Best Fashion Film Documentaries

Like the fashion films, I am marking the ones I think are must-sees with three stars, okay docs with 2 stars, and avoid at all costs with 1 star. Anything without stars I have not seen:

Advanced Style (2014) **

The lives of 7 older New Yorkers whose eclectic style has blossomed as they age. Interesting but not sure what the point is.

American Masters: Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light (1985)**

Richard Avedon’s work as a fashion photographer is presented in this American Masters television episode

Arkadius: Wild Orchid Dreams (2000)

A boy who grew up in communist Poland with dreams of becoming a fashion designer

Assassinat d’une Modiste (2006)***

Poignant doc about a Parisian Jewish milliner during WWII. Only two of her hat designs are known to exist.

Beautopia (1998)

Follow four up and coming models…

Bill Cunningham New York (2010)***

Profile of the late New York ‘On The Street’ fashion photographer. Endearing portrait of a gentle soul with a passion for fashion.

Blue Gold: American Jeans (2014)

The history and lore of America’s most iconic symbol

Catwalk (1995)

A camera follows Christy Turlington through the spring fashion shows of Milan, Paris, and New York in 1994.

Celebration (2007)

Behind the scenes at Yves St. Laurent’s last fashion show.

Crazy About Tiffany’s (2016)

The complete past to present history of Tiffany & Company.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011)***

Profile of the life and work of the famous fashion editor. It seems she wasn’t a very nice woman, but she sure had a lot of style!

Dior and I (2014)***

Follow Raf Simons as he takes on the House of Dior. Fascinating process, especially when I thought it was pretty obvious that Raf was not the right choice for the job – his viewpoint is too far removed from Dior’s. Turns out I was right because he left after a couple of seasons..

The Director: An Evolution in Three Acts (2013)

A look at the life and work of Gucci fashion designer Frida Giannini

Eleven Minutes (2008)**

Follow the work of Project Runway’s Jay McCarroll in the year following his reality show win. Interesting but it gets tiresome…

Fashion Phoenix (2010)**

Profile of Canadian designer Todd Lynn’s work in London. To be perfectly honest I had never heard of him until I saw this – he designed a lot of the clothes for off beat musicions, like Marilyn Manson.

The First Monday in May (2016)***

Follow the creation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most attended fashion exhibition in history – ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’. Fascinating expose of what happens behind the scene.

Franca: Chaos and Creation (2016)

Intimate portrait of the legendary editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue

In Their Shoes (2015)

An intimate portrait of the Indian shoe business

In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye (2012)

Looking at some of the most influential fashion images from the pages of Vogue

Iris (2014)**

The style of New Yorker Iris Apfel. I found this interesting but it doesn’t have much to say – just lots of kooky outfits.

Je m’appelle Denis Gagnon (2010)

Follow Canadian fashion designer Denis Gagnon as he puts the final touches on his latest collection

Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer (2015)**

The story of Jeremy Scott, from small town Missouri kid to creative director for Moschino. Predictable and goes off topic a couple of times, but still interesting.

Just for Kicks (2005)

Sneaker culture

L’amour fou (2010)

The dysfunctional and successful relationship between Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Berge.

Lagerfeld Confidential (2007)*

A portrait of Karl Lagerfeld. OH MY GOD this is BORING.

Les Falbalas de Jean-Paul Gaultier (2004)

Portrait of Jean-Paul Gaultier

Mademoiselle C (2013)

Follow former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld as she moves to New York to launch her own magazine.

A Man’s Story (2010)

A portrait of London designer Ozwald Boateng

Material Success (2012)

Follow fashion designer Bruno Ierullo as he prepares for his first runway show

McQueen and I (2011)

Profile of the late Alexander McQueen, released shortly after his death.

Men of the Cloth (2013)

Examining the work and lives of three Italian master tailors

Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy (2011)

Interview and portrait of Givenchy as he reflects on his own work in the 1950s and 1960s and laments the loss of style.

Notebook on Cities and Cities (1989)*

Wim Wenders talks with Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto about the creative process and ponders the relationship between cities and clothes. Pretentious prattle and really bad sound quality.

Picture Me: A Model’s Diary (2009)

A look at the inner world of modelling

Portfolio (1983)**

Top models in a docu-drama that follows one model to various jobs. I could have done without the voice-over that tries to tell a story along the way.

The September Issue (2009)***

Chronicling the creation of 2007’s September Vogue issue – the largest ever printed at the time. Interesting expose of the process.

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (2013)***

The Manhattan department store’s history, overall really interesting with a couple of slow parts.

Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags (2009)**

The past and present of New York’s garment district. A bit dry…

Threads of Time (2015)  (no image available)

Portrait of fashion photographer Neal Barr and his 1920s fashion book. Really looking forward to seeing this when it comes out.

Triangle: Remembering the Fire (2011)**

The history and fallout of the March 25, 1911 catastrophic fire that killed 146 young women in a garment factory in New York

The True Cost (2015)

The impact of fashion on people and the planet

Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (2010)

An exploration of the work and life of Roy Halston.

Unzipped (1995)**

Follow Isaac Mizrahi as he creates his Fall 1994 collection. Enjoyable to watch

Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008)***

A look at the life of legendary fashion designer Valentino. Extremely well done doc that covers his personal as well as professional life.

Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution (2012)***

The 1973 fashion show held at Versailles that made the U.S. a world player in fashion. Fascinating and surprising!

Vidal Sassoon: The Movie (2010)**

History and life of the world’s most famous hair stylist. A bit long, but interesting

White Gold: The True Cost of Cotton (2011)                          (no image available)

The true story and cost of the cotton industry

Women He’s Undressed (2015)**

The life and work of Australian costume designer Orry-Kelly. There are some mistakes in the history…

The World’s Most Fashionable Prison (2012) 

A fashion designer teaches his trade to inmates at a maximum security prison in the Philippines

Yves St. Laurent Life and Times & 5 Avenue Marceau (2002)

Two docs done at the time of YSL’s retirement honouring his life’s work.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.

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2 Responses to Best Fashion Film Documentaries

  1. Suschna says:

    Thank you very much for the two lists, I will try to see the ones I haven’t seen yet.

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