To mark Yves Saint Laurent hitting UK cinemas this week, we present ten great films on fashion
Head designer at Christian Dior at age 21, Yves Saint Laurent had one of fashion’s most remarkable careers, and a tumultuous private life to boot. Not surprising then, that there are not one but two biopics about him set to come out this year. The first, simply called Yves Saint Laurent, is from French director Jalil Lespert. It’s backed by the designer’s longtime romantic and business partner Pierre Bergé, enabling the use of authentic locations and garments. To mark it hitting UK cinemas this week, here are ten great films on the fashion world.
WHO ARE YOU, POLLY MAGGOO? (1966)
Models bleed from sharp-edged aluminium dresses in this scathing satire on the excesses of the fashion world from influential fashion photographer and filmmaker William Klein, which was inspired by Yves Saint Laurent's first catwalk show. Dorothy McGowan in her only film role plays the eponymous supermodel, as she's followed by a French TV crew.
LAGERFELD CONFIDENTIAL (2007)
Rodolfe Marconi shadowed Chanel honcho Karl Lagerfeld for more than a year, with unprecedented access to his Paris home, for this documentary portrait. The shades-wearing German is too pro at veneers to be caught off-guard, and the director colludes like an awestruck fan - but, on wildly acerbic and quotable form, the designer is more than charismatic enough to carry this off.
BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK (2010)
Honoured by the fashion world but undazzled by celebrity and living a humble life of $3 lunches, octogenarian and legendary New York Times street-style photographer Bill Cunningham is followed in this documentary charmer directed by Richard Press as he cycles round Manhattan with his camera.
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (2011)
Dubbed fashion’s “Empress”, imperious Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue editor Diana Vreeland embraced extravagance. Documenting her life, her granddaughter-in-law Lisa Immordino Vreeland transcends stereotype, showing Diana's tyrannical side but celebrating a larger-than-life original who transformed fashion mags from tame society reads to troves of exuberant fantasy.
FUNNY FACE (1957)
Long before The Devil Wears Prada, this Hollywood musical starred Audrey Hepburn as a young woman with little interest in fashion who is drawn into the industry in the hope it will catapult her toward her other goals. A bookshop clerk with amateur philosopher pretensions, she's scouted as a new face and taken to Paris. The opening title sequence was designed by fashion photographer Richard Avedon, who Fred Astaire's character in the film is based on.
COCO BEFORE CHANEL (2009)
This French biopic charts the life of legendary designer Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel (Audrey Tatou), as she battles her way up from penniless provincial seamstress and cabaret singer to launch her own fashion house, shunning corsets while appropriating men's clothes to revolutionise female style. It effectively depicts "the first modern woman", even if director Anna Fontaine's own filmmaking style is sentimental and conventional – and conveniently skips over Coco's wartime fascist ties.
THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE (2009)
The making of American Vogue's bulky 2007 September issue is documented in all its behind-the-scenes hard slog and high drama by director R.J. Cutler. The working relationship between formidable editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington, who dares to stand up to her, makes for a riveting film that turns on that pervasive tension between creativity and commerce.
GIRL MODEL (2011)
This documentary by Dabid Redmon and Ashley Sabin unveils a grimmer side of the global fashion industry, as it follows Nadya, a 13-year-old from small-town Siberia, who after a casting is flown to youth-obsessed Tokyo for a career in modelling and economically exploited. Ashley, an American model-turned-scout, talks about her own complicated relationship with all of this.
David Hemmings plays a young fashion photographer, based on David Bailey, in Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni's visually stunning mod masterpiece on voyeurism set in '60s Swinging London. As he drifts bored through a lifestyle of druggy parties and bedding models, things take a mysterious turn for the photographer when he realises he's unintentionally captured evidence of murder in the background of photos he took in a park.
DRESSING FOR PLEASURE (1977)
John Samson's legendary celebration of rubber, latex and leather fetishism was an instant sensation among Brit fashion designers. Tapping that quintessentially English bent for eccentricity, it interviews wearers about the kick they get out of these materials and features the ‘70s King’s Road boutique SEX, run by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in London.