A Fantastical Industry: Our Favourite Fashion Films

27 May 2020

Words by Nicky Gray

It would be fair to say that whilst our ‘corona cocoon’ has momentarily stolen away many of life’s pleasures, there has been a huge awakening in having the time to appreciate things we had started to take for granted.

Don’t get me wrong: the immediacy of social media, virtual house parties and learning the latest TikTok challenge are vital in the new 'normal'. But never before have we had so much time to easily access film, art, theatre and culture online. One click transports you to an art gallery in New York, a performance of Shakespeare at The Globe or, in our case this week, fabulous archives of fashion documentaries. Many of which bring to life some of the most infamous creators who have shaped and evolved the industry - like it or not - to what it is today. So if you're keen to satisfy your fashion curiosity, this one is for you.

Bill Cunningham New York (2012), a real treat, gives you a glimpse into the world of one of fashion's most revered street-style photographers, who, at the ripe old age of 80, still cycled the streets of Manhattan looking for subjects to capture. Bill takes you back to what fashion is really all about - the clothes. Never drawn by celebrity status, his egalitarian approach earned him the respect of global fashion icons, including Vogue’s Anna Wintour. According to Bill, 'Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life’. Surely that warrants throwing away the trackie bottoms? Even if just temporarily. For us, this pick best captures the heart and soul of the fashion industry and has us counting down the days 'til LFW21.

Then we have the visionaries - the creators: those who define the looks and trends, as well as inspire shape shifters for generations to come.

Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008) truly gives you a window into one of the most passionate figures in Italian fashion. Filmed over the course of 2007 in the lead up to the presentation of Valentino Garavani’s last collection for the house, the documentary presents a designer fuelled unashamedly by passion and elegance. He understood what women want - their desire to feel beautiful - and his art of creating this with everything he touched earned him an army of admirers from across the world. Aside from capturing with perfection the spirit of Valentino’s personality, the film provides a real insight into the marriage of business and creativity within a couture house. A beautiful story about beautiful clothes and the time, energy, and planning that goes into them.

For all the industry's extravagance, when the flashing camera lights turn off we are left with real human desires. L’Amour Fou is the 2010 documentary that peels back the layers of Yves Saint Laurent and tells the story of an enduring ‘crazy’ love spanning 50 years. Completed two years after the genius designer's passing, the story is told by his partner Pierre Bergé and is initially presented as a film centred around the sale of their incredibly famous art collection, built up over the course of their life together. The emphasis of the film shifts to give a more insightful window into their relationship: the ups and downs, the vision and talent that Yves Saint Laurent had juxtaposed to his often shy personality. You are led through archive footage of their homes, private lives, and iconic fashion moments, all woven into the present day and build up to the auction. This is a sensitive film about one of our true greats and his ‘amour fou’.

Moving away from tales of love stories, we end on Dries (2017), a wonderfully rare window into the world of Dries Van Noten. This Belgian designer has been leading the fashion game for over 25 years, and, given the bar he has set with his shows, we jumped at the chance to get under the skin of his creative process. This documentary presents a more intellectually passionate character, truly inspired by art, movies and nature rather than celebrity and pop culture. Director Reiner Holzemer gains access to his home, his studio in Antwerp, and backstage at his shows in Paris to get under the skin of the eccentric creative over the course of a year. The result is a fascinating piece of film which helps us all understand more about the man who desires to change the meaning of fashion in today’s world.

We could happily reel off many more recommendations, but for now we leave you with this selection to tickle your tastebuds. Discovering the characters that play in this fantastical industry is a lockdown pastime that proves highly addictive.

Follow us on Instagram @boysbygirls