Watch List: Fashion Documentaries

Alexa Phillips

I have seen a good share of fashion documentaries (most of them being found on Netflix) and thought I would share a few of my personal favorites with you all. I love watching documentaries because it gives you an inside look at how something (or someone) operates. It’s your glimpse into their world, and you can learn a lot about it.

The September Issue


This is a must see for anyone interested in working in the fashion industry or who wants to go into magazine publishing. It takes you on the journey with the editors of Vogue to show what goes into producing the September issue. This takes place during the course of publishing the 2007 September issue. You get to see what clothes Anna (that is, Wintour) uses from the various runway shows and what decisions she makes as editor-in-chief to make sure the issue is the biggest yet. It also follows Grace Coddington, Vogue’s longtime creative director who has been working with Wintour as long as she has been EIC at Vogue. It chronicles her simultaneous journey of working on the various photoshoots for the issue and getting frustrated when spreads get canned (drama!). Both her and Wintour share clips of their stories and how they got to where they are throughout the course of the film. Coddington started out as a model for Vogue and eventually became creative director, while Wintour comes from a line of working as editors, for her father was an EIC for the Evening Standard in London. It also shows her daughter, Bee, who respects her mother, but would never want to follow into her footsteps as working in fashion. Every time I see this movie, I get more excited to potentially work for a fashion magazine. Journalism to me, can be stressful at times, like shown in this movie, but it pays off when you produce something that you and the rest of the world can be proud of.

The September Issue

The September Issue can be found for rent on iTunes.

Bill Cunningham New York

This documentary follows legendary street photographer for The New York Times Bill Cunningham in his day-to-day routine. He is known for his candid fashion photography, taking photos of people on the streets who happen to be sporting one identical trend and compiling it into a two minute video as well as a photo spread that shows up in the Style section each week. Cunningham is a humble man, staying in the same tiny apartment in the Carnegie Hall building and wears the same iconic blue jacket and still uses a film camera to take his photographs. He rides a bike all over Manhattan (you can imagine how dangerous this is nowadays!) to take photos of stylish people on the streets. The documentary also shares his philosophy on fashion, art and photography while watching how he interacts with his subjects on the street. Cunningham will take photos outside during fashion week, where the crowds are heightened and street style is at an all time high. He will also take photos at non-fashion events such as the New York Marathon, as people tend to wear something out of the norm. He has kept all of his work in his tiny apartment in boxes (imagine what it would be like to go through one of his boxes of photos!). Cunningham can spot the trends and they can be so spot on with how the rest of the world sees them, proving that street style really do have a voice in the fashion cycle and how trends spread. He lives the most simplistic life and goes to show that if you become famous, you can choose how much or little the fame gets in your head. I recommend this if you are fan of Cunningham’s or of fashion photography in general.

Bill Cunningham New York can be found on Netflix or iTunes.

Cunningham’s latest piece for the Times

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s

This documentary follows the history of high-end department store Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. The store opened at the turn on the 19th century on Fifth Avenue by Herman Bergdorf, and later owned and managed by Edwin Goodman. The store now has two locations on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th street.The first location opened in 1928 and the second in 1990, catering to men. During the course of the film, it shares input from designers who have the privilege of being carried at such an elite brick-and-mortar store. Not all designers make it in, not before impressing Linda Fargo, Bergdorf’s buyer. The power she holds can essentially be compared to Anna Wintour. Another subplot of the documentary was how glamorous 2011 holiday windows were put together. Holiday windows for New York City department stores are anything but a joke; these extravagant displays take many months to a year to plan and execute. I would love to be in New York over Christmas just be able to walk around to see these windows. It follows the creative process for each set of windows all the way to when they are revealed during the holiday season. The documentary also recounts celebrities’ shopping experiences as well as sales associates. Being a sales associate is a cut throat job, but the reward is grand when you get commission off at $10,000 fur coat. This one is a fun one to watch from how a merchandising point of view. It is one of fashion’s most luxurious and well known stores, being portrayed in movies and TV shows. It caters to the world’s top celebrities and moneymakers. And plus, who can’t resist some amazing holiday windows?

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s can be found on iTunes and Netflix.

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