Snap shots: ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ turns the camera on fashion’s most influential paparazzo

LENS ME A SHOE | The Times photographer documents foot fashion in ‘Bill Cunningham New York.’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Maybe Project Runway’s to blame, maybe The Devil Wears Prada, but for the past few years there has been a surplus of documentaries about the fashion industry, with profiles of designers like Valentino (Valentino: The Last Emperor), Yves Saint-Laurent (several in fact), even young designers (Seamless) and Vogue magazine’s editor (The September Issue). (By contrast, I can only recall one fashion doc from the 1990s: Unzipped, about a young designer named Isaac Mizrahi.) Is there really that much to say about dressmaking?

Maybe not, but while Bill Cunningham New York fits broadly within the category of fashion documentaries, its subject is unusual because he eschews the trappings of haute couture even as he’s inextricably a part of it — a huge part, really.

If you don’t read the New York Times, you might not recognize Cunningham’s name, and even if you do read it, it may not have registered with you. For about, well, maybe 1,000 years, Cunningham has chronicled New York society with his candid photos of the glitterati on the Evening Hours page. At the same time, however, he has documented real fashion — how New Yorkers dress in their daily lives — with his page On the Street, where he teases out trends (from hats to men in skirts to hip-hoppers allowing their jeans to dangle around their knees). Anna Wintour may tell us what we should wear; Cunningham shows us what we do.

“We all get dressed for Bill,” Wintour observes.

What makes Cunningham such an interesting character is how impervious he seems to the responsibility he effortlessly wields. He loves fashion, yes, but he’s not a slave to it himself. He scurries around Manhattan (even in his 80s) on his bicycle (he’s had dozens; they are frequently stolen), sometimes in a nondescript tux but mostly in jeans, a ratty blue smock and duck shoes, looking more like a homeless shoeshiner than the arbiter of great fashion. He flits through the city like a pixie with his 35mm camera (film-loaded, not digital), a vacant, toothy smile peaking out behind the lens, snapping the denizens of Babylon whether they want it or not.

One of the funniest moments is when strangers shoo him away as some lunatic paparazzo, unaware how all the well-heeled doyens on the Upper East would trade a nut to have Cunningham photograph them for inclusion in the Times. Patrick McDonald, the weirdly superficial modern dandy (he competed as a wannabe designer on the flop reality series Launch My Line a few seasons back), seems to exist with the hope that Cunningham will shoot him. And shoot him he does.

Many artists are idiosyncratic, even eccentric, but Cunningham is supremely odd by any standards. He lives in a tiny studio near Carnegie Hall filled with filing cabinets cluttered with decades of film negatives on the same floor as a crazy old woman, a kind of urban variation on Grey Gardens. He knows tons of people but most of them seem to know very little about him. By the time near the end when the filmmaker, director Richard Press, finally comes out and ask him outright whether he’s gay, Cunningham arches in that prickly New England way, never really answering outright, though he says he’s never — never — had a romantic relationship. Things like that were simply not discussed by men of his generation.

In some ways, we never really know any more about Cunningham at the end than any of his friends do, and perhaps even him. Cunningham comes across as defiantly non-self-reflective. He lets his work do all the talking for him. And that work has a lot to say on its own.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

Tim Gunn Says No Fur at Fashion Week

TIM GUNN X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMProject Runway host and Tim Gunn is using New York’s Fashion Week as a way to spread his “no fur” message.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  David Taffet

Latest health vlog: post-surgery doc visit, Hystersisters, and a fashion update

All right, all right. Don’t laugh at your blogmistress for her fashion update. After all, how fashionable can she be with a sore swollen abdomen and legs pokey from edema? Well I don’t have to be runway ready since I’m housebound much of the time — I’m only 11 days out from surgery and I cannot drive yet.

But tonight Kate took me out to dinner, so I “dressed up” in the outfit you see in the pic and in this vlog. The oh-so-fashionable sweater w/matching scarf is courtesy of a Macy’s fire sale rack plus a 25% off coupon discount = . Smart blogmistresses are cheeeep.

Oh, by the way, OT — Macy’s has a scam going on if you surf its web site. This same sweater is on there for an outrageous , but if you go into the store it was .99. Poor schmoes who dropped for this sweater. Beware of buying anything on its web site without checking your local store first.

Back to my health update. So in this vlog I discuss the doctor visit yesterday, where I learned that 1) my incisions are healing OK; the troublesome one is not infected; 2) the pathology report on my now-former uterus and cervix said it was cancer-free (YAY!); 3) I do need to watch the pain management. I tried toughing it out on ibuprofen alone over the weekend and boy that was a FAIL. I still need to take the oxycontin at bedtime since I need restorative sleep, and I was having insomnia on the ibuprofen. I don’t need the hardcore stuff during the day anymore.

