feature what the brand is know for.
NK: The film also communicates an ethos for the brand, and in part a syntax.
Do you think that men need the brands they are interested in to challenge them?
CB: The clientele who are attracted to Kilgour are all thinkers, whether they are from the creative sector, finance or culture. They don’t want vacuous, stylistic images repeated over and over again: model+ location = aspirational material possessions. Those messages are irrelevant to them. I hope the film communicates style, proportion, design, balance, and obviously a contemporary narrative. The glimpses of form that you see captured through reflection suggest the presence of a man, but not an obvious one; the man is there but he moves discreetly and quietly. The slow, clear pace of the film is a very obvious statement I wanted to make – luxury today is not about possessions, it is really about having time and space to think so you can make an informed choice. That is the essence of the ‘bespoke’ philosophy.
Still from the Nick Knight and Carlo Brandelli film
Still from the Nick Knight and Carlo Brandelli film
Carlo Brandelli, Kilgour Creative Director. Image courtesy of Ben Dunbar-Brunton
Nick Knight, Photographer/Director. Image Ruth Hogben
Carlo and Nick on set