Paul G Roberts talks to features writer, Tom Hutchinson about his recent win, ‘VIRGIL’ – and his plans to make the full blown feature film with GQ’S legendary Jim Moore.
Tom: So, I guess we’ll begin at the beginning: What was the inspiration behind Fashion Industry Broadcast?
Paul: Well, the whole idea I had with Fashion Industry Broadcast when I set up the creative content business, is I had a very clear view of the history and an understanding that the industry was a gold mine to mine really interesting stories and characters.
Not so much about the machinations of making apparel, more about the personalities and drama and intrigue from a cultural point of view. Right from the very beginning, I had plans around that. It’s interesting now that a lot of my beliefs have been born out by what we’ve seen of late, with mainstream Hollywood looking into these worlds. For example with Ridley Scott and “House of Gucci,” or Ewan McGregor’s upcoming series “Halston”.
Tom: So bringing these stories to a wider audience, is what you’re talking about?
Paul: Yeah! That was kind of the bold vision I had in the back of my head was to be the kind of “Disney” in this world of fashion, art, design and creativity. Not so much about whether it was going to have a mass audience or not, I just thought it would be a fun thing to work on
Tom: So the Renegades series in particular though is focused on people who did it on their own terms. Who weren’t part of the established “glitterati” if you will, who didn’t have the surname Versace or Gucci. People who perhaps came up in a different social set, but then went on to change the fashion industry
Paul: Well, a lot of people from the outside see the fashion industry as a cauldron of creativity. Full of “crazy” people doing amazing cultural things. But in reality, the fashion industry actually plays it fairly safe, it takes every product that is vaguely connected, from sneakers to fragrances to lipstick to whatever goes on in between. If you tally up the dollars that are involved in that, as a GDP, it would be the 8th biggest economy on the planet. So, some people might see fashion as an obscure thing, a vanity business, but it’s actually a massive money-making machine…Just like Goldman & Sachs do
And if you’re a big designer, there’s a whole lot of pressure, like you’ve gotta have two collections a year, sometimes a cruise collection or a bridal collection, a resort collection, you’ve gotta have fragrances, accessories…you’ve gotta churn out products. Is that really creative? And some designers refuse to do that, they say “I do a collection when I have an idea. I’m not like a sausage factory making sausages.”
So, a lot of people who grew up in that system, are more like merchandisers. But there are a bunch of other people, who have always refused to follow that path
Tom: So, they’re the subjects for the Renegades series then?
Paul: Correct. Chosen to operate on their own terms, with their own integrity and their own vision. And as Yohji Yamamoto says, “A lot of fashion is about common sense, it’s about trend. If like, black leather is in, everyone is doing black leather.” Or if ruffles and romantic flounces are in, everyone is doing that. Yohji continued: “I never wanted to walk in that world. I just wanted to do my own thing, on the dark side.”
Tom: Not be a slave to trends, basically?
Paul: Yeah, he just, wasn’t interested in it. A lot of these artists who are part of the Renegades thing, sure they’ve been very successful and have an audience and everything. But I think part of the reason, what makes them so appealing is they never did it with a commercial motivation in mind. They were pure artist, who were expressing themselves, which I think is a very powerful force. And me, as someone who aspires to be in that coterie of interesting work, people and stories, I find it very compelling
Tom: So, on the subject of the Renegades series, let’s talk about Virgil. What inspired you to make this project, to talk about Virgil Abloh particularly?
Paul: Well, I’m always looking for the next cool project that I can put my mind to, and Virgil ticked all the boxes. I’ve known his story since his rise with Kanye West really, they first met when Virgil was working as a screenprinter. And then they worked together as interns at Fendi. He was a rapper and an artist as well. So, I knew his story quite well. And then when he launched his brand Off-White which was quite revolutionary, and then onto being the Creative Director of LVMH, he had a remarkable career. He’s really influenced so many people and aspects of the culture.
