When I saw an article advertising a new fashion documentary on André Leon Talley I knew we’d reached 'peak fashion documentary' territory. The larger-than-life (in-life?) American Vogue editor-at-large has a film called “The Gospel According To André” coming out in May.
Left - The new Alexander McQueen documentary by Embankment Films Read TheChicGeek Review - here
It charts his humble beginnings growing up in North Carolina to being one of America’s most well known fashion characters.
He just adds to the many designers, brands and egos who have released documentaries over the last few years. We all know how the treatment goes: a new designer diarising their first ‘crucial’ collection, a celebration of an eccentric fashion ‘icon’ or a big opening or event and the drama surrounding it. It’s all played out in the 90 minutes or so of devoted film. Done.
It’s all very watchable content, even for those who wouldn’t know their Simone Rocha from their Ferrero Rocher. Most recently we’ve had Westwood, Blahnik and Noten get the fash-doc once over, and with a new McQueen one on it’s way, the output shows no signs of slowing down.
"Fashion has become something of an entertainment industry, and the fashion doco' is an effective way of educating an audience keen on learning about the fashion industry's players, its big brands and the myths that surround them. Expect a lot more,” says Jamie Huckbody, European Editor for Harper's BAZAAR Australia.
Netflix and the like needs content and fashion is a truly visual medium with many can’t-make-them-up type characters perfectly cast in their Devil Wears Prada roles.
I wanted to write something about the rise of the fash-doc and its growth for while, but it was a visit to the London Book Fair that got me thinking about the reason why we’ve hit peak fashion documentary.
It’s basically replaced the fashion book for the younger generation.
There are definitely less fashion monographs being produced on brands and designers ATM. Large, definitive books just don’t seem as cool anymore, and feel almost dead in comparison to the documentary.
There’s also been a generational shift. Under the elegant expanse of Olympia, I looked at all these books and I thought, who is buying them? It’s the older, wealthier generations. The ones who have the luxury of time, money and space.
Right - The Gospel According To André, coming out in May
‘Generation Rent’ - younger people - aren’t buying these books anymore. Even if they could afford them, they’ve got nowhere to store them and they certainly don’t want the additional baggage of cart shelves of expensive books around every time they move. They often don’t even have enough room for the coffee table, let alone the door stopper books to go on it.
Why buy a weighty and expensive Taschen or Assouline when you can watch the documentary? You’re only going to look at the book once, anyway, most probably. You can stream a video anytime you like, plus we are all so used to consuming content in this way.
Huckbody disagrees, saying “"Over the past three years, I've been working very closely with the millennial generation as a university lecturer, and there is still a huge appetite for books; especially books that offer an insight into 'other worlds'. This might be anything from the black and white photography of Karlheinz Weinberger to the books that are published alongside fashion exhibitions such as the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty book. For a lot of 'Generation Rent', the book offers a different experience to a picture glanced momentarily on social media."
I agree that social media is a very quick, disposable and, sometimes, unsatisfactory medium for fashion history and I’m not going to go to the extreme and pronounce the book dead, (just yet!), I’m just saying the fashion documentary has proven massively popular and it’s a modern case of you've bought the designer T-shirt now watch the documentary on it.
Traditional forms of consuming information are changing and adapting and the fashion book was always ripe to be replaced by film. Film can illustrate movement, show catwalks, people and really gives consumers a feel for what they are seeing. Add the music of the time, interviews and you get a 360 view, albeit one the brand or designer wants you to see, but then, hey, books can be just as commissioned or narcissistic.
Not all films meet with the subject’s approval. We recently saw Westwood fall out with the makers of her documentary and encourage people not to see it. It had the opposite effect, gave it more exposure and we all know that it’s good for her anarchic image.
Some of these documentaries won’t do its subjects justice, others will surprise you with how interesting they actually are.
What is great is, by replacing the book, fashion has got a much larger audience. It would have been a select, passionate few buying these books originally, but now everybody has access to give the documentary the first 10 mins and see if it piques their interest enough to watch it until the end.
What do you think? Tell me on social media @thechicgeekcouk
Talking of fashion documentaries, TheChicGeek just reviewed Antonio Lopez: Sex, Fashion & Disco
Read more expert ChicGeek Comments - here
It seems there’s competition for Charles Jeffrey’s party crown. The young designer who gave us a gritty and sweaty club night presentation at the ICA and, last season, giant monsters running around the catwalk followed by a wave of dancers, isn’t the only one offering us a new interpretation of the London ‘Club Kid’.
At this afternoon’s MAN show, ‘Art School’ made its dramatic debut with a small collection that was big on personality and, despite really pushing the androgyny and drag of menswear, was a believable treat. Entitled ‘Queer Couture’, designers Eden Loweth & Tom Barratt, say it is ‘rooted in a cast who are emblems of trans defiance’ and ‘the unfolding narrative of a non binary paradise to be indulged in’.
Translated that means boys as girls and clothes moulded and designed around the wearer and not the usual conformist approach. Slutty Swarovski covered hooded mini dresses in scarlet red mixed with biased cut dresses and splits to the gusset. The only way of spotting the girls from the boys was to look at their legs.
Left & Right - Charles Jeffrey's 'Loverboy'
While exhibitionist, it felt real and believable. It could simply be the models’ conviction, but it felt more than that.
Charles Jeffrey’s first standalone ‘Loverboy’ show was an ‘orgy’ of ‘clothes made of dreams’. Labelled ‘Queer hedonism’, this time, it was a theatrical display that included a crocheted daisy thong and Elizabethan finery. Jeffrey has become a poster boy for this polysexual energy of the city’s young and while it’s caught their’s and our imagination, I can’t help but think it’s a shame there isn’t a bigger scene for all this go with. I’m thinking music and clubs, because, as we all know, this has been in decline for most of this century. Of course, there are pockets, especially in East London, but you feel like you need a New Romantic moment that resonates into wider society.
And, this brings me back to Jeffrey’s collection. While fun and entertaining, it felt more like costume and the clothes dictating the wearer. While the tailoring is there, Vivienne Westwood’s shadow was ever present, especially with the styling and Blackadder type Elizabeth I wigs.
It feels like he needs to go back to the club and think less about the show and spectacle of fashion week. There was too much going on and didn't feel as raw and as fresh as previous shows.
Left & Right - Art School
But one thing is for sure, London’s young is sandwich between high rents, student loans and low pay and need this. This is the generation where, while they have the freedom, they feel handicapped by the older generation and in a cultural landscaped that is being squeezed.
This is fashion that inspires the creative. It's time for a night of a escapism.