This review was updated on May 11, 2005
Ten years after “Unzipped,” fashion photographer/filmmaker Douglas Keeve returns to feature-length documentaries with the similarly style-themed “Seamless.” Thoughtful pic revolves around competition for an award established by Vogue and other industry lions to help struggling young designers make the transition from promising catalog to profitable label. Unlike “Unzipped,” with its single focus on the charismatic Mizrahi, “Seamless” follows three of the 10 finalists, furnishing a quietly fascinating contrast in persona, approach and design. Strong docu could take a short walk down the theatrical runway before striding onto cable.
The stages of the competition block out the structure of the film, each section introduced by a calendar on which the panel’s agenda is neatly laid out: Notify finalists, visit studios, attend fashion shows, officiate at final jury, announce winner.
Crosscutting between his three protagonists, with occasional glimpses of the seven other hopefuls, Keeve catches his subjects in camera angles that reveal much about their very different lifestyles and creative processes. And perhaps only a seasoned fashion photog could film the contestants and their collections with such a clinical straightforwardness.
Quiet, shy Doo.Ri Chung commutes every day from New York to New Jersey and a workspace below her parents’ dry-cleaning store. Doo.Ri mainly flies solo — with a little help from her boyfriend/messenger, her father/shipper and her mother/zipper-sewer.
Alexandre Plokhov prefers not to talk about works in progress, admitting he once started out thinking about the American West and ended up with … parade uniforms? His crowning moment comes when Sarah Jessica Parker stops by to try on a tuxedo and turns out to be as obsessed (and impressed) by the fit of a sleeve as he is.
Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough are the youngest (both 26) and most successful of the entrants. While still in school, their senior collection was bought by Barneys. Yet even they are very far from making a profit.
Pic stresses how tough it is to make money in the fashion biz — from the model who exclaims over the irony of looking like a million bucks and going home to a tiny East Village flat, to the mavens who state it takes about 20 years to establish oneself and another five to make a profit. The panel constantly frets it might select a loser.
Tech credits are impressive without ever getting glossy. Glitz, celebs and finally even fashion take back seats in Keeve’s aesthetic to the internal rhythms of creativity and problem-solving.