Social Satire And Fashion Collide In Carrie Brownstein’s Directorial Debut For Kenzo

Fashion house Kenzo tapped Brownstein to write and direct The Realest Real–and the result is a real trip, to say the very least.

Think of the last comment you made on a celebrity’s social media account. Now think if it actually came true. So is the world Carrie Brownstein has created in her new short film The Realest Real for fashion house Kenzo. Collaborating with Kenzo’s creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, Brownstein explores the hyperbolic world of social media and the pitfalls of idolatry through Abby (Laura Harrier), a young woman whose post on Natasha Lyonne’s Instagram is granted with unforeseeable consequences.


Despite being a moving lookbook for Kenzo’s fall/winter collection, Brownstein was actually told to put the fashion second and zero in on the story she wanted to tell.

“I was very much tasked with not building a narrative around the clothes but vice-versa,” Brownstein says. “One thing that’s wonderful about Carol and Humberto is that they very much wanted this to be my film and to be my point of view and to serve that with their aesthetic and see where that could blend together.”

Carrie Brownstein[Photo: Tina Barney, courtesy of IFC]

According to Brownstein, she and the Kenzo duo have been in each other’s periphery for years with the intent to collaborate well in sight but no clear road to get there. One of the first times she recalls meeting them was at a dinner party at The Berrics, an indoor skate park in L.A., for Kenzo’s Kalifornia bag launch two years ago.

“We were all set on these giant banquet tables and, literally on the table, these female skateboarders came cruising across us. They’re blasting Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney and I just thought [of Lim and Leon], ‘Who are these disrupters? Who are these punks?’” Brownstein says. “What they’re able to do is vacillate between something that feels very gritty and feels very much a part of their youth and what they loved and then this beauty and fluidity and very high-faluting design. They do that very well–the high/low, the accessibility, and the rarified. I love when someone can still see a germ of that youthful agitation but they somehow refined it.”

Working within the parameters of someone’s vision is a relatively new venture for Brownstein, in that the overall project wasn’t self-generated: she had the Kenzo collection as the outline and her creativity to color it in. That’s not to suggest, however, that collaboration is a novel concept for Brownstein. Over the course of her career, Brownstein’s artistry has been amplified by her bandmates in Sleater-Kinney or her Portlandia co-writer and co-star Fred Armisen. So creating a short film with a high-fashion collection as an assigned muse is only a minor tweak to a creative process that she feels serves her best.

“I really relish collaboration. It’s something I’ve done more often than I’ve done something solo. I like being able to play off of and push up against or elaborate on someone else’s ideas,” Brownstein says. “I like to let ideas percolate and kind of see where my sensibility coalesces with someone else’s.”


Watch The Realest Real below.


About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America" where he was the social media producer.