"The main point is: they think about it. And the whole disheveled look is, I think, on the wane."

This is a spectacular On the Street where Cunningham draws parallels between the transition between the silhouettes of the 1940s and ’50s and today. And a strong argument for putting thought into men’s clothes.

Bravo, Bill Cunningham, as usual.


That Bill Cunningham jacket by Beams+.

What could better celebrate the most democratic (only democratic?) man in fashion than a $500 reproduction of the chore coats he buys at the hardware store?

Fashion industry: you never cease to amaze me.

Seriously. The balls.

“Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.” — Bill Cunningham (via theprettypalate)

Bill Cunningham New York is out on DVD, and you can also find it on Netflix Instant. It’s a documentary about Bill Cunningham, the On the Street photographer for the New York Times, who also has been shooting society events and fashion shows since the couture era.

The 80-something Cunningham lives a monastic life: he spent fifty years in a studio apartment in Carnegie Hall, the walls of which were lined with filing cabinets full of photographs. Indeed, the apartment had no other features besides filing cabinets of photographs: the bathroom was down the hall, and the bed was simply a bedroll on top of some plywood on top of some filing cabinets.

Cunningham simply lives clothes. Every morning, he puts on his trademark work smock (he buys them in bulk for $20 each at a hardware store in Paris), pulls his bike out of a janitor’s closet in his building, and hits the street, documenting the beauty around him. If you’ve ever watched one of his slideshows for NYTimes.com, you know that his eye is informed and discerning, but also gloriously enthusiastic, democratic and non-judgemental. Follow his work for a month and you’ll see society doyennes, drag queens, Harlem teenagers and everything in between.

Then, at night, he puts on an orange safety vest and pedals to charity benefits - he refuses to look at guest lists and picks solely based on what he thinks of the charity, and he won’t eat or even drink their food. He simply documents, documents, documents.

The film is so filled with inspiration, it almost boils over. Cunningham’s beautiful, half-French, half-English speech as he is inducted into the French Order of Arts & Letters is not to be missed. “Seek beauty, and you’ll find it.”

The movie touches upon Cunningham the man, as well. He is, as he admits, both garrulous and open and fiercely guarded. We tried to book him for season one of our show and were turned down flat - the documentarians, friends of his, worked for years to convince him to participate. He goes to mass every week, and has never had a romantic relationship.

If, like me, you’re turned off by the fashion industry, Cunningham may restore your faith in its possibilities. He’s questioned about whether fashion matters, whether he should have dedicated his life dealing with the “real problems” of the “real world.” Our clothes, he says, are our armor: that which gives us the strength to engage the world instead of shrinking from it. He’s a man who believes, really, in beauty. His sincerity and open heart are absolutely magical.

Seriously: watch the film.

Bill Cunningham on Tailored Menswear

Bill Cunningham covers tailored menswear in his latest episode of “On the Street.”  A really, really great watch. 

(credit to MostExerent for the original tip). 

Bill Cunningham is everything that’s right about fashion. He’s a street photographer. A real street photographer. He doesn’t hang out outside fashion shows and shoot models when they come outside to smoke. He dons his anorak, jumps on his bike and rides it all over New York City, taking pictures of what he notices. He isn’t trying to shape trends, he’s just trying to capture the flavor of what’s On the Street. He isn’t interested in predicting trends or capturing the marketplace. He just returns humane photographs of real people in interesting outfits.

I tried my damndest to interview Cunningham for Season One of PTO, and was rebuffed by the Times’ publicity department, but I still hold out hope for the future. In the meantime, I’m excited about this feature documentary.

If you haven’t read this wonderful first-person piece from 2002, it’s a must-read. So is this New Yorker profile from 2009. What a graceful man.

Bill Cunningham’s wonderful “On the Street” videos for the New York Times are now on YouTube.