updated 24 Sep 2013, 10:22
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Sun, Sep 22, 2013
Urban, The Straits Times
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7 things in her bag: Kathryn Ferguson

The opening sequence of the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, with its plumes of smoke and napalm-induced explosions, is unlikely inspiration for a young girl growing up in Belfast, Ireland, and wanting to become a fashion film-maker.

And yet it did. Ms Kathryn Ferguson, 30, recalls how her eccentric architect father used to show her and her siblings VHS mixtapes of various clips of the Francis Ford Coppola movie while they were growing up in the 1980s.

Also included in the tapes were scenes from Irish singer Sinead O'Connor's Nothing Compares 2 U music video and 1970s BBC music TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test.

"Maybe because of those bizarre videos, I learnt to love things that push reality and create an emotional response," says the Irish singleton.

Ms Ferguson was here to do some planning for the British Council's three-week fashion film exhibit, an official fringe event of Singapore's Digital Fashion Week.

The film exhibit, titled Dressing The Screen, includes more than 20 films and kicks off tomorrow. It is part of the second instalment of Digital Fashion Week Singapore, which made its debut last year and runs from Nov 1 to 4. Ms Ferguson has worked with the British Council, with which she has curated short fashion film programmes around the world, since early last year.

Their biggest collaboration so far was a bigger version of Dressing The Screen in Beijing last October. Consisting of more than 100 films, it showcased fashion from the 1930s until today.

After graduating from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2005, Ms Ferguson made short commissioned films for celebrities, including fashion designer Richard Nicoll and singer Lady Gaga, which were featured on MTV, SHOWstudio and the BBC, as well as in British Vogue.

Aside from making films, she works as a film curator, helping to select works for events including the Birds Eye View Festival's Fashion Loves Film segment for the Institute of Contemporary Arts and British Film Institute in 2008.

She says of the event, which promotes female film-makers: "The need for the female voice in cinema is crucial because we need fair representation of stories from both the male and female perspectives."

She became more conscious of the female role in film and fashion and the need for more positive female models after getting her master's in film from The Royal College of Art two years ago.

She says that in Britain, only about 7 per cent of directors are women.

One of the films she created this year - a career highlight, she says - was a commissioned work for British department store Selfridges.

Launched in celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, the stylish short film features four well-known women - Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid, nail salon founder Sharmadean Reid, fashion commentator Caryn Franklin and fashion designer Bella Freud - dressed in Selfridges bespoke tailored suits musing on the female role models they have had in their lives.

"I was really happy to take this fashion imagery and apply something really important to it in an unusual way," she says.

Ms Ferguson, who has also begun lecturing at the University of Arts London's London College of Fashion, has gone to places as far-flung as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nigeria to show fashion films.

"I hope we can inspire young women to be empowered and start telling stories," she says. "I want to tell them, 'get your cameras out and your voices heard'."

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