Over the winter break, I’ve been filling my spare time brushing up on the fashion industry by watching fashion documentaries. I’m about 7/8 of the way through all of the ones offered by Netflix on instant watch. Before you read further, I have to admit: I used these documentaries as a learning tool. When I started watching, I had no idea who or what Anna Wintour, Bergdorf Goodman, Bill Cunningham, and Pierre Bergé were. While I caught on quickly, it is something you might want to keep in mind when assessing my opinions. Also, if you think these films are just crass advertising schemes, you may be right… but it can’t hurt to do a bit of investigating.
1. Scatter My Ashes at the Bergdorf
This documentary is just as magical as Bergdorf’s windows. It manages to cover every activity that goes on in the building: designer’s dreams, buyer’s expectations, personal stylists (or clothing wingmen as I like to think), the business’ history, and the circus feats behind the windows. These subjects are portrayed like chapters in a coffee table book, and the pictures are just as vivid. Instead of being a line-up of back-to-back interviews, the film aptly uses a series of mixed artistic approaches for demonstrations. You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean! The tone of the film is a catching excitement, and with good reason, there is something Bergdorf Goodman that is just undeniably fabbbulous. A parting thought from David Hoey, the senior director of visual presentation:
“I’m not afraid of the term “window dresser.” Most window people will not say that. They’ll call themselves visual merchandisers or something grandiose like that. But I mean, why not use the more modest term and then go way overboard and with the windows?”
- Covers multiple facets of the Bergdorf, fully satisfying viewer’s curiosity
- Visually pleasing, would almost say stunning
- You get to peek into the basement where they keep all their stock of curiosities that they use in their Christmas windows!
- 4F approval rating.
2. Bill Cunningham: New York
Bill Cunningham is a refreshing enigma in the world of fashion. He eats at cheap cafes, wears the same iconic outfit every day, and tapes up his poncho to avoid spending a further dollar. But before I spoil all the delicious surprises of this documentary, I have to say that even after an hour and a half, I was still totally enthralled watching this man bike back and forth from event to event. Get some rest Bill Cunningham! Or better yet, come to Georgia, and get in my life! If you like character studies, this is the documentary for you.
- Bill Cunningham is charming.
- Even Anna Wintour thinks so.
- An insightful look into the New York Times Fashion page and the rise of Street Style
- Favorite Fact: our boy is on bike 39, because the last 38 were stolen!?!?
- 4F approval rating
3. The Tents
This is a must-see for those interested in the emergence of the American fashion industry. It also is a great showcase into the mind of designers and the volatile nature of the game. Lots of good old footage is spliced alongside modern perspectives. It’s almost a celebration of hindsight.
- Lots of great interviews.
- Instrumental for those seeking to put designer names with their faces.
- Very informative about the New York/ American fashion scene and its growth into today’s industry.
- Neg: over-steeped in nostalgia
- 3F rating
4. L’Amour Fou
I liked this documentary, but it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. More than focusing on YSL or his relationship with Pierre Bergé, its focal point was the auction surrounding their house after YSL’s death. It didn’t hurt that the house was full of stunning cultural artifacts. But rather than reminiscing on relics, I was hoping for a bit more insight into YSL the man. One you concede that expectation, the film makes for a pleasant viewing experience.
- An overview of YSL from his closest confidantes
- Someone has excellent taste in decorating homes, whether France or Morocco.
- it goes a little slow…
- Neg: get ready for subtitles
- 3F approval
(a few pictures more just for kicks)