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6 Fashion Documentaries You Need To See

The fashion world is mourning a legend today. Iconic New York street style photographer Bill Cunningham passed away on Saturday night at 87-years-old following a stroke. His career spanned over four decades; his somewhat radical approach to fashion and keen eye for detail quickly garnered him a particular aesthetic – he didn’t perceive style or fashion to be based on trends from the runway, instead, he took in the street as a whole and “picked out the seemingly random trendlets that real people were adopting” as NY Magazine so eloquently put it.  He was the first to really capture ‘street style,’ quite a while before the rest of the industry would follow suit. He quickly became a regular at all of New York’s fashion shows, and was instantly recognisable for his “uniform”— always a blue jacket and khaki pants — and photographed both the famous and the unknown; speaking about his now famous shot of Greta Garbo, he claimed he hadn’t known it was her at the time.

“I realised that you didn’t know anything unless you photographed the shows and the street, to see how people interpreted what designers hoped they would buy,” Cunningham said.“I realised that the street was the missing ingredient.”

Today, we recommend watching his documentary Bill Cunningham New York and we’ve chosen five other flicks based on the world of fashion, covering world-class designers, the dark side of modelling and the famous September issue of Vogue for you to take in this dreary Sunday. 

Bill Cunningham New York 

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“I don’t decide anything,” he said in the 2010 documentary Bill Cunningham New York. “I let the street speak to me, and in order for the street to speak to you, you’ve got to stay out there and see what it is.” This film offers a peek inside the life of one of the industries most revered fashion photographers. His first photo set was published in the New York Times in 1978 featuring passers-by and that shot of Greta Garbo, and through the years he captured everyone on camera: from socialites to celebrities, to fashion designers and regular people on the streets.  As Anna Wintour said in the documentary, “We all dress for Bill.”

Dior And I

Dior And I is a ‘behind-the-seams’ glimpse at the making of Raf Simons’ first haute couture collection for Christian Dior in 2012. Established in the fashion world as a minimalist designer, Simons has both his reputation and the legacy of Dior on the line when appointed Creative Director of the iconic Parisian brand. With only eight weeks to complete the collection, Simons and his dedicated group of collaborators work against time to make his vision a reality. It’s a brilliant watch, and the clothes are to-die-for.

The Director

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This paints an intimate portrait of Gucci’s Creative Director, Frida Giannini. The film spans 18 months behind the walls of the iconic Italian fashion house, exploring the intricacies and inspiration behind the quietly brilliant woman who was a creative force to be reckoned with. This is an underrated film and gives brilliant insight into the endless work behind a team’s attempts to keep their global fashion house at the top of an increasingly competitive fashion game. This proved a difficult task and Giannini was subsequently removed from her position amid controversy in 2014, but few could question her devotion to the brand in the years before.

Paul Smith

Celebrating 40 years in business, viewers get to watch Smith create classic clothes with a twist for men and women from his London headquarters. Director Stéphane Carrel follows Smith from London to Paris to Tokyo and back again in this behind-the-scenes doc, which gives you unique, first-person access to the hectic life of a global fashion designer.

The September Issue

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Possibly the fashion documentary that created a whole genre, filmmaker R.J. Cutlers was given unprecedented access as he chronicled US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and her Creative Director Grace Coddington’s journey putting together the iconic September Issue of the publication. It’s a fantastic watch, and you won’t find a better depiction of life inside the world’s most influential fashion magazine.

Chasing Beauty

This documentary presents a rare glimpse into the darker side of modelling. Chasing Beauty speaks with supermodels, photographers, agents and the like in a quest to answer one of the industry’s most complex questions: What is beauty and is it worth the cost? Each year, thousands of hopefuls begin the pursuit of their modelling dreams, but how many actually succeed, and how long does success last? All these questions and more are answered in this no-holds-barred documentary. This just reaffirms how tough the industry is to crack, and shows us what goes on behind all the glitz and glamour.

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