So, when he died, a couple of months ago, I figured this was a marvelous opportunity to fast track this project, while it was still timely. Ultimately the aim was to honour him and the work that he’s done, and hopefully highlight the influences he’s had on the industry. So, the plan wasn’t just to make another Renegades of Fashion episode, but to use that as a stepping stone to a bigger story
Tom: So that Renegades episode is now available to view on the Fashion Industry Broadcast YouTube channel, and it’s done quite well internationally recently I understand? Tell us a bit about that…
Paul: Well yeah, I put together the 25 minute short relatively quickly and sent it in. The story is just so strong, and people connect with it, even though it was done fairly economically, it’s such a powerful story. I entered it into a number of festivals, and it’s fairly recent, so it’s been getting a lot of attention at those, and was recently voted the Best Documentary Short by the Cannes Film Festival as part of one of their monthly competitions, which leads into the main festival later this year
Tom: So does that go into competition with eleven others as the year? And then it’s a matter of picking from them as the yearly winner?
Paul: Yeah, I believe so. There’s a lot of levels. You get selected, then nominated, then shortlisted, then the monthly winner…
Tom: … and then up to the competition with the other 12. That’s still…Very impressive, it’s one of the 12 best documentary shorts made in the world in the last year
Paul: Yeah, I’m very chuffed with it. And to have that name, you know, “winner” attached to it – it doesn’t really change my perspective on it, life and everything is still the same for me – but it does change the way other people view you. So when you knock on someone like Netflix’s door and can say “hey Netflix, we’re going to make this feature based on this award-winning short” it’s a completely different proposition
Tom: Yeah, once you can attach the moniker “award winner” to a project, it definitely raises the prestige of it. You mentioned also that you were thinking of maybe taking the project further, can you tell us a bit about that as well?
Paul: The plan I always had was to make an Academy-award winning documentary, and I think this material is worthy of that kind of level. So to do that, obviously we have to approach it with all the bells and whistles. So I am in the process of doing the full feature-length version, and I have onboard Jim Moore, who was the creative director of GQ Magazine in America for 40 years, who is doing it with me. He was actually a personal friend of Virgil’s
Jim is like fashion royalty, he knows everybody, is friends with everybody. We’d been working together on another project, Supernatural, a seven-part book and film series. Jim really loved what we’d been doing with that, and is a big fan, believe it or not. So he was very enthusiastic to come on board. He’s on board as an executive producer, as well as appearing in it, and doing the narration
Tom: So, I mean, in terms of access, that’s gonna be unreal then, I mean if he was friends with Virgil, he’d have access to a lot of people…
Paul: He’s also friends with Kanye West, A.S.A.P Rocky, and many others. We’re also hoping to feature Virgil’s wife and those closest to him. We’ll be looking at his life both professionally and personally, a broad scope of the man. I’m really confident with the short being awarded, and Jim Moore being on board, the mission we have to honour and pay tribute to Virgil’s legacy, I think we’ll get a lot of support. I just don’t think it’s something people would say no to
Tom: And I think the respect that we’ve approached the subject with as a company is something that will hopefully be recognised as well
Paul: Yeah, and they get to see the short, so they know exactly the tone and everything. It’s a bit of an educational thing. And we’re also planning to go to Bernard Arnault, who’s the president to LVMH, who was obviously a very important part of Virgil’s life, because he runs Louis Vuitton, and owns Off-White, so he has a big vested interest in Virgil’s legacy. So the aim is to get an all-access pass with him, and maybe bring him aboard as a potential executive producer as well. Then once we have that, all the people signed, I think we’ll be able to knock on the doors of any of the streaming networks, to get a commission
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. Well this all sounds really positive, and really exciting. So definitely watch this space, FIB subscribers, as we’ll be brining you more news on this exciting project as it happens. Thanks for your time Paul
Paul: Thanks Tom
Check out best documentary short winner, “VIRGIL” below:
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