David James: The Whole Package

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Published March 19, 2010

 

“Why this show? Why now?” asks creative director David James about the digital retrospective he’s organized of his own work, which is now online. For one thing, 22 years makes for a lot of work. “It’s a new decade and we’re working a new way so it felt like a really good time to bring that all together and put that out there.” James is the man behind some of the best known fashion campaigns of the last generation—Christian Dior, McQueen, and of course Prada, for whom James has created advertisements for the last decade and a half. This exhibition, Out of Print, which culminates in a short film James made for Prada’s Spring/Summer 2010 campaign, announces his move into new territory. “The fashion image hasn’t really been defined yet in film,” he says. “And I think that is very exciting, the idea of going from a still to moving images.”

The cyber gallery is a timeline of tearsheets, featuring editorial and ad campaigns James has designed over the course of his career. There’s Julianne Moore with her hair blown out and Jauqeuin Pheonix smoking, all at confrontational angles with blocks of bold text and blocks of color—even full bleed pages of it. These are mixed with James’ inventive invitations to the Prada shows. Many of the images are very familiar; some, like his riotous print ads for Alexander McQueen, verging on iconic. Charting his evolution from album packaging for Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance in the late ‘80s to his work as creative director at AnOther Magazine, Out of Print is both summary and manifesto of a career dedicated to fashion and technology: “A new generation of filmmakers and photographers have grown up with technology and are very techno-savvy; it’s very natural for them to be very proficient in moving image programs. Film in fashion means interactive fields on the Internet, applications and mobile technologies.” James started out in  in 1988, designing record sleeves for London dance acts like Boy George and Soul II Soul, but surely there is enough to keep him busy for another two decades, or so, at least.

If Out of Print tells us any one thing about James it’s about his belief in the innovative power of fashion. “The great thing about fashion,” he says, “is that there is always something new to do because it is always changing and evolving and responding to contemporary culture. I find that really exciting.”