The only other time I plan use it is if I overdo something and the pain ratchets up. I’ve been mostly sleeping (anyone notice I overslept and didn’t launch the DADT hearing liveblog until 10 min after 9AM today, LOLOL), or resting. Not exactly active. I haven’t been hungry, so keeping my blood glucose on track hasn’t been hard.

My challenge will be next week. I am going to attempt to drive. This was not going to happen had I not received my Hystersisters Abdominal Support Binder, which I show you in the video. Basically, gravity isn’t your friend post-op. I cannot lie on my side because it feels like my insides are going to fall out, which is actually pressure on the internal stitches. The binder, worn under your clothes and under or on top of your underwear, holds you in and feels wonderful because it is lightly padded and protects your incisions. I still use a bed pillow between me and the seatbelt when a passenger, so I will have to test whether driving with just the binder is workable yet.

So the fashion discussion in the vlog is the limitations of what I can comfortably wear – jeans will be out for some time. My doc said many women say after surgery that wearing jeans, which are thicker than other pants and have less give, even with Lycra, really cause a weird sensation in their abdomen, so that’s usually the last addition back into one’s wardrobe.

What am I wearing? Well since I’m home, it’s drab cotton nightgowns and a fleece robe (I have chills quite often; that’s caused by my ovaries and hormone fluctuations from the impact of surgery). As I say in the video, it’s going to be mostly loose dresses with long sleeve shirts/mock turtlenecks, and tunics with leggings, which are comfortable in my case. I also have a supply of the infamous knee-high socks (from my ill-fated Macy’s trip last week when I hurt myself) to go with the dresses. I’m not ready for tights yet. So I will be fashionably uncool but there’s nothing new there. Except for the knee-high argyles. :)

See the rest of my health vlog series.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

WATCH: Dallas singer Brandon Hilton releases ‘Glamour Zombie’

We’re waiting to see if Brandon Hilton can become the new Jeffree Star. Taking fashion and gender bending looks to similar levels, Hilton is working to push his Internet presence into a fame monster.It worked for Star who was recently signed to Akon’s label which is major.

In his newest single, “Glamour Zombie,” Hilton sings against a lot of blue glow stick light thingies. It’s a little dark, but you can see the white blonde hair and know it’s Hilton all the way.

—  Rich Lopez

Betty White: Fashion Boss

BETTY WHITE HOODIEBUDDIE X390 | ADVOCATE.COMIf Betty White asks you to sew, you better ask “How fast?”
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Anna Wintour + Marc Jacobs Cling to Heydays of Full Price Fashion

Vogue fashion editor Anna Wintour, who insists she is incredibly shy and should be your next Halloween costume, went on a national television show last night to make fun of people who like a good bargain. Hah! Just kidding. She's promoting Fashion Night Out, which is now a worldwide event to lure customers into designer and department stores to pay full price for the chance to hang out with Marc Jacobs in a kilt.

CONTINUED »


Permalink | Post a comment | Add to del.icio.us
Tagged: , , ,

Queerty

—  John Wright

Ladies only? Darn. Visions: The Women’s Expo at Dallas Market Hall starts today

We’d go for the food and the beef

This has caused quite a dilemma. If we were going to Visions: The Women’s Expo this weekend, we’d want to nosh on Fort Worth chef Scott Jones’ culinary demonstrations, but there is no way in hell we’d miss the Hot Firefighters Auction. Along with fashion shows, style makeovers and exhibitors, we are learning one thing — it’s hard to be a woman.

DEETS: Dallas Market Hall, 2200 N. Stemmons Freeway. Through Sunday. $10. VisionsExpo.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Watch: Men Making Fashion Statement Attack Gay Marriage

Harris1

My, the "traditional marriage" supporters in Harrisburg, PA are colorful and coordinated.

NOM Tour Tracker photographed this group from the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property on NOM's penultimate stop in Pennsylvania.

They also interviewed the group's lead twink, who is adamant about his definition of a family.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP

Harris2


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Watch: Men Making Fashion Statement Attack Gay Marriage

Harris1

My, the "traditional marriage" supporters in Harrisburg, PA are colorful and coordinated.

NOM Tour Tracker photographed this group from the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property on NOM's penultimate stop in Pennsylvania.

They also interviewed the group's lead twink, who is adamant about his definition of a family.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP

Harris2


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Gay designer Alexander McQueen commits suicide

Fashion designer Alexander McQueen was found dead yesterday. It’s being reported that he committed suicide but details are still developing.

Although there is no word the British designer’s collections were part of the lineup, Fashion Week in London is set to start next week.

—  Rich Lopez