As fashion business goes, Pierre Cardin is probably the godfather. The French designer being one of the first to manage the transition from simply designing clothes to launching an empire. Now the icon is getting a much-deserved documentary, House of Cardin, which brings together icons from across the fashion industry to discuss the legendary designer’s life and career. With appearances from Naomi Campbel, Alice Cooper, and Jean Paul Gaultier, this is the kind of film to get every fashion nerd's heart pumping.
The release of House of Cardin on April 26, has reignited our obsession with a certain alluring genre of film: fashion documentaries. For anyone who wants to peek behind the curtain that hangs before the fashion industry, fashion docs are a great place to start. Fashion documentaries have the power not only to dish the dirt on what really happens in the run-up to major fashion shows and magazine releases, but also inspire future career aspirations.
Over the years, fashion documentaries have delivered never-before-seen insights on every aspect of the industry, from streetwear and couture to celebrating individual fashion icons and publications. They have championed innovative tech and sparked conversations about sustainability.
If you're at a like us and you want to know the glamorous (and not so glamorous) ins and outs of the fashion world, we've selected 25 of the best fashion documentaries of all time for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
Year: 2015 Directors: David T. Friendly, Mick Partridge Rotten Tomatoes: 55 percent
While Sneakerheadz has been criticized for helping to spread the consumeristic frenzy around sneaker drops, the documentary is a pretty real look at the lengths sneakerheads will go to cop a pair of coveted kicks.
The Next Black
Year: 2014 Director: David Dworsky, Victor Köhler Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Patagonia's Rick Ridgeway and adidas' Matthew Hymers are just some of the industry folk dishing intel in The Next Black, a documentary that profiles specific brands at the forefront of redefining what we wear.
Built to Fail
Year: 2017 Directors: Bobby Kim, Scott Weintrob Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
The Hundreds founder Bobby Kim examines the world of streetwear in fashion documentary Built to Fail, starting with skate and punk subcultures up to the $70 billion industry it had become by 2017. The film includes conversations with industry insiders such as Rick Klotz of Freshjive, Spanto of BornxRaised, and A$AP Rocky.
Year: 2015 Director: Sacha Jenkins Rotten Tomatoes: 90 percent
Featuring interviews with Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Sean Combs, and many others, Fresh Dressed chronicles the history of hip-hop fashion. The documentary goes from southern cotton plantations to ’70s gangs in the South Bronx, corporate America, and how freedom of expression helped to bring street style to the mainstream.
COLETTE MON AMOUR
Year: 2020 Director: Hugues Lawson-Body Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Three years after the closing of the iconic Parisian shop, Colette Mon Amour provides an inside look in the days leading up to and following the retail location’s closing. Co-produced by Highsnobiety, La Pac, and Eliane Lawson-Body, the film features exclusive interviews and testimonials from Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Virgil Abloh, Kaws, and other notable industry figures. Each share their memories of the concept shop and its effect on the fashion industry and youth culture.
Activism & Culture
The True Cost
Year: 2015 Director: Andrew Morgan Rotten Tomatoes: 63 percent
As the world wakes up to the consequences of fast fashion, The True Cost helps slide the curtain back even further. The documentary shows viewers a glimpse of the effect fashion consumption is having on people and the planet, posing the question: Who really pays the price for our clothing obsession?
Notebook on Cities and Clothes
Year: 1989 Director: Wim Wenders Rotten Tomatoes: 70 percent
Cult German filmmaker Wim Wenders profiles Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto in Notebook on Cities and Clothes. The documentary follows Yamamoto as he readies a new selection of designs for Paris Fashion Week and features commentary by Wenders on the nature of cities, identity, and modernity.
Year: 2018 Directors: Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui Rotten Tomatoes: 99 percent
This stunning documentary examines the life, career, and legacy of Alexander McQueen. McQueen explores the designer's beginnings as a tailor and the launch of his eponymous line all the way up to his untimely death, all told through interviews with his closest friends, family, archival footage, and beautiful visuals.
Dior and I
Year: 2015 Director: Frédéric Tcheng Rotten Tomatoes: 83 percent
Dior and I is a gripping behind-the-scenes look at Raf Simons' first haute couture collection for Dior. The documentary not only applauds Simons' artistic vision but is something of a love letter to all the seamstresses who help make his dream a reality.
7 Days Out
Year: 2018 Director: Andrew Rossi Rotten Tomatoes: 100 percent
Each episode of Netflix docuseries 7 Days Out looks at a different cultural event, going behind the scenes to deliver the inside scoop about what actually goes into pulling them off. The fifth episode documents the lead-up to a 2018 Chanel haute couture fashion show, tracking the late Karl Lagerfeld as he oversees every decision.
Want more Lagerfeld? The documentary Lagerfeld Confidential is also worth a watch. Check out the trailer below.
