YUGEN 10: MUST-SEE FASHION DOCUMENTARIES

 Introducing YUGEN10, our selection of ten cultural “bites” to be consumed by our readers who want to be in-the-know. Our first installment - fashion documentaries, from the must-sees to the most subversive, lifting the curtain on what really goes on behind the scenes. And what better time for those of us still quarantined to binge-watch AND feel good about it?

1. Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1989) 

Wim Wenders takes on the approach of a film/diary/moving portrait to revolutionary Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto’s life and creative processes. Admittedly prejudiced about the fashion industry before filming, Wenders ultimately found many similarities between his craft and Yamamoto’s, both an unceasing exploration of the visual medium and identities. 

2. Helmut Newton: Frames from the Edge (1989) 

A rare glimpse into Hollywood and the fashion industry of the Eighties, this documentary follows legendary photographer Helmut Newton as he travels around the world from set to set, from one jaw-dropping model to another. Revealing more than just the talent behind his iconic noir photography, Frames from the Edge is a homage to the unforgettable decade that changed it all.

3. Bill Cunningham New York (2011)

The OG street style photographer Bill Cunningham established a legacy based on a vast body of work that is often considered more reflective of fashion trends than any catwalk photographs. His New York Times Style columns were the epitome of a cultural documentation that included everyone - from Anna Wintour to the most eccentric subcultures, and everyone in between - making for a must-see documentary about the humble background of a truly dedicated artist, beloved by all. 

4. The Next Black (2014)

Did someone say sustainability? (Yes, everyone in 2020.) A documentary that was, clearly, way ahead of the times, this 2014 film explores a future of clothing that is now inching in closer and closer, six years later. Brands like adidas, Patagonia, and Studio XO talk about the unsustainable consumption of the fashion industry, contemplating a possible return to quality over quantity. If you ask us, this is the perfect time to watch it, get inspired, and start making a change. 

5. Fresh Dressed (2015)

Polish up your streetwear knowledge by going back to its roots: the synergy between hip-hop and style has always been at the forefront of fashion trends, constantly referenced by iconic designers since the 70s. The history of rappers’ style is as fascinating as it is convoluted, but this documentary provides us with the best narrators - Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, P. Diddy, to name a few - to take you on a journey of nostalgia and little-known insider stories. 

6. The Artist Is Absent (2015) ++ Martin Margiela: In His Own Words (2020) 

The most notoriously private designer *ever*, Martin Margiela is the epitome of egoless creation. He has never been seen outside his inner circle, yet has managed to leave an incomparable legacy behind as Maison Margiela exudes the aura of design bordering on conceptual art, unattainable yet desired by all. The 12 minute short film released in 2015 did not bring much light to the obscurity of Margiela’s elusive persona, however has appropriately introduced to the mysterious processes of the Belgian designer. 

As of April 10th 2020, Martin Margiela has taken the first (and only) step out of anonymity, as a new documentary was released about the seminal Antwerp Six designer. This time, we are as close to him as ever - the film, as the title rightly suggests, is narrated by Margiela himself, breaking a three-decade-long silence. All we see of him are his hands, the hands that “put everything else out of fashion”, as Carine Roitfeld remarked - enough to feel a strong intimacy with the transcendent Margiela persona. 

Martin Margiela: In His Own Words is released on April 10, 2020, screening on Curzon Home Cinema and iTunes.

7. Dries (2017) > Dries van Noten

Undoubtedly one of the most unique contemporary designers, Dries van Noten is known for avoiding the limelight, a low-profile example of pure dedication to the craft. The film is an exceptional glance into the backstage philosophy of van Noten, that while strongly aware of the ephemerality of fashion creates some of the most timeless pieces on the market.

8. Built to Fail (2017)

Streetwear has become the defining trend of the 2010s, but its essence and spirit is often overlooked in favour of the aesthetics and status. Before reaching massive popularity, it was a subculture built on the creativity of small communities, but these origins are hardly mentioned in the huge media hype it has amassed. Built to Fail sets things straight through interviews with A$AP ROCKY, Jeff Staple, Futura, and many more set. 

9. Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018)

“Just get it over with,” said Vivienne to the director of the documentary on her own life’s work. (Punk never dies, right?) Now in her 70s, Westwood still abides by the same anti-establishment practices that defined her brand in a crucial decade for world change, and it seems she is as motivated as ever to continue breaking the rules through an unapologetically anarchic aesthetic. But has she ever played by the rules anyway? 

10. McQueen (2018) 

A documentary as exhilarating as the protagonist himself, this portrait of Lee Alexander McQueen was long overdue as true insight into the soul of a strongly missed icon. His highly-publicised life is immortalised here in a way that has never been seen before: through the candid lens of the ones closest to him, McQueen’s inner darkness is exposed as something very real, something that went beyond the theatrics of his collections. 

by Alexa Chirila

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