Cameras flashing. Front row packed with celebrities, editors and icons. The elegance and grace of models. Gorgeous clothes created by visionaries. This is Paris. This is French fashion.
Assistant professor Sarah Glasco’s French Cinema class decided on the theme of fashion for Elon University’s fourth annual French Film Festival, inspired by Paris, one of the fashion capitals of the world.
“My class wanted to choose a theme that was lighter on the surface, while being accompanied by controversial topics that would lead to intellectually enriching conversations,” Glasco said. “Paris runway and fashion is a big part of French culture, but within these specific films are more complex topics, such as the LGBTQIA community.”
Three films will be showcased at the festival, held Nov. 4-6 to coincide with National French Week. “Mademoiselle C,” a documentary, examines former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief and stylist Carine Roitfeld, as she creates a new fashion magazine. “Coco Avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel)” tells the story of Coco Chanel before she founded her legendary fashion house. “Yves Saint Laurent,” is a drama that focuses on the height of famed French designer Yves Saint Laurent’s career.
Senior Vaughn Vreeland, whose passion for the industry drove him to push for this specific topic, recommended promoting fashion as this year’s theme.
“We hoped to go on a route that a lot of people would find relatable and interesting,” Vreeland said. “We wanted to expound upon fashion’s profundity and pose the question, ‘What are the social implications of fashion?’”
Senior Emily Hackman explained that the festival has previously focused on more controversial topics, such as relations between France and Africa.
“We wanted to go a different, more fun and lighthearted route, while still being able to explore underlying social issues.” she said.
Each night of the festival will feature speakers that have a wealth of knowledge on the topics discussed in each film.
Matthew Antonio Bosch, director of the Gender and LGBTQIA Center, and Paul Geis, associate director of Study Abroad will address the audience before the screening of “Yves Saint Laurent.” They will be discussing human rights advocacy and LGBTQIA rights.
Glasco said she has been deeply impressed with her students throughout the two-month planning process.
“This whole festival is student-run. They chose the theme, films and speakers. They dealt with budget costs, contacting distributors of the films,” she said. “It’s really been a fantastic community building exercise, where they can learn skills that they will be able to take with them beyond their years at Elon.”
The complexity of French culture, beyond the element of fashion, is examined through film and cinematography in Glasco’s course.
“They are analyzing cinematography and stylistic techniques and discussing everything that goes into making a film, not just simply watching movies and being able to follow the French dialogue,” she said.
“Our course’s theme is food, so we have been analyzing films that encompass the French’s love for cuisine. I love the cultural aspect of food, as well as the French language,” Hackman said. “The beauty of the language is seen in the films that we are presenting at the festival.”
Vreeland added that French national pride is another focus of French culture.
“You don’t normally think of pride when qualifying a particular culture,” he said. “Food, music, fashion — those are what people associate the term ‘culture’ with. I think that underneath every individual aspect of French culture lies this innate sense of pride.”
After the three-day festival, Glasco hopes her students will recognize the value of their careful preparation and planning.
“I hope my students can see the fruits of their labor and find that perseverance, hard work and collaboration are the keys to success,” she said. “I hope that they, at least momentarily, inspire and enrich the spectators who come see the films and engage in intellectual discussion.”
Vreeland said he wants attendees to appreciate the glamour of French fashion and understand its underlying themes.
“We hope to draw huge audiences because we really want to not only expose the beauty of French culture, but also show that there are great social implications in this industry than what lies on the surface.”