Year: 2011 Director: Pierre Thoretton Rotten Tomatoes: 61 percent
Fashion documentary L'Amour Fou dissects the life and legacy of French couture legend Yves Saint Laurent, from his design role at Dior to his relationship with YSL co-founder Pierre Bergé, moving through the opening of the label to Saint Laurent's celebrity friends, addictions, and everything in between.
The Artist Is Absent
Year: 2015 Director: Alison Chernick Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Another profile piece, short film The Artist Is Absent is about Martin Margiela, chronicling the evolution of his eponymous label and the designer's influence on the fashion industry as a whole.
Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton
Year: 2007 Director: Loïc Prigent Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
From 1997 to 2014, Marc Jacobs was creative director of Louis Vuitton. This documentary looks at how he broke down barriers and helped redefine the house as a luxury fashion label, offering candid interviews with Jacobs himself and insiders such as Catherine Deneuve, Uma Thurman, Sofia Coppola, among others.
The Director: An Evolution in Three Acts
Year: 2013 Director: Christina Voros Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Before Alessandro Michele took over as creative director, Gucci was helmed by another compelling force: Frida Giannini. In The Director: An Evolution in Three Acts, filmmaker Christina Voros spends 18 months examining Giannini's work, her intricacies, inspirations, and quiet power.
Fashion Victim: The Killing of Gianni Versace
Year: 2001 Director: James Kent Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Before The Assassination of Gianni Versace dropped on Netflix, the BBC documented the shocking 1997 murder of Gianni Versace. Fashion Victim looks at the events leading up to the crime, as well as the impact Versace's death had on the fashion industry and those closest to him.
Year: 2017 Director: Reiner Holzemer Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Dries Van Noten is the focus of fashion documentary Dries, in which director Reiner Holzemer tracks the designer for a year to create an insight into how four of Van Noten's collections came together, from conception and fabric selection to embroidery, printing processes, and execution.
Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist
Year: 2018 Director: Lorna Tucker Rotten Tomatoes: 76 percent
Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist highlights the multifaceted and fascinating career of Vivienne Westwood. The documentary covers many angles, from Westwood's beginnings in the punk scene with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, to her distinctive fashion label and activist campaigns.
Events, Publications & Icons
The First Monday in May
Year: 2016 Director: Andrew Rossi Rotten Tomatoes: 77 percent
If you spend every year browsing pictures of Anna Wintour's Met Gala and wondering how she goes about pulling off such a grand, celeb-studded event, The First Monday in May is the inside scoop for you. The documentary focuses on 2015's theme, "China: Through the Looking Glass," and features scenes with Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rihanna, and more.
Bill Cunningham New York
Year: 2011 Director: Richard Press Rotten Tomatoes: 99 percent
Bill Cunningham New York is an homage to The New York Times' trend-, street style-, and high society-chronicling photographer, who also happens to be one of the most humble humans in the game. Capturing and cataloging Cunningham's legacy, the documentary is stacked with beautiful imagery, humorous anecdotes, interviews, and, of course, great clothes.
The September Issue
Year: 2009 Director: R.J. Cutler Rotten Tomatoes: 83 percent
The September Issue offers a candid look at what goes into piecing together Vogue's September issue, which is largely considered to be every fashionista's annual bible. Even if you don't read Vogue, the documentary dishes all the dirt, drama, and Anna Wintour-fueled disdain you could hope to see.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Year: 2012 Directors: Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Frédéric Tcheng Rotten Tomatoes: 94 percent
Diana Vreeland was the fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar before becoming editor-in-chief of Vogue. She helped launch Twiggy's career, advised Jackie O, and established countless fashion trends that are still visible today. This documentary celebrates one of the most influential forces in 20th-century fashion.
Year: 2015 Director: Albert Maysles Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent
Netflix's Iris focuses on Iris Apfel, a witty then-93-year-old New Yorker who was a bold, colorful addition to the city's fashion scene for decades. The documentary champions Apfel's creativity and serves as a reminder that fashion isn't only about following trends; it should be fun and experimental.
The Gospel According to André
Year: 2018 Director: Kate Novack Rotten Tomatoes: 85 percent
Kate Novack profiles André Leon Talley in this documentary, looking at the tastemaker's childhood in the Jim Crow South through to his work at publications such as Women's Wear Daily, W, and Vogue. The film merges interviews with archival footage and was produced by the team behind The First Monday in May.
Year: 1995 Director: Douglas Keeve Rotten Tomatoes: 80 percent
While this fashion documentary follows designer Isaac Mizrahi as he puts together his Fall 1994 collection, the best thing about it is the nostalgia of seeing a who's who of ’90s supermodels, including a young Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford, and Linda Evangelista.
Casablancas: The Man Who Loved Women
Year: 2016 Director: Hubert Woroniecki Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
John Casablancas — father of Julian — is generally credited with two things: founding Elite Model Management in 1972 and developing the concept of the supermodel. Thanks to Casablancas, models' careers became the equal of Hollywood stars, and this documentary chronicles a pioneer's rise.