28th August 2012
One dotty take
Title of film: Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama
Director: Ehsan Bhatti
Production Company: White Lodge
1.4 talks with White Lodge director Ehsan Bhatti on his Yayoi Kusama campaign for Louis Vuitton

How did the project with Louis Vuitton come about?

I was approached to handle the creative direction of the project from a digital agency who were discussing PR activities with Louis Vuitton.

And what made you decide to work with White Lodge?

Fashion-Film is still such a grey area, from photographers shooting films that feel like dragged out moving-images to directors from other genres totally missing the fashion feel, the industry struggles to understand what Fashion-Film should be. There are few that genuinely understand it and the resources to deliver it to a polished standard, where as White Lodge understands both arts – the technical logistics and potency of film-making as well as the look, feel and culture of fashion.

Explain the concept and how it relates to Kusama.

My concept stemmed from an idea that ‘No two dots are the same’, the films were inspired by the infinite repetition of Kusama Polka Dots. When researching, I came across a Kusama quote: ‘Dots against other dots’. I liked the notion of exploring two dots in particular as if observing them under a microscope to reveal there quirky differences. So the visual starting point was to create a dot through the circular tracking movement around the set. The dynamism of loop insinuates the idea of infinity – an inherent theme in Kusama’s work and also the name of the collection Infinitely Kusama. The narrative of the film was inspired by the ‘Love Forever’ poem she wrote; a scene simply about getting dressed up; taking visual cues from lines of the poem ‘let’s go and see our boyfriends in high heels’ etc. I also wanted to make sure the films were interesting, engaging and spoke the same language as Kusama so the interactivity was inherent to the idea as opposed to an additional afterthought.

What was it like on set with model Bip?

Fantastic! Both her looks and personality are so in line with the quirky doll-like character I was trying to create; the fit was perfect. The film was all shot in one take, so her choreography had to be perfect – although something like this seems really simple, but timing 60 seconds worth of actions to a moving camera; and then having to miraculously do it again with a few minor changes is really tricky –especially for someone who is not a trained actress or performer. However Bip’s got great energy and with no rehearsal time before the shoot day, she took it in her stride to get through 30-ish takes with an ear to ear lovely smile all day and in fact nailed it earlier than we’d expected.

Love the art direction – who was your production designer?

The very talented Mikey Hollywood, who was an absolute pleasure to work with. Referencing Kusama meant there were a few directions we could have taken the project; and although at first we discussed a poppy Kusama-esque palette throughout, we decided to inject red cues against rich mahogany browns and let the clothes stand out ensuring the focus was on Bip.

The music is so fun and playful – have you worked with the composer before?

The music was composed by Frank Pescod from Soulbay, we’d worked on a few previous projects before, however this was the first time I’d got in the studio with him. The music was so key to pacing and tone of the film, it was the first thing I started collecting references for. We carefully selected little sound effects we hid in the mix that just add a subtle edge of quirkiness to visual cues such as the bubble pop when she blinks. We invited Holly McLatchie to write and record some strings on top; which just gave it the right balance of softness and romanticism towards the end as the voice over recites the last line of the poem – Love Forever.

Tell us a bit about your background – how did you get into directing and have you always focused on fashion film?

After studying architecture I felt I still needed to explore my creative options, so deliberated between fashion or graphic design. I ended up studying graphic design as a means to experiment with a variety of visual mediums; this is where I shot my first film on a little digital camera; a super-lo-fi short inspired by Soviet Montage cinema which ended up getting nominated for a Smalls award. I then shot a film for a Tank Magazine / Swarovski film competition which was highly commended; so a route in Fashion-Film felt natural, way before the term was appropriated. I worked in advertising working directly with brands as a film-maker and creative; as the fashion and luxury industry began to transcend from static to moving image I noticed a niche where there was a lot of confusion – how do you make an image aspirational and artistic yet engaging.


Director: Ehsan Bhatti
Exec Producer: Stephen Whelan
Producer: Louise Gagen
Production Design: Mikey Hollywood
Styling: Bay Garnett
Hair & Makeup: Katy Nixon
Model – Bip Ling
Produced at White Lodge