The best fashion documentaries
Miles of tulle, exquisite couture and needle sharp quips provide the pattern for our selection of the best fashion documentaries
On now: Inside Dior
Yippie! Another Dior documentary. This 2-part documentary, brought to you by Channel 4, gives audiences an inside look into one of the worlds most iconic fashion houses. The show interviews the brand's employees and examines the post of Dior's first female creative director.
The first episode airs Thursday the 9th of February at 9 PM. Click here to watch the first episode.
The First Monday In May (2016)
The Met Gala, hosted annually by American Vogue's Anna Wintour at the launch of New York's Metropolitan Museum exhibition, draws the biggest names in fashion and music together for one of the most important dates on the style calendar.
In 2015, “China: Through the Looking Glass” served as inspiration for the event. It was almost impossible to miss the onslaught of memes sparked by Rihanna’s gigantic yellow gown and Sarah Jessica Parker’s headpiece and the endless comment pieces on who was wearing what, and why. In the words of Anna Wintour: "it's a kind of theatre".
In this film, named after the date on which the event falls, we follow the planning and execution of the gala in 2015, granting us access beyond the catwalk and into fashion’s best fancy dress party.
Dior and I (2014)
Just as Raf Simon's departure from the Parisian fashion house in 2014 sent shockwaves through the industry, so too did his tenure at Dior began with an equally tumultuous induction as creative director.
With only eight short weeks in which he and his atelier were tasked with creating an entire collection from scratch, Dior and I follows his baptism of fire at the historic label.
It combines narration quoting Christian Dior's personal diary with Raf and his closest colleagues’ hopes, opinions and fears. Charting Simon's burgeoning relationship with the maison and its petites mains (seamstresses, to you and me), and the emotions inspired by designing for one of fashion’s most revered brands, this documentary is an intimate and fascinating insight into the life of Paris’ haute-couture heavyweight.
In an industry often dominated by the promise of understatement or eternal youth, Iris Apfel is an unfettered rule breaker.
A sartorial polymath, she has turned her eye to fashion and interior design during a career that saw her advise nine First Ladies in The White House on their decor.
Featuring the world’s most impressive and extensive collections of couture costume jewellery, and a wardrobe that is equally flamboyant, here we see Apfel in all of her outspoken and outlandish glory.
The September Issue (2009)
American Vogue’s editor-in-chief and long-standing magazine maven, Anna Wintour, is fashion's commanding voice. In The September Issue, she is filmed while composing the publication’s largest annual magazine issue, over which Wintour casts her omnipresent eye.
Steely, steadfast and harshly cutting, Wintour deals short, sharp blows to her staff and the designers seeking her approval. Despite reeling you in with behind-the-scenes knowledge that makes you feel a part of the action, it inevitably upholds fashion's other-worldly air for most viewers – though, of course, this is part of its appeal.
Discover for yourself how much like Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada Anna Wintour really is, and watch the fusion of fashion and editorial coming together for one (extremely stressful) issue of Vogue.
Bill Cunningham New York (2011)
The godfather of street-style and icon of NYC, the late, great photographer Bill Cunningham cycled New York City capturing the city's style for the New York Times from 1989 until his death in 2016.
Charming, enigmatic and discerning: Bill pursed his life-long project to capture the best-dressed women of New York and made the fashion industry fall in love with this idiosyncratic and quirky odd-ball with an eye for style.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel (2011)
“I wasn’t a fashion editor, I was the one and only fashion editor” – these are the words of the legendary Diana Vreeland. She reigned supreme as the voice and eye of fashion throughout her career at Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She used her platform to tease beauty from unlikely sources, creating images which combined art, celebrity and the beguiling faces of the day.
The documentary tracks her life and the ways in which she oversaw the changing face of fashion, along with her discovery of Edie Sedgwick and mentoring of Oscar de la Renta. Despite her death way back in 1989, the film highlights how the strength of the pages she masterminded and the words which left her mouth still retain their relevance today.
Valentino: The Last Emperor (2009)
“Après moi, le déluge”. Spoken by Mr Valentino himself in his documentary’s trailer, these fabulously arrogant words are to an extent coming to fruition, given the current state of the fashion industry.
An inimitable force in the world of couture, the mononymous Valentino lead his label from 1960 until he retired in 2008, designing countless gowns and the wedding dresses of Elizabeth Taylor, Ann Hathaway, Jennifer Lopez and Princess Madeleine of Sweden along the way. A lover of women and of beauty, Valentino is shown in this film as an unswayable character, locking horns with new investors after the label was bought in 1998, and weathering the industry’s increasingly stormy climate.
McQueen And I (2011)
Lee Alexander McQueen, fashion’s enfant terrible, defied convention and upset the fashion press with his designs: he dreamt up the infamous ‘bumster’ trousers and pairs of Armadillo heels made famous on the feet of Lady Gaga.
Whereas Savage Beauty, the show which attracted hoards to the V&A, was primarily a celebration of his work, this Channel 4 documentary is a retrospective of his life, sadly cut short by suicide in 2011.
Using archive footage and interviews from those closest to him. The documentary explores the unique genius of his transformative runway shows and the relentless pace and pressure of production, stitching together a picture of his career. Beginning with his early years as a tailor on Savile Row, through his discovery by, and close friendship with, the equally eccentric Isabella Blow, and ending with him as one of the industry’s most innovative and troubled talents. An inspirational and troubled figure to the last.
Mademoiselle C (2013)
Carine Roitfeld is French Vogue's answer to Anna Wintour (as her opening line in this trailer, "non, non, non, non", somewhat attests).
Serving as the magazine’s editor-in-chief for ten years, she resigned in 2011 in order to launch her own fashion publication, CR: Fashion Book. This is the the documentary's starting point.
Despite shock at her departure from Vogue, as a muse of Tom Ford and friend to Karl Lagerfeld, the film makes easy work of showing the resources she was able to draw upon for her personal project. As is the case with many of these films, the documentary serves as a who's who of French fashion, providing an almost conveyor-like stream of household names, including models, designers, photographers and editors.
Exploring the highly polished and often over-the-top nature of the industry, it’s no surprise that it's been compared to The September Issue.
The True Cost (2015)
Offering a darker view of the fashion, this film focuses on the various impacts that the industry has on the world at large and the high price paid for both high-street fast fashion, and luxury ready-to-wear.
It asks how the fashion industry negatively affects the lives of those producing garments and the natural environment. It's the most serious of the films on this list, stripped of the fun and frivolity of some of the others. Instead the documentary succeeds in making you question how your shopping habits and purchasing power might be used to combat inequality and help the planet.
Advanced Style (2014)
One of a kind she may be, but Iris Apfel is far from the only OAP eschewing normcore for a certain sartorial flamboyance. Based on Ari Seth Cohen's Advanced Style blog, this film charts the stylish lives and wardrobes of seven of New York's most fabulous senior citizens.
Proving that style is eternal, the older generation discuss their bursting wardrobes and the ways in which their attitudes to getting dressed have seen them go against the grain. As one of them puts it: "I never wanted to look young, I wanted to look great!"
Expect false eyelashes, lace ruffs and feather boas: none are off-limits.