When it comes to getting our fashion fix, we turn to the internet (of course), magazines and fashion films. While we are all waiting for the June 25th initial release of Yves Saint Laurent movie, I looked for some other fashion films I could re-watch while the rest of the world is busy pulling pranks on each other for the April Fools Day. Luckily, there are a multitude of great flicks devoted to the industry, profiling iconic figures as well as celebrating sartorial greatness. So I’ve rounded up my 10 favorite fashion films and documentaries à la mode for your viewing pleasure, whether it’s a history lesson you’re after or pure entertainment. Diana Vreeland, Bill Cunningham and Anna Wintour are just some of the people on this list.
Someone said that Diana Vreeland made fashion an art while Anna Wintour made it a business. Maybe you’ll know why from this film about Diana Vreeland, the woman who pioneered fashion over a 50-year period, worked as an editor at Harper’s Bazaar, took the sought-after helm at Vogue and later led the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute into becoming a renowned historical establishment. She had her hand in everything, from European culture and royal affairs to the New York ‘society’ and party scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Vreeland discovered the likes of Lauren Hutton and Twiggy and exchanged letters with Jackie O. herself, and that’s only grazing the surface of her many accomplishments (not to mention her incredible life). This documentary, which includes interviews with Diane von Furstenberg and Ali McGraw, along with Vreeland’s own sons, is a must-see for fashion enthusiasts and culture buffs alike.
Before Scott Schumann founded The Sartorialist, Bill Cunningham actually started the street style craze long before it became known as such. In contrast to modern street style photographers, however, The New York Times’ Bill Cunningham has always stayed true to the simple, raw art form of candid snapshots. This documentary gives the public a rare, intimate glimpse inside Cunningham’s everyday life, and tracks his development from a misunderstood, unsupported child to the charming, humble and successful man he is today (at a ripe 85 years old). His take on everything from money to food to personal style is both refreshing and inspiring.
I couldn’t leave out this classic Audrey Hepburn musical, in which she plays a bookstore clerk who, discovered by a fashion editor and photographer played by Kay Thompson and Fred Astaire (whose characters are loosely based on Diana Vreeland and Richard Avedon), quickly becomes a full-fledged high-fashion model. Okay, okay, I am
a bit bias when it comes to Audrey Hepburn films, since I watch almost all of it whenever I’m bored or down but seriously, the song and dance numbers in this film are highly entertaining and the wardrobe fantastic, of course, as Hepburn commissioned Hubert de Givenchy to design all of her film costumes from Funny Face onward. The scene of Hepburn dancing around in a nightclub wearing a black turtleneck, pants and loafers is especially infamous and well worth the watch. If you haven’t seen this classic yet, you’re in for quite a treat.
Putting together an entire magazine is no joke, and a September issue at that (the holy grail edition of fashion glossies, packed full with fall ads and the new season’s fashion). This documentary goes behind the scenes of the making of Vogue’s September 2007 issue, which weighed close to five pounds. If you’ve always wanted to follow around Anna Wintour, here’s your chance to be a fly on the wall inside one of the most prestigious offices in the country. The film gives an inside view of Wintour’s role as editor-in-chief, and includes many a witty, blunt comment from her sidekick, Creative Director Grace Coddington.
Although the film came under fire for depicting a negative side of the fashion industry and creating an ice queen character suspiciously similar to Anna Wintour, The Devil Wears Prada remains one of fashion fans’ all-time favorites. The highly quotable flick is based on Lauren Weisberger’s novel of the same name, in which she loosely recounted her time spent as an assistant at Vogue, and stars the ever talented Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway in the roles of fashion editor and terrified new assistant. A great cast all-around, Emily Blunt stars as a hilariously sassy coworker, Stanley Tucci the sweet but brutally honest art director, and there’s even a cameo from Gisele. That’s all…
Valentino Garavani is a living legend, considered one of fashion’s greats, and rightfully so. This documentary tells the story of his life from when he started designing in the ‘50s, focusing on his romantic and work relationship with Giancarlo Giammetti. The film includes exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of Garavani and his team, shot in the years from 2005 to 2007. It becomes quickly apparent in watching the film that his success is due to his unmatched skill, drive and perfectionism, as evidenced by the absence of sewing machines in his design studio (that’s right, every piece is hand-sewn by a team of experts). Don’t miss this all-access pass to the in-demand couturier’s daily life at home, in his workshop, backstage and even on his yacht. If that’s not up close and personal, I don’t know what is.
You might not have heard about this one (me either, until researching for this post), but it’s a hidden gem that captures the ‘90s modeling world through Christy Turlington’s eyes. The documentary (just like reality shows nowadays) follows the supermodel around Milan, Paris and New York in the early 1990’s probably around 1992 during fashion week, and gives the viewer a backstage look at the fast-paced world of fashion and runway shows. One of our favorite lines from the film? Andre Leon Talley’s brilliant aphorism: “style is definitely in the genes, and I don’t mean Levis.” With appearances from the infamous “Big Six” supermodel pack, including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, Catwalk simply can’t be missed. But I’m sorry, can’t find a where I could buy a DVD of it.
Everyone knows the name Coco Chanel, but few know the details of her extraordinary, albeit tumultuous life. Audrey Tatou (my favorite French actress after watching Amelie) plays the role of the revolutionary designer during her years spent singing for pocket change and, later, opening up her own atelier. Chanel’s life was far from a fairytale, but there’s no question that her reputation as a strong-minded, dedicated, innovative woman holds truth. A moving story, the film reveals the woman who started one of the most covetable, luxurious fashion houses in the world today. Of course, as is custom in fashion films, the wardrobe is reason enough to see this beautiful biopic. Definitely, one of the best fashion film I’ve watched.
Karl Lagerfeld is as revered a designer as Anna Wintour is an editor-in-chief. Lagerfeld Confidential presents a view of the designer that we haven’t seen before, including footage from his daily responsibilities at Chanel and his own brand, to exclusive interview segments, where he touches on everything from his childhood to the fashion industry at large. In true Lagerfeld form, the film is not short of quotable quips and aphorisms about life and the world we live in. While not completely thorough in its “confidential” look at Lagerfeld’s life, the documentary does reveal parts of him previously unseen and unknown. But in all honesty, what’s the fun in removing the entire mystique surrounding the iconic man with the white ponytail and dark glasses?
This documentary focuses on a fashion designer’s craft, but at its heart, explores the life and development of a true artist. Marc Jacobs’ 16-year run at Louis Vuitton gave luxury ready-to-wear a new meaning in terms of extraordinary production, exquisite quality and innovation. Filled with intimate moments at meetings, in the studio and backstage at his exclusive fashion shows, the hour and a half film offers an insightful view of Jacobs’ role at the luxury brand, as well as his own label. This might be the closest you’ll ever get to the rock ‘n ‘roll god of haute ready-to-wear, so we suggest you take the opportunity to watch the doc in its entirety.