If you have a strong curiosity (ahem, slight obsession) about how talented people live their lives, these fashion documentaries are the perfect antidote. They offer outfits galore, beautiful architecture, and some behind the scenes looks at some of the most famous designers, tastemakers, and cultural movements fashion has been a part of. So grab your chosen movie treats and bevvies of choice and let your creativity be inspired from the comfort of your couch.
For a documentary equal parts haunting as it is beautiful, McQueen is a visual feast of runway clips woven amongst footage of Lee McQueen and interviews with those close to him, both in business and family. This documentary doesn't shy away from Lee's fascination with the morbid and dark struggle with mental health, both of which played a huge role in his creative life. Though the undertone of this documentary is heavy, it takes a look back at his extraordinary body of work, both giving further context and celebrating this visionary designer.
See Know Evil (2018)
For those interested in 90s fashion and culture, See Know Evil is a must-watch. Davide Sorrenti was a young Italian-American photographer and artist known for being at the forefront of youth culture, all while being just a kid. This documentary is a gritty insight into the fashion and cultural scene of the '90s and how influential he was, continuing well beyond his tragically short life.
If you find yourself captivated by the lives of fashion designers, Dries is another one for you. The documentary takes us through a year in the life of the Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten as he develops multiple collections and accompanying shows for his namesake label. The magic in this documentary is seeing Dries in his element, from developing fabrics and tweaking the fit of an outfit to more personal moments with his partner and dog at their expansive (and very well designed) home in Antwerp.
The Gospel According To Andre (2017)
André Leon Talley (October 16, 1948 – January 18, 2022) was an American fashion journalist, stylist, and creative director known for his larger-than-life personality and style. This documentary celebrates his life and career, starting as a boy. André grew up in the South, under Jim Crow-era segregation laws, developing a love for clothing and dressing from those around him, namely his grandmother. He grew to become a man who, despite the racism and hate he received, became one of the fashion industry's most celebrated icons, using his platform to advocate for more diversity within the industry he loved so much.
Franca: Chaos and Creation (2016)
Directed by the son of acclaimed Editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia Franca Sozzani, Franca: Chaos & Creation takes us through her years at the helm of Vogue Italia. A true visionary, Sozzani pushed the boundaries of Vogue, exploring ideas that were previously unheard of for a fashion magazine. But this is not what the documentary is entirely about either. It shows a more intimate side of Franca and her son Francesco, exploring her discomfort with being the star of a documentary on her life. It is a sweet love letter from a son to mother, made all the more bittersweet with its release only months before her unfortunate death.
The First Monday In May (2016)
A glossy documentary showing the lead-up to the 2015 Chinese-inspired fashion exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, China: Through the Looking Glass. It follows Anna Wintour (editor-in-chief of Vogue) through her day-to-day life in the year leading up to the event. And if you are interested in more on the life of Anna Wintour, we also recommend the next another on our list: The September Issue.
Fresh Dressed (2015)
Fresh Dressed chronicles the history of hip hop and urban fashion and its rise to the mainstream. It's a great documentary that illustrates the close relationship between fashion and hip hop, and how corporations tried to jump in on this, taking more than just inspiration from black hip hop culture. Fresh Dressed features loads of interesting archival footage, as well as interviews with hip-hop artists such as Kanye West, Pharell Williams, and others.
The True Cost (2015)
The True Cost is a sobering documentary looking at the rise of fast fashion and the toll it has on both humans and our environment. It might not be a creatively inspiring documentary to watch, but instead highlights the reason we should all support smaller brands and businesses and, of course, those that make their own clothing.
Dior And I (2014)
A film that inspires with its sheer extravagance, it follows Belgian designer Raf Simon's debut collection as the newest creative director for Dior. Jumping straight in, Simon is undertaking the seemingly impossible feat of putting together his first Haute Couture show in just eight weeks, something that would usually take many months. With a team of talented seamstresses and craftspeople around him, the film depicts the balancing act it takes for the individual designer to design when surrounded by such a strong legacy and tradition.
Fashion icon and legendary New Yorker Iris Apfel gives us a huge dose of maximalist inspiration in this documentary. At 93 years old, Iris is living her best life, weighed down only by the extreme amounts of costume jewels she adorns herself with. She shows us fashion doesn't need to be taken so seriously and is better used to invoke joy and a sense of wonder. The relationship between Iris and her husband is so charming to watch and makes for a very refreshing depiction of aging.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel (2011)
Documenting the life of one of fashion's most influential characters, Diana Vreeland was most known for her work as editor-in-chief of Vogue in the 1960s and 70s. Vreeland first gained notoriety as the fashion editor for Harper's Bazaar, where she was for many years before moving on. While there, she pushed the envelope of what fashion was at the time, weaving in art and modernity with her strong vision. Using old footage and interviews with her, you can see the kind of sharp and forward-thinking person she was and worked to encourage those around her to think outside the box.
Bill Cunningham New York (2010)
Bill Cunningham was famous for photographing and documenting people on the streets of New York and at every big fashion event around the city. In the words of Anna Wintour, he was the one you wanted to be seen by. The documentary follows Cunningham through his day-to-day life, photographing, archiving photos, even celebrating his 80th birthday. You will find him almost always in his uniform of a blue french work jacket, beige pants, and his trusty bicycle he still uses to get around. The charm in this documentary is just how obvious it is that he loves what he does, often laughing delightfully while being interviewed. For a very humble man, he has such a unique eye and has shaped the direction of fashion photography forever.
The September Issue (2009)
Magazines might not be as influential in 2022 as they were a decade ago, but this 2009 film captures some of the magic that is fashion mags. The September issue of Vogue is its biggest, most important issue each year, and this documentary follows the team that makes it happen. Featuring Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour, it gives us a closer look at their creative process with plenty of cameos from big-name fashion designers, models, photographers, and creatives.
Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008)
If you are a bit tired of a humble, unassuming fashion designer by now, Valentino: The Last Emperor is the perfect remedy to that. In this documentary, simultaneous stories are at the center of it. One surrounding the captivating relationship between Valentino and Giammetti, his partner in life and work. And at the same time, the Valentino label is in crisis. It follows Valentino as he navigates his role as the head of a fashion label, with all of the glamour you would expect from this unabashed Italian designer.
Catwalk is a time capsule of the 90s, the era of the supermodel. It follows the model Christy Turlington around the globe, walking in shows in Paris, New York, and Milan during the early 1990s, filled with backstage footage and interviews with designers and celebrities. It might not be a high-quality fashion documentary with a strong story, but it works as an interesting look into what was happening behind the scenes during this time.
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