15 Essential Fashion Documentaries: Get to Know the Industry’s Most Influential People
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Fashion Week will arrive in cities all over the world in February, and it’s time to slowly get into the mood. A good way to start is to watch some of the best documentaries about history’s biggest designers and others who have shaped the fashion world.
Fashion isn’t just about dresses, color palettes, and accessories, it is also a part of history. The life-stories of the big players are often as rich and colorful as their fashion.
1. ‘Coco Before Chanel’ (2009)
The movie “Coco Before Chanel” isn’t in documentary form, but it is still worth including on this list. Coco Chanel’s story is a popular topic for many fashion blogs—we read about it often, but watching it adds a new dimension, as we see Coco in the context of her time.
Many movies have tried to bring the Coco story to life, but this latest feature-length movie, starring Audrey Tautou, is probably the best, thanks to Tautou’s French charm.
To get some basic facts about Coco’s life and designs, take a look at this animated video.
2. ‘The September Issue’ (2009)
Given Vogue’s prime role in shaping fashion over the decades, this documentary about the magazine is a definite must-see for every fashionista. It provides a great insight into today’s fashion business, while helping us get to know long-time Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour.
3. ‘Valentino: The Last Emperor’ (2008)
It has the feel of an Italian comedy, but it’s actually a documentary about famed designer Valentino.
To celebrate Valentino’s 45th year in the business, this film captured his daily life, including his friendships, creating an intimate portrait of this “last emperor” of haute couture.
4. ‘In Vogue—The Editor’s Eye’ (2012)
This is another must-see documentary about Vogue—this time you can watch the changes in the fashion world through the stories of Vogue’s iconic editors. Not always in the lime-light like fashion celebrities, these ladies have nonetheless played a major role in shaping how we view feminine beauty.
5. ‘Lagerfeld Confidential’ (2007)
This profile of Karl Lagerfeld, a renowned designer behind the Chanel brand, is a rare, intimate look at his life. He quotes his mother in the film, drawing the viewer a little into his family life.
6. ‘Tom Ford: Visionaries’ (2011)
After years of designing for the highest fashion brands, New York-based designer Tom Ford is making a comeback with his own brand. This short documentary by the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) captures both his long-awaited comeback show and his creative process. It is the story of Ford’s life told in his own words.
7. ‘The Secret World of Haute Couture’ (2007)
Haute couture is a world with its own rules, only for those at the top of the fashion pyramid. The documentary explores the place of haute couture in today’s fast-fashion world and the importance of these mostly unwearable pieces.
8. ‘Diana Vreeland: the Eye Has to Travel’ (2011)
Moving from Vogue, this documentary takes us to another fashion magazine, Harper’s Bazaar. It is a look at Harper’s Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland. Over the last 50 years, Vreeland played an important role in the industry; the documentary’s official description says she is “a controversial visionary with an astonishing ability to invent and discover fashion ideas, designers, personalities, and photographers.”
9. ‘Mademoiselle C’ (2013)
Carine Roitfeld is a powerful woman behind Vogue; she was editor-in-chief of the French edition from 2001 to 2011. Her influence and signature style is still present in many fashion projects, but mostly in her own magazine, CR Fashion Book.
10. ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ (2010)
Have you ever wondered how the whole streetstyle fashion trend began? Once upon a time, a New York Times photographer named Bill Cunningham began capturing everything fashionable he saw on the street …
11. ‘Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens’ (2008)
This documentary about famed fashion photographer Annie Leibovitz was produced by her sister, making it an authoritative and close look at Leibovitz’s influential life and work.
12. ‘The Tents’ (2012)
“Tents” refers to how uninitiated citizens understand New York’s annual fashion week. Find out what these white tents really represent and how it all began with some of the greatest designers and fashion insiders.
13. ‘Vidal Sassoon: the Movie’ (2010)
Haircuts are also a big part of fashion, right? Among hairdressers, the late Vidal Sassoon is iconic the way Twiggy is iconic among models and the way Chanel is iconic among fashion designers.
Your haircut is probably influenced by his work, whether you know it or not.
14. ‘Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s’ (2013)
This documentary takes a look behind the doors of New York’s most famous luxury department store, Bergdorf Goodman. As Isaac Mizrahi says in the documentary, “If your clothes are not there, you have no future.”
15. ‘Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution’ (2012)
In 1973, two different fashion worlds met on one catwalk—American and French. Versailles ´73 is the story of the first steps of America’s fashion industry.