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Self-identifying as “a video channel premiering the best in global arts and culture across Art and Design, Culture, Fashion and Beauty, Music and Food and Travel”, Nowness set out as a pioneer. 

A lone portal for digital video just as smart tech began rising over the defences of the old ways of doing things - the pyramid power structure of broadcasters trailing crews laden with hefty cameras, budgets and trucks. 

When Nowness launched in 2010, the internet was something of a rolling prairie when it came to editorially curated video platforms. Not a lot going on. 

Less than a decade later and it’s a jungle out there, the habitat of 10-second video stories on Instagram that last a butterfly’s life, just for a day, before evaporating into the digital ether, while more than half a billion hours of video are uploaded each day to YouTube alone. 

Above: Nowness creative director Bunny Kinney


“Nowness was conceived as a first-of-its-kind video destination that was all about interpretations of luxury through creative short form film,” says creative director Bunny Kinney from Nowness’s second-floor offices with the Dazed Group near Temple in central London.

It started high-end and exclusive – the brainchild of Jefferson Hack, CEO and founder of Dazed, in partnership with LVMH, the French fashion conglomerate headed by Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy and comprising brands including Bulgari, Dior, Fendi, Givenchy and Krug. No problems with budget there. 

We’re still doing what we were doing, in 2010, but what we were doing then was way ahead.

More recently, Nowness expanded its reach after Dazed bought out LVMH and entered into partnership with Modern Media in China, creating a joint venture called Modern Dazed, opening offices in Shanghai, and curating the site from a truly global point of view. 

A decade after it launched, what have been the biggest changes? “We’re still doing what we were doing, in 2010,” says Kinney, “but what we were doing then was way ahead.” 

He points to the democratisation of technology and the “huge shift in the ease with which people could make short film. Nowness noticed this and responded to it and anticipated it as a place to celebrate, to premiere, to commission young directors who were not existing in that traditional space or hierarchy.” 

NOWNESS – I Want You To Panic

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But it’s the swing of the gaze from websites to social media streams that he thinks has had the biggest impact on what they do. “We have to make sure it goes through Instagram,” he says. “So a big part of what we’re doing now is to have a more savvy social strategy, thinking about the different places where the content exists as a crucial part of the creative ideation in the first place. 

We didn’t need to be afraid of getting a little messier, mixing up executional styles and creative approaches, embracing subculture and underground culture.

"A huge amount of traffic comes from Instagram stories, so rather than think of that as a platform where longform is shortened and relegated we think of that as a new platform with its own ground rules. So suddenly that is part of the brief.”

Since Kinney became its Creative Director in 2017, a campaigning edge has sharpened Nowness’s mix of fashion and art. “When I started it stood for excellence and a place where you could see beautiful, unusual, inspiring, weird short videos. I wanted to mix it up a bit, to get out of the head space of thinking we had to make something look premium, that we didn’t need to be afraid of getting a little messier, mixing up executional styles and creative approaches, embracing subculture and underground culture.” 

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NOWNESS – Define Beauty: Nipples

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NOWNESS – Stephen Fry Hates Dancing

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NOWNESS – A Portrait Of Noomi Rapace

This meant embracing lo-fi product, too, not just high-end HD. “Extremely obviously lo-fi is not a bad thing,” he affirms. “and one massive thing is that there is a convergence of lo fi and hi fi that has come through this democratisation. 

"You can create something beautiful without much money. Therefore that opens up the game to a lot more people, which is exciting for us, because we want as many people as possible to create and to able to show their work on Nowness if they’re talented and interesting.”

You can create something beautiful without much money.

With a wider pool of talent to fish from, Nowness has embraced subjects that dwell far beyond the world of luxury. “This year our biggest moment was Survival Season, about ecology and environment, and certainly in response to what is going on in the world right now,” says Kinney. 

“The fear we all feel about the future of our planet, and asking different directors to respond to some of these ecological issues. We are definitely happy to stand up and have some kind of social purpose or message,” he adds. “It feels too dangerous to be passive.”

NOWNESS – Define Beauty: Beyond the Skin

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Nevertheless, fashion and luxury is still the foundation of Nowness’s face to the world, and its work there mirrors recent pushes towards democratisation and a wider representation in that industry. No more so than its partnership with Shanghai’s Modern Media and Shaway Yeh, editorial director of the latter’s Modern Weekly and a key global influencer. 

Fashion is one of the last areas of the creative industries that feels that it has actually evolved and is now finally accepting and embracing representation.

“We challenge ourselves every day to ensure we are representing different voices off and on screen,” says Kinney. “Fashion is one of the last areas of the creative industries that feels that it has actually evolved and is now finally accepting and embracing representation. We are hyper-aware and vigilant in that it feels very global, in that we’re trying to present something that feels global and that feels relevant to lots of different people and is telling the stories of lots of different people. People want to see themselves represented in the content they look at, that’s a given, and we’re trying to represent as many people as possible. 

"It’s part of the Nowness drive to find ways of authentically representing different groups who might have historically never had their voice heard on the global stage – and that’s possible because we are historically committed to that, and because the digital space has democratised creativity.”

That means a roster of outstanding directors from around the world rising through Nowness’s funnel of content towards major careers of their own. Among Kinney’s latest finds is Congolese-Belgian director and music artist Baloji. “We’ve done a collaboration with the BFI about film makers from Africa and the African diaspora, and he sent in one of his videos and asked us to put it up, and I’ve been obsessed with his work since then. It’s a very interesting piece about skin bleaching among women of colour.”

Solipsist

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Other rising names include Andrew Thomas Huang, who made music videos for Bjork’s 2012 Biophilia album and put up some of his early work on Nowness. “We’ve just commissioned him to do his first short film with actors, Kiss of the Rabbit God, as a prelude to our Chinese season,” says Kinney. “He’s already major but he’s going to go on to be a major, major talent and I’m really excited to see where he goes.”

Where Nowness is heading next is from two dimensions to three, out of the screen and into event spaces, with video installations at Shanghai Art Fair, and at New York’s  Performer Festival. 

How do we create something which fills 360 degrees? How do we take what we’re watching on our phones and put it into a real space and make it feel like it works for that real space? We’re always thinking about that.

“We’re showing at London Fashion Week next week, we’ve done screenings at different cinemas, and in Shanghai last year we soft-launched a new initiative called Nowness Experiments, a microsite featuring experimental film, short film and video art.” 

From there, Kinney hopes to mount film nights and form a real-world community out of the digital one. “How do we create something which fills 360 degrees? How do we take what we’re watching on our phones and put it into a real space and make it feel like it works for that real space? We’re always thinking about that.”

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