Sally Singer on Her Punk Past and Bringing Fashion Film to Vogue.com

For the first time ever, Vogue.com is making fashion films. Starting last week the site is rolling out a series of four short films by young women directors hand picked by Sally Singer, Vogue's creative digital director. Each film is meant to celebrate and interpret punk in advance of the Met Ball and the Costume Exhibit's "PUNK: Chaos to Couture." We hopped on the phone with Singer to talk about the changes she's making to Vogue.com, her decision to make a foray into fashion film, and her personal punk past. Click through to see what Singer had to say and watch today's punk fashion film, starring Cara Delevingne.
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Leah Chernikoff
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For the first time ever, Vogue.com is making fashion films. Starting last week the site is rolling out a series of four short films by young women directors hand picked by Sally Singer, Vogue's creative digital director. Each film is meant to celebrate and interpret punk in advance of the Met Ball and the Costume Exhibit's "PUNK: Chaos to Couture." We hopped on the phone with Singer to talk about the changes she's making to Vogue.com, her decision to make a foray into fashion film, and her personal punk past. Click through to see what Singer had to say and watch today's punk fashion film, starring Cara Delevingne.
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If you've been reading Vogue.com lately you might have noticed there's a lot more action over there. The once staid site seems to have gotten a little more web-savvy, with more content, click-y slideshows, and even how-to beauty tutorials.

And now, for the first time ever, Vogue.com is making fashion films. Starting last week the site is rolling out a series of four short films by young women directors hand picked by Sally Singer, Vogue's creative digital director. Each film is meant to celebrate and interpret punk in advance of the Met Ball and the Costume Exhibit's "PUNK: Chaos to Couture."

Today's release, an animated piece by in-demand vid girl Quentin Jones (she did those awesome videos for the launch of Victoria Beckham's contemporary line), features model-of-the-moment Cara Delevingne thrashing around in Saint Laurent, Versace and Christopher Kane. Stay tuned for a Cass Bird and Daria Werbowy collab up next.

We hopped on the phone with Singer to talk about the changes she's making to Vogue.com, her decision to make a foray into fashion film, and her personal punk past.

Fashionista: So what's this new film series all about? Sally Singer: In the lead up to the Met gala and Costume Institute exhibition I thought it would be fun to ask four young women filmmakers to give us their idea of a punk story. The one [up today] is by Quentin Jones. I've really admired her for a while. She has such an interesting way of animating her work. The other three are Mary Nighy, she did a more beauty focused one that ran already, then there's Cass Bird who's done an incredible piece with Daria. Then Emily Kai Bock is a video director whom you might know from the Grimes video "Oblivion." I thought it would be interesting for them to do their take on punk using fashion that's right now, shoppable. It's a first attempt for Vogue.com to do fashion film. It's just not been done before.

None of these filmmakers were around for punk the first time--how do you think that affects their interpretation? For me it's quite funny because I am old enough to have been in punk clubs the first time around--well, punk and new wave. I was there for the first incarnation of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks and the Go-Gos because I'm from California. And I was there when it shifted and became poppier too. I'm actually that person. But for my young sons punk is "American Idiot" and Green Day. Everyone likes the music moment that they remember when they were 13 but there's no question that punk as a musical form has had numerous moments now. There's a hard core punk scene now that's very different than what evolved out of the mid to late '70s.

In fashion as well I think that punk as a style gesture has taken many forms--and that's what this exhibit is about. It's not just about Vivienne Westwood and the origins of it, but it's about how designers have borrowed from the signatures of club style and street style and music style at that time. What I've been so impressed by is the emphasis on DIY which is perennial. You can make it yourself, you can wreck it yourself. There are lessons from punk that carry over. I don't think it's something that's frozen in time or set in aspic. So I think in that sense it's interesting to see these filmmakers who were not there the first time around or even second time around turn their mind to what they pick from it.

Singer at an event this past February. (Photo: Getty)

Singer at an event this past February. (Photo: Getty)

Tell me about the decision to commission fashion films. There seems to be a lot more going on on Vogue.com. We've diversified the content in the last few months and certainly have added a lot more video. I think we've made an effort to have the site move and talk and host music and have a much more multimedia feeling to it over the last few months which I find fun and exciting and so does the staff here.

But I think that for this moment it just seemed a like the time [to launch fashion films] because the Met is such a special moment in the year, not just for Vogue, but for fashion--I think it's the biggest fashion event of the year for sure--and this year's theme being such a visually driven theme and one that has so many different ways it can be touched on and played with and considered so it seemed a really appropriate moment to embark on fashion films.

Where do you see the site going? What's it like to be working solely on digital? I think the site is evolving to have a greater diversity of content and a bigger experience than it had before. I was on the digital side at my last job so it's not entirely new to me but at Vogue I think it's fun. I've always felt that the brand of Vogue is so much bigger than just the print book. Vogue for me has always been a bigger mental landscape--and this is going back to when I was a child. Vogue was a world that I dreamed of. That meant that I sewed my clothes from the Vogue pattern books--what a weird thing to do as a kid! So working on the digital incarnation of the brand is just part of that. It's just how you take something you love so much and give it expression in all forms.

So you said you were around for the first incarnation of punk. Did you dress the part? Oh god, yeah, I worked all of it. I definitely did the school girl kilt look for quite some time. I did leopard for some time. As we moved more into the New Romantic period, from the Vogue pattern book I would do my own screwed up version of a YSL ball skirt with a blouse where I wired the collar to go up the back of my neck. I think there was a Karl Lagerfeld for Chloe drop waist kind of '20s flapper dress that I wore with combat boots. And berets, there was an endless amount of beret going on. It was always beatnik punk. Yes, I was very dramatic.

That's quite a contrast to your style now. Things have gotten a bit more subtle hopefully.

Watch the video below.