The world of fashion has always been veiled in mystique. Its lavish glamour and larger-than-life displays often contrast enigmatic personalities and endless intrigue, making it a curious subject for both style mavens and casual observers alike. Peeling back the mystery, we round up a series of documentaries that reveal the many facets making up the contemporary landscape of fashion today.
Beyond runway drama and behind-the-scenes mayhem, these films delve into the topics that matter most in the sartorial world now. Sustainability, for instance, is explored in great depth in Fashion Reimagined, as designer Amy Powney goes on a mission to transform her brand into one that is ethical and sustainable in every way. Meanwhile, Invisible Beauty is a look at fashion’s fight for racial diversity through the legacy of Bethann Hardison, one of the first high profile Black models.
Through the perspectives of some of the industry’s most prominent figures, these fashion documentaries also uncover the ways in which the sartorial landscape has grown into what we know it as today. In Bill Cunningham New York, the evolution of both street style and high society trends are captured through the lens of prolific fashion photographer Bill Cunningham—whose four decades of contribution to fashion journalism cannot be overstated. For those seeking a better understanding of the world of fashion, look to our full curation of fashion documentaries to add to your watchlist below.
1 / 5
Amid a fashion landscape that often prioritises globalisation and consolidation, Dries Van Noten has chosen to remain as an independent designer for over 25 years. Known for his striking patterns and masterful use of fabrics, his fashion shows have gained a cult following. Dries unveils the independent spirit and creative heart behind his innovative designs—documenting closely, for a full year, the precise steps that he took to create four of his collections.
2 / 5
Bill Cunningham New York (2010)
For 40 years, prolific fashion photographer Bill Cunningham cycled around the streets of New York City, capturing the unique style of its residents. Having picked up his camera in the first years when street style gained prominence, his enormous body of work documents its evolution across the decades—along with the sartorial trends of high society and the personal style of fashion’s biggest names. A portrait of a remarkably cheerful man whose contribution to fashion journalism cannot be overstated, Bill Cunningham New York follows the photographer through his daily life, with appearances from the likes of Anna Wintour and Iris Apfel.
3 / 5
Martin Margiela: In His Own Words (2019)
Since Martin Margiela founded Maison Margiela in 1988, he has never posed for a picture, taken a bow at his fashion shows or spoken directly to the press—which is precisely what makes Martin Margiela: In His Own Words so monumental. In the documentary, Margiela opens up for the first time about his years in the industry, the ideas behind some of his most groundbreaking collections and the reason behind his anonymity. Personal notes and drawings are revealed, as are other behind-the-scenes gems. Margiela’s face is never shown, but the candour with which he speaks offers a rare look into the mind of fashion’s most elusive designer.
4 / 5
Fashion Reimagined (2022)
In Fashion Reimagined, Amy Powney— creative director of fashion label Mother of Pearl and the daughter of environmental activists—goes on a mission to transform her brand into one that is ethical and sustainable in every way. In the following years, her journey heralds a larger shift in an industry finally ready to confront the devastating environmental impact it leaves behind. As inspiring as it is insightful, this documentary offers hope as fashion moves toward a more sustainable future.
5 / 5
Invisible Beauty (2023)
Bethann Hardison is one of the first high-profile Black models and was an early champion of racial representation in fashion. As a modelling agent and now an activist, she has continued to fight for the Black models who have come after her. Tracing Hardison’s extraordinary rise and legacy, Invisible Beauty is a look at fashion’s fight for racial diversity—seen through the eyes of the woman who broke the barriers.
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