Not getting dressed or leaving the house for 48 hours, but make it fashion
There is no better way of gaining insight into the fashion industry than to sit down in front of one of its many documentaries. With what makes it onto the runway just a small fragment of the full story, these films bridge a gap between the industry and its followers, offering rare insight into what goes on behind the scenes.
From 2018’s McQueen, which centres around the life of Lee ‘Alexander’ McQueen and offers viewers a different perspective of the late designer’s extraordinary talent, to Catwalk and Untamed Fashion Assembly, which allow us to relive fashion moments that are unlikely to happen again, these films are a unique tool with which to understand the fashion industry and its inner-workings. Plus, many of them are as unfathomably beautiful as the collections created by the designers they document (Dries, we’re looking at you).
As we reach that weird point where the best of the summer is basically over, but it’s not quite autumn – and it seems like it’s never actually going to stop raining – we’ve put together a list of the best, most beautiful fashion films to distract you from what’s going on outside. Prepare the snacks.
FRANCA, CHAOS & CREATION (2016)
From the moment she became took the helm at Vogue Italia in the 1980s to her passing, fashion editor Franca Sozzani rejected the idea of creating conventional covers and editorials. Known for pushing the boundaries when it came to societal conversations within fashion, Sozzani tackled domestic violence, the BP oil spill, and drug abuse within her work, stirring up controversy as she went. A year prior to her death in 2016, her son Francesco Carrozzini debuted a documentary film named Franca, Chaos & Creation. Uncovering the many layers of the legendary Italian editor, Sozanni herself discusses her upbringing, life before Vogue Italia, and the creativity that went into some of the most sought-after issues of the magazine – including 2008's ‘Black Issue’.
In Lee McQueen’s short forty years on earth, he managed to completely disrupt the fashion industry with innovative, dramatic, and often pretty controversial shows. In McQueen, archive footage shows the London designer discussing the motives behind his collections, as he explains he has no interest in ‘nice’: “I don’t want to do a show feeling you’ve just had Sunday lunch. I want you to feel repulsed or exhilarated”. Throughout the film directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui capture the essence of McQueen’s unique character, highlighting why even to this day, almost ten years after his death, he still manages to have an ever-lasting effect on how those after him approach fashion.
As a key member of the Antwerp Six alongside the likes of Ann Demeulemeester and Walter Van Beirendonck, Dries Van Noten is one of fashion’s few remaining craftsmen. In this eponymously named documentary, released in 2017, director Reiner Holzemer shows a candid side to the designer, discussing both his triumphs and his downfalls. The film also shows Van Noten in his workspace, preparing to show his AW16 collection at the Opera Garnier in Paris, as well as enjoying peace and quiet while gardening at his insanely beautiful home in the Belgian countryside.
When it came to fashion, the early 90s were all about OTT glamour, a lot of drama, and, of course, the rise of the OG supermodels. Directed by Robert Leacock, Catwalk follows supermodel Christy Turlington around New York, Milan, and Paris, as she attends castings, fittings, and shows during the SS94 season. Throughout the film, Turlington talks through how she started her career and her experiences in the industry, and there are also appearances from a (very) young Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, John Galliano, and Carla Bruni. With its old-school vibe and black and white cinematography, this documentary is perfect to fill any nostalgic feels this weekend.
NOTEBOOKS ON CITIES AND CLOTHES (1989)
In 1981, Yohji Yamamoto debuted his first ready-to-wear collection collection in Paris, marking the start of a movement which saw a series of Japanese designers – including then-girlfriend Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake – disrupt the fashion industry in the French capital and beyond. Seven years later, his wild success resulted in a documentary, Notebooks on Cities and Clothes, which gave unprecedented access to the ins and outs of the cult designer's creative process. Commissioned by Centre Georges Pompidou, the film was directed by legendary German director Wim Wenders, who worked on the intimate film entirely by himself.
Released by M2M in 2012, Anti-Fashion is an hour-long film which goes inside the rebellious fashion movements in the 90s. The film features archival and never before seen footage – including an extremely rare appearance from Martin Margiela, seen in Jean Paul Gaultier’s atelier during an internship in the late 80s. Throughout the film designers such as Rick Owens, Alexander Mcqueen, and Ann Demeulemeester are all interviewed about their work, while the likes of Helmut Lang and Rei Kawakubo are captured in their design studios.
DIOR & I (2014)
After seven years at Jil Sander, Belgian iconoclast Raf Simons succeeded John Galliano at Christian Dior. Dior & I documents the moments leading up to Simons’ first-ever Haute Couture collection for the French house. What this documentary manages to do, which sometimes others fail to, is depict an authentic and truly candid portrayal of the designer, his team, and the work they tirelessly put in. All the scenes appear to be raw and honest, giving unrivalled insight into what it takes to pull off a Couture collection as the head of a prestigious, storied house.
MARC JACOBS AND LOUIS VUITTON (2007)
In 1997, Marc Jacobs became the creative director of luxury Parisian fashion house Louis Vuitton – a title he held for 16 years. A decade into his reign, French documentary filmmaker Loïc Prigent directed a film showing the creative process that goes into designing and presenting a collection. During his time at the house, some of Jacobs' most famous shows included that fetish AW11 show, which was closed by a cigarette-smoking Kate Moss, his SS01 show in collaboration with artist Stephen Sprouse, and his final show dedicated to the “showgirl in us all”.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRÉ (2017)
It’s near to impossible to be a lover of the fashion industry without knowing who André Leon Talley is, whether it’s due to his unique style or iconic quotes – see quote turned meme, ‘My eyes are starving for beauty’. In 2018, the magazine editor (and unofficial star of The September Issue) let us all into his life for the first time, showing how he went from being raised by his grandmother in Durham, North Carolina to moving to New York and working with some of fashion’s biggest names.
UNTAMED FASHION ASSEMBLY (1992)
During the 90s, an annual, avant-garde fashion festival named ‘Untamed Fashion Assembly’ ran in the Latvian capital of Riga. The documentary offering a look inside it perfectly captures the freedom designers in Eastern Europe felt after the Soviet Union dissolved just a few years previously, as well as the wild runway shows and presentations that took place there. During the nine years the festival took place, Lee McQueen was rumoured to have attended, while Blitz Kid Scarlett Cannon was often seen on the runway, modelling for her good friend Andrew Logan.