Last night I went to the Film Forum to see Bill Cunningham, New York, a documentary profiling one of New York and fashion’s most prolific and celebrated photographers. Bill took us along as he cycled through city streets, discreetly snapping away at the outfits of everyday people. His love for yet detachment from fashion made an impression–I left inspired by an icon and living legend.
Bill Cunningham’s film is not, of course, the only fashion flick that has proven touching or enlightening. There are at least four others that both educated and entertained. Read on for my picks for the best of mode in motion:
1. Bill Cunningham New York
I’ve already gushed about it here and on Twitter, but it’s a must see. Bill has been snapping editors like Anna Wintour and Kim Hastreitor, dandies like Patrick McDonald and Shail Upadhya, and fashionistas like Anna Piaggi and Iris Apfel for 50 years. What was most striking about the exposé was the dichotomy between what Bill records and what Bill lives. He sits front row at fashion shows here and abroad, but he himself doesn’t own even a wardrobe full of clothes. He leads a very simple life in an apartment consisting primarily of filing cabinets and a twin sized bed. His most prized possessions are his bike and his camera. It’s fun to see his evolution and inspiring to observe his humble and tireless devotion to the craft.
2. The September Issue
This one’s a no-brainer. Go behind the scenes with Anna Wintour, the most powerful woman in fashion, as she and her editors at US Vogue prepare the all important September issue. Tune in especially for cameos from Grace Coddington and Andre Leon Talley.
Unzipped is a hilarious look at what designer Isaac Mizrahi went through as he planned and ultimately showed his 1994 collection. You’ll love Mizrahi’s infectious enthusiasm and appearances by ‘top’ supermodels, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and Kate Moss. You’ll also get fun glimpses of Padma Lakshmi and Carla Bruni (now Sarkozy). Bonus: you can watch this one in its entirety on YouTube.
This flick, released in 2005, focused on four young designers as they competed for Vogue’s CFDA Fashion Fund award: Alexandre Plokhov of Cloak; Lazaro Hernandez & Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler; and Doo Ri Chung of Doo.Ri. Though some names might seem familiar now, they were relatively unknown during filming–some were still working in their parent’s basement trying to make it. Out of the other films I suggested, this one is pretty slow (and borders on boring), but is a must if only to give you a background on some of the industy’s hottest talents. To whit: We see Proenza Schouler winning the CFDA Fashion Fund in 2004; they won the CFDA award for womenswear designer of the year in 2007 and are nominated again this year.
5. Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton
Though significantly shorter than other films, this option offers a look at Marc Jacobs before he was the expertly chiseled, diamond earring sporting glam god he is today. Cameras follow him from Paris to New York and back as he prepares his Marc Jacobs line and collections for Louis Vuitton.
Those are just my favorites, but there are many more that I haven’t seen: Christian Dior: The Man Behind the Myth (2005), Valentino: the Last Emperor (2008), Lagerfeld Confidential (2006), Notebook on Cities & Clothes (1989) (which follows Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto), Signe Chanel (2006), Viktor & Rolf: Because We’re Worth It (2005), Fashion Victim: The Killing of Gianni Versace (2001), Yves Saint Laurent – His Life and Times/5 Avenue Marceau 75116 Paris (2004), Catwalk (1996), and the BBC documentary The Secret World of Haute Couture (2006).
Those are on my ‘to-see’ list.
What are some of your favorite documentaries?
*New Yorkers, Bill Cunningham’s documentary stops showing April 7th at the Film Forum. Click here and get your ticket before it’s too late!