Monday, January 2, 2012
Bill Cunningham, Fashion Monk
Happy New Year, readers! I'm settled back in New York after a lovely vacation, and last night Jeff and I watched Bill Cunningham New York (yay, Netflix streaming!). I was truly blown away by it; it is certainly the most inspiring fashion documentary I've seen.
It follows a period in the life of 80+-year-old Bill Cunningham, style photographer for The New York Times. His two columns, "On the Street" and "Evening Hours", portray a vast array of New York fashion, from street to society.
But the most intriguing thing is his personal life. As I said to Jeff last night, he's sort of like a fashion monk. He was one of the last hold-outs to live in the Carnegie Hall artist studios, and believes in simple living to the point of asceticism. He works constantly, roaming the streets on a bicycle--wearing the same thing every day, eating the same meals. His tiny studio has no kitchen, and he sleeps on a wooden platform surrounded by filing cabinets that hold negatives of every picture he's ever taken. He's never had a romantic relationship, and goes to church every Sunday.
And his work philosophy is certainly admirable: he's inspired by the way real people wear clothes on the street and in life. His approach to fashion photography is very kind-spirited and never mocks his subjects. One of his first jobs was at Women's Wear Daily, but he quit after an editor changed his copy to make fun of the women he photographed.
Have you seen this film? If not, do! I think DIY types will especially appreciate his down-to-earth take on fashion. It's a great reminder of why we do what we do. As Bill quoted tearfully in an award acceptance speech: "He who seeks beauty shall find it." (Just try not to get choked up when he says it!)
Bill Cunningham New York Trailer from Gavin McWait on Vimeo.