Fashion and film have gone hand in hand since the dawn of cinema, from Clara Bow’s popularization of the then-newly introduced Little Black Dress in 1927’s “It” all the way to Rodarte’s “Star Wars”-inspired gowns of fall 2014. While moviegoers have always paid attention to the sartorial choices on screen, it’s taken a little longer for the lens to turn on the tastemakers themselves, rather than their creations.
Wim Wenders was one of the first auteurs to investigate the world of fashion through his 1989 documentary on Yohji Yamamoto, “Notebook on Cities and Clothes,” but clothing-based docs have proliferated in recent years, with a marked increase following the 2009 success of “The September Issue.” Much like the endless cycle of the fashion calendar, each new season brings a slew of introspective looks at the medium — exploring the hallowed halls of McQueen, Dior and YSL — and 2015 ushered in a multitude of docs to the screen (with Natalie Shirinian’s “Interior Motives” poised to examine the interior design world, come spring 2016). The selection of titles is as eclectic as the talents they showcase, but they share a through line: All serve to make fashion a main character.
1) “Dior and I”
DIRECTOR: Frederic Tcheng
RELEASED: April 10
BOX OFFICE: $1 million, domestic
LOGLINE: Focuses on newly appointed artistic designer Raf Simons as he launches his first haute couture collection for Christian Dior in spring 2012.
WHY IT MATTERS: By contrasting the differing approaches of Simons and his iconic predecessor, Tcheng excavates the similarities between the designers, revealing the humanity in both artists. The director’s interest in the inner workings of the atelier and the passionate craftspeople who populate it also adds a layer to an already diligent project.
CRITICS SAID: “Fast-rising helmer Frederic Tcheng privileges the creative process over stereotyped glamour or backstabbing in this multilayered, meticulously woven docu.” — Variety’s Jay Weissberg
2) “Fresh Dressed”
DIRECTOR: Sacha Jenkins
RELEASED: June 26
BOX OFFICE: Theatrical and VOD revenue not reported
LOGLINE: In his directorial debut, Jenkins explores hip-hop’s influence on the fashion world, tracking the connection between artists and music fans as they seek to assert their identity through style.
WHY IT MATTERS: The pic puts its subject into fascinating historical context, tracing the ties between the African American community’s style and musical tastes as far back as the Southern cotton plantations, through the gang culture of the ’70s, all the way to the rise of today’s hip-hop moguls.
CRITICS SAID: “‘Fresh Dressed’ doesn’t provide much in the way of fresh insight into the topic it’s covering. But the breezily likable pic benefits from an underexposed topic and solid execution.” Variety’s Geoff Berkshire
DIRECTOR: Albert Maysles
RELEASED: April 29
BOX OFFICE: $1.3 million
LOGLINE: A deep dive into the singular tastes of style icon Iris Apfel, who remains a fixture on the New York fashion scene even in her 90s.
WHY IT MATTERS: Maysles effortlessly captures the irreverent humor and individuality of his subject, whose quirky perspective guides us on a fascinating journey off the beaten path and into areas where lesser fashionistas would never dare tread.
CRITICS SAID: “A joyous celebration of creativity and razor-sharp wit sustained into old age … this character study proves as visually strong as it is verbally compelling.” Variety’