We can only learn so much about fashion through runway shows and shopping. Occasionally, it is also interesting to see what happens behind the scenes, and one way we can do that is by watching documentaries. Luckily for us, films have been accessible more than ever without needing too much besides a streaming subscription and a device. For many of us who enjoy the services of Netflix, here are some of the sartorial documentaries that offer us more than just glimpses of the lives of the fashion icons they feature, and the significance of the labels we have come to love.
Jeremy Scott is the designated “People’s Fashion Designer”, which may be due to his rise as the creative director of one of the most recognizable luxury brands from Europe, going beyond his humble beginnings, or because his designs have proved to be popular among celebrities and laymen alike, despite the criticisms that have been hurled at him. Both are explored in this documentary by director Vlad Yudin, while also taking viewers along Scott’s creative process. The designer has struggled to get into the business, having to overcome constraints and criticisms at first, but he has taken risks in fashion that make him beloved among celebrities who are also fashion icons: Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry, among others.
Age should not get in the way of style, and Iris Apfel is the best personification of that. Well beyond her 90s, she has captured the eyes and the hearts of designers, icons and enthusiasts for her maximalist style. “I like individuality. It’s so lost these days. So much sameness. Everything is homogenized,” she says on the penultimate film of prolific documentary maker Albert Maysles, who also gave us Gimme Shelter and Salesman. Despite a long history with art, interior design and fashion, the geriatric star only achieved wider recognition quite recently, especially after showcasing her collection of jewelry and accessories at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. The fashion icon remains unfazed by her fame however, and shares nuggets of wisdom after a long and well-lived life spent in appreciation of design and travel.
Assuming the role of creative director of a luxury label as prominent as Dior is both an honor and a burden. Dior and I features Raf Simons at the beginning of his stint in 2012, preparing for his debut collection in just a matter of eight weeks. The film shows parts of the preparation we would not normally think about, as well as the people whose work often go unnoticed by the uninitiated if not for a dedicated documentary such as this. Raf Simons has long bowed out from the position (he left in 2015), but it is still worth watching for the hard work, emotions and dedication that all go into running Dior and living up to the reputation of its founder.
Even if you happen to be uninterested in fashion, chances are you’ve heard of the prestigious and often star-studded Met Gala, thanks to the publicity and coverage given to the fundraiser of the Metropolitan Museum of Arts’ Costume Institute. The First Monday in May lets its viewers become privy to details only a handful of people would normally know as well as the preparation that goes on for months, led by Vogue Editor-in-Chief and Met Museum Board Member Anna Wintour. The movie deals with its 2015 exhibition, China: Through the Looking Glass, but also offers insight on the oft ignored significance of fashion in art.
Zac Posen has had his success early on, but the ascent has not without its share of challenges, and even eventually led to a humbling experience later on. House of Z covers all that, detailing his time on the prestigious Central Saint Martins and featuring the dress that propelled him to success—worn by no other than one of the top supermodels of the 1990s, Naomi Campbell—but also the tribulations that came with staging a comeback. It is refreshing to see a designer openly admit to the missteps he took along the way, but it was also interesting to hear what everyone else had to say about the prodigy who had to experience failure to become who he is today.
Image credits: The Vladar Company. New York Festival, The Company, Rex/Shuttershock, Jason DeCrow/AP