Fashionable Documentaries

by Kathryn Brooks and Fiona Clarke

We’re never shy about our devotion to all things Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like for on-demand and streaming content. So, if you’re in need of a fashion boost, these documentaries are accessible and will surely reignite your love of style. 

McQUEEN

The brilliant work and deeply troubled soul of British fashion icon Alexander McQueen is vividly captured in this documentary. Celebratory and sad in equal measure, McQueen offers an intimate, well-sourced and overall moving look at a young life and brilliant career that were tragically cut short. The film features footage of the designer’s apprenticeship on Savile Row, his residencies at Givenchy and Gucci and the highly-theatrical, boundary-pushing shows the world had come to anticipate from this visionary.

7 DAYS OUT

Filmmaker Andrew Rossi presents an intimate look at the excitement and drama of the seven days prior to cultural events in the worlds of fashion, food, space, sports and entertainment. In the series’ premiere episode, we are taken into Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld’s ethereal realm of exquisite designs and remarkable craftsmanship. Capturing the seven days that lead up to the Chanel’s Haute Couture spring/summer 2018 show in Paris, we are privy to Lagerfeld’s talent, creativity and ability to keep his cool while in the fashion fast lane.

DRIES

A sense of balance, an eye for color, a knack for innovation and a blending of imagination with reality define Dries van Noten’s talents. Director Reiner Holzemer followed von Noten for a year, between his Antwerp atelier and Ringenhof, the flower-filled Neo-Classical estate he calls home. With much coaxing, von Noten shares his passions and reflects on 25 years in fashion, allowing the viewer to gain insight into the design master’s personal life and career. 

VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR

The film, produced and directed by Matt Tyrnauer, the Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, tells the story of Valentino Garavani’s life, documents the dramatic closing act of his career and explores the larger themes affecting the fashion business. At the heart of the film is the relationship between Valentino and his business partner and companion of 50 years, Giancarlo Giammetti.

DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL

Before there was Anna Wintour, there was Diana Vreeland. The longtime Harper’s Bazaar columnist and former Vogue editor’s long career and enormous influence gets the feature treatment with this documentary. Hear Vreeland’s musings on everything from Hitler’s mustache, to discovering Lauren “Betty” Bacall, to getting fired from the magazine that made her famous to serving as a consultant to the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY

On the first Monday in May, A-listers don the most inspired, outrageous and out-of-this-world evening wear to attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala. This multi-million dollar annual fundraiser benefits the Museum’s Costume Institute. Andrew Rossi’s documentary follows Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Met curator Andrew Bolton for a full year as they prepare for the 2015 event, China: Through the Looking Glass. Reinforcing that fashion is art, the film also illustrates how exclusive this event is and the enormous amount of planning that is involved.

DIOR and I

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like for a new designer to take over as creative director of a storied design house, this documentary on Raf Simons shows you in detail. After several seasons with Jil Sander, which type-casted the designer as a minimalist, Simons made the leap to Christian Dior. Given only eight weeks to complete his first couture collection, we see the pressure he and his team had to endure. 

THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE

Each September, fashionistas look forward to getting their hands on a copy of Vogue Magazine’s autumn issue. Filmmaker R.J. Cutler gained unprecedented access to the the mastermind behind the lion’s share of the American fashion industry and inner workings of this “fashion bible,” as legendary Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, genius Creative Director Grace Coddington and the entire staff carry out the massive artistic and financial efforts it took to produce the September, 2007 issue. 

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK

This documentary follows the legendary photographer, Bill Cunningham, a true fashion historian, as he swings through Manhattan on a Schwinn bicycle, snapping shots of fashionable New Yorkers. His most notable columns in the New York Times, On the Street and Evening Hours, ran in the paper from February 26, 1989 until shortly before his death in 2016. “The best fashion show is definitely on the street,” Cunningham said. “Always has been, and always will be.” 

MANOLO: THE BOY WHO MADE SHOES FOR LIZARDS

The documentary presents an in-depth portrait of Canary Island–born, London-bred Manolo Blahnik. The legendary shoe designer, a self-confessed cobbler, speaks about his creative process in designing footwear as his celebrity admirers chime in with their own takes on his work.This is a must-see for anyone who has ever looked longingly at a pair of Manolos.

IRIS

The late Albert Maysles profiled the singular style icon (filmed at 93 years of age) whose joie de vivre is the only thing that makes an even bigger statement than her costume jewelry. This intimate look will make you fall in love with Iris, her sassy and sweet personality and the fact that she seems a little surprised by her fame. “I don’t have any rules, because I would only be breaking them, so it’s a waste of time,” says Apfel, and she need only model one or two of her truly spectacular outfits for the camera before you know it’s true.

HOUSE of Z

Featuring archival footage and exclusive interviews, House of Z chronicles the meteoric rise of fashion designer Zac Posen, his epic fall from favor and his challenge to rebuild his company and his reputation. It’s a portrait of an artist as a young man, an insider’s view of the ups and downs of the fashion industry, and a look behind the curtain of one of the most glamorous brands in the world — revealing the battle between art and commerce.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING to ANDRÉ

André Leon Talley is a legend in the world of fashion, defining the boundaries of great style. The Gospel According to André takes viewers on an emotional journey from his roots growing up in the segregated Jim Crow South to become one of the most influential tastemakers and fashion curators of our time. The film draws fascinating connections between the elegance of Talley’s beloved grandmother and the Black Church of his youth and his later iconic, barrier-breaking work at publications like Women’s Wear Daily, W and Vogue.

WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST

Capturing the remarkable tale of a fashion icon, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist details the irreverent British designer’s career and, more importantly, her enduring cultural significance. The film features personal interviews from those closest to her as viewers reap an understanding of the woman who brought us menswear-inspired masterpieces, delicate haute couture creations, and all that falls in-between.