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Interview

Interview: Raquel Couceiro and Myles Henrik Hall On '9'

by Christina Kapourtzoudi on 3 April 2020

'Why wouldn't you dress like your favourite character from a video game that you're playing?' The 9 directors talk the making of their gaming, cosplay and pop culture-inflected fashion film.

'Why wouldn't you dress like your favourite character from a video game that you're playing?' The 9 directors talk the making of their gaming, cosplay and pop culture-inflected fashion film.

In their new fashion film, 9, SHOWstudio's head of film, Raquel Couceiro and film editor Myles Henrik Hall explore the impact that pop culture has on fashion and vice versa, combining references from runway looks and pop culture. The numerical title represents the nine characters portrayed in the film that showcase a plethora of recognisable pop culture figures, from an angel to the duo's version of DC Comic character Harley Quinn, against a black background.

Here, Couceiro and Hall explain their vision and filmmaking process, as well as the cross-pollination across popular media, from cosplay to films to video games to runway shows.


Christina Kapourtzoudi: What’s the concept of the film?

Raquel Couceiro: What we wanted to do with the film is portray a group of characters which are inspired by our favourite characters in pop culture. Myles and I are really into video games and films, and often see how much these pieces of media impact fashion and culture as a whole. There's a movement of people that dress, not just as cosplayers or characters from video games, but who actually introduce those types of styles and outfits into what they wear in their daily life. These nine girls are actually nine very specific examples from the media we are interested in. They're nine examples we see all the time, not just on girls that actually dress like that in their daily life, but also in new collections each fashion season.

Myles Henrik Hall: Our focus was on taking cues in terms of styling, hair and makeup from all of our favourite characters. We then looked at what was available from our favourite designers, what we could buy from weird online stores and what we owned ourselves. We accumulated it all to try to bring each character to life.

Louis Vuitton's campaign with Final Fantasy XIII’s Lightning character for their Series 4 collection for S/S 16.

CK: Your own personal style is reflected in this film. How did you combine your personal aesthetics?

RC: This is about something Myles and I are really into, it is something we love in our daily life. We even dress according to some of these notes; that's why it was so personal to us. When it comes to styling, certain things–like the school girls–my eye was more closely attuned to, because it is how I personally dress. But certain things were more attuned to Myles: for example, the military girl is wearing his necklace.

MHH: We both styled the models together. There are a lot of different brands and items that we wanted to use, and Raquel owns a lot of these types of clothes, which is why we used so many of them. We did a lot of planning in order to be able to do everything within a certain timeframe, but when it comes down to us styling and choosing what the girls are wearing, and how to shoot it, everything was pretty intuitive, meaning, it's just what Raquel and I would do if you gave us access to all these clothes, it's very natural in that way.

CK: What were some of your specific references?

RC: There are different references for the characters. For example, our angel character is based on Lightning, from Final Fantasy XIII. This character was used for a Louis Vuitton campaign (for S/S 16) and she's a style icon. If you're a gamer, you know who she is straight away. We wanted to include a character from a video game and that's who that angel character is.

MHH: We also got inspiration for that specific character from the movie Constantine and the character of Archangel Gabriel, portrayed by Tilda Swinton. In the film, she's wearing a head-to-toe white runway look by Helmut Lang. Our second character is inspired by the Decora subculture in Tokyo. This style is all about colours and accessories. We really loved how these colours worked visually against our black background.

Tilda Swinton as Archangel Gabriel from Constantine (2005).

RC: Moreover, our soldier character is based on the game characters that you usually see on something like Final Fantasy XV or Nier Automata, as well as in many other video games and films. There are really strong links to fashion in video game culture. In Final Fantasy XV, for example, Vivienne Westwood designed one of the wedding dresses for a character named Luna.

Vivienne Westwood's wedding dress for Final Fantasy XV.

MHH: Another great example of this cross-disciplinary collaboration between fashion and gaming, which adds value to the character and to the clothing itself, is Death Stranding, a beautiful game made by Hideo Kojima. One of my favourite characters in the game, Mama, wears the SS-CP2 jacket by Acronym designed by Errolson Hugh - you can go and buy this online to wear yourself right now. Errolson also designed the base layer t-shirt which the playable character, Sam Bridges, wears throughout the game. The military character towards the end of our film wears a ‘Bridges’ hat: a replica of the hat Sam Bridges wears in the game.

Mama (R) wears the SS-CP2 jacket by Acronym.
Sam Bridges wears a base layer designed by Errolson Hugh.

CK: Can you talk me through the filming and editing process?

RC: We decided to shoot it against black so everything would really stand out: everything is about the clothes and the character so there's nothing else around them. We shot everything on a 360° camera track, filming each shot as if it were a hero shot. The 'hero shot' is often used in cinema to introduce your main character. It is meant to isolate the subject, making them your only point of focus. We wanted the girls that star in our film to look really badass, and for their personality to come through. We wanted the film to be like a series of character intros for each one of them.

MHH: It's all about character introduction. We used some of the models multiple times in different characters, so we wanted to make sure that each shot is about the character and the girl inhabiting that character. You see the same girls–and that's on purpose–but every time she is dressed in a different way and her energy is shifted. It feels more real in that way.

A behind-the-scenes image showing the 360° camera track Couceiro and Hall used.
Why wouldn't you dress like your favourite character from a video game that you're playing?

CK: Fashion and cosplay have traditionally been viewed very separately. Should fashion open its eyes to the cosplay world?

RC: I think [cosplay] is very underrated [as a fashion movement]. The great thing about clothes is that they are like armour. You wear them for yourself, and they protect you from what's outside. If you're into games, films or books, it makes sense for you to actually take notes from the characters that you love and bring them into your everyday life. Why wouldn't you dress like your favourite character from a video game that you're playing? It’s fun, and that's what clothes should be. We live in this really weird society where you are told you can do whatever [you want], but people still have this really old-fashioned way of looking at others and what they wear on the street.

MMH: It depends on what you're paying attention to culturally, and whose opinion you care about. [People have old-fashioned ideas about everyday clothes] in the Western world, whereas there are great sub-genres of style in Japan, for example. In Harajuku there are probably tens of thousands of young people walking around in what would be considered ‘cosplay’ from a Western viewpoint, but it isn’t: their idea of clothing is just highly stylised almost to the point of fantasy. I think this is the direction that style as a whole will move towards over the next five to ten years.

Interview:
Christina Kapourtzoudi

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