Fashion documentaries were once sidelined as a frivolous look at a seemingly frivolous industry. The format seemed to be populated more with rare behind-the-scenes glimpses of impenetrable fashion houses rather than offering a factual exposé on the industry. 2009’s The September Issue undoubtedly brought new life and interest to the genre, and since then a number of entertaining and intelligent documentaries have made their way to both big and small screens.
From haute couture to the sobering realities of what keeps the fashion industry’s cogs spinning, the following documentaries offer real-world insight while still remaining an entertaining watch.
We’ve stayed with the straight-up industry docs here, but stay tuned for further installments featuring photographers and more.
Dior and I ( 2014)
Director: Frédéric Tcheng
Since the release of this refreshingly candid documentary a few years ago, Raf Simons has left his post as Creative Director of Womenswear at Dior in order to focus on his own menswear label. Prior to his highly-documented resignation, the designer had opened up in an interview with System magazine showing disapproval of the pace and sheer amount of collections expected in fashion today, and of him at Dior.
Filmed during the eight weeks leading up to Simons’ first haute couture collection at the house in 2012, Dior and I offers a rare look at the logistical, as well as creative, side of fashion. A true visionary at work, Raf later made light of these eight weeks, claiming that towards the end of his tenure he was designing shows in usually three, maximum five, weeks.
Just for Kicks (2005)
Directors: Thibaut de Longeville, Lisa Leone
Featuring a variety of interviews with famed sneakerheads including Grandmaster Caz, Reverend Run and Missy Elliott, Just for Kicks looks at sneaker culture and the lengths people will go to all for the sake of that holy grail shoe. From being held at gunpoint for the pair off their feet, to resorting to carrying a weapon in order to protect the ones they’re wearing, sneaker culture is one diehard (no pun intended) addiction.
Just for Kicks is a fun watch that offers an anthropological insight into kick culture, including how Run–D.M.C. came up with their iconic 1986 track “My adidas.”
Notebook on Cities & Clothes (1989)
Director: Wim Wenders
Who would have thought, Yohji Yamamoto and Wim Wenders all the way back in 1989? Both of these artists – and they well and truly are artists in their chosen fields – approach their work in a similar way; with deeply profound subject matter, a carefully guarded vision of their own personal brand, following their own timeless narrative instead of adhering to trends, and a deep appreciation of fellow artists who do the same. Unsurprisingly then, this documentary – which follows Yamamoto ahead of one of his early Paris shows – still holds up 27 years later.
Fred Perry Presents Subculture ( 2012)
Director: Don Letts
Created in celebration of Fred Perry’s 60th anniversary, this six-part mini-series was made in collaboration with Channel 4 and explores the world of British subcultures. Looking closely at teddy boys, rockers, mods, skinheads, soul boys, punks, casuals, and the rave and Britpop scenes, this series packs a punch, and delves into the music, styles and attitudes that surrounded each of these movements. Considering how relevant most of these still are in today’s fashion landscape, this mini-series should be mandatory viewing.
McQueen and I (2011)
Director: Louise Osmond
Released to coincide with the one year anniversary of Lee Alexander McQueen’s death, McQueen and I is a posthumous look at the brilliant but troubled designer. Documenting his rise in the fashion world following his Central Saint Martins graduate collection, it also features an in-depth look at the friendship between McQueen and the late fashion editor and his muse Isabella Blow, ending with both of their tragic suicides.
In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye (2012)
Directors: Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey
While The September Issue undoubtedly offers a rare glimpse behind-the-scenes of the world’s foremost fashion publication, In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye goes one step further to reveal the magic behind Vogue‘s incredible repertoire of fashion editorials. Speaking with many of the magazine’s fashion editors – who until the recent age of social media were largely out of the limelight – this documentary highlights just how important and integral Vogue‘s famed editorials are to its success.
The True Cost (2015)
Director: Andrew Morgan
Fashion certainly has a dark side, and no matter how much you dress it up in the season’s latest trends it still rears its ugly head. With the rise of fast fashion and trends that come and go at breakneck speed, someone has to pay the price as the industry shifts more and more towards maximum profit for minimum expenditure. Sadly it comes at the price of exploiting the developing world and causing irreparable damage to our planet. A grim watch, but nevertheless important if the fashion industry is to move forward without imploding.