Samuel Goldwyn Films

For anyone who wants to peek behind the curtain that hangs before the fashion industry, fashion documentaries 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.

Below, we’ve selected 24 of the best fashion documentaries of all time, exploring everything mentioned above and then some. Enjoy!

Streetwear

Sneakerheadz

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.

Fresh Dressed

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.

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.

Luxury Fashion

McQueen

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.

L’Amour Fou

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.

Dries

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.

Iris

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.

Unzipped

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.

Senior Staff Writer
What To Read Next