A film is more than a moving photograph. A fashion picture freezes something that is fleeting – a movie will take you along for the ride. Speaking to The New Yorker last year, Humberto Leon, the co-creative director of Kenzo, said: ‘We don’t shoot a normal ad campaign. We do a movie, and then we shoot a movie poster, and then the ads are the posters, and they feature clothing.’ Since arriving at the LVMH owned label in 2011, Leon and his creative partner Carol Lim have nurtured a cinéma vérité attitude to marketing, commissioning films from Spike Jonze, Gregg Araki, Sean Baker, Carrie Brownstein, Kahlil Joseph, Natasha Lyonne and Ana Lily Amirpour. For their latest, it was Leon who sat in the director’s chair.
The Everything is his directorial and writing debut. It is about a family of teenagers with unusual powers. At the centre is a mother in control yet out of sync with her brood. ‘It’s probably because I come from an Asian background but, growing up, the matriarch is at the core of everything. That’s always been a big, unquestionable thing,’ Leon says. The A/W 2018 show included a cast of actors performing a play about Leon bleaching his hair in 1998, much to his mother’s theatrical chagrin. In The Everything, Georgie, played by Milla Jovovich, is a woman trying to pull her family together. ‘You see her looking at her kids lovingly, but also yelling at them, trying to make sure that they don’t get themselves into trouble.’ It’s what Leon calls ‘a typical family.’
‘I knew I was doing the film whilst we were designing the collection, which was based on film genres that Carol and I loved growing up. So this was a big meta experience of being inspired by film for the collection and then making a film about the collection and then the collection playing a secondary role to the characters…’ he says. Film is the best vehicle for telling and selling stories for everyone. ‘They invite people to leave reality for a little bit. In this world that we’re living in, so much is going on, I wanted to take this moment to celebrate that feeling of being able to lose yourself. That’s why I’ve probably watched Beaches 150 times!’ he says.
Leon’s film laces the family tensions of campy Chinese soap opera with 80s Hollywood sparkle complete with the stock, high school homecoming crescendo of classic teen movies. At its core, it is a tale of teenage angst and Leon draws attention to the prevailing politics of identity without labouring the point. ‘When you’re growing up you go through a lot of struggles from when you want to be exactly like your friends to, at some point, wanting to be totally different. The world makes you see that you’re not the same.’ The characters’ superpowers are treated like something they’ve just been born with, giving the film a warm relatability that’s at the heart of what Leon and Lim do so well. ‘The ultimate take-away – I hope! – is that when you’re able to work together with your community or family something good can come out of it, it’s about seeing the sum of many is greater than the sum of one. It is about accepting who you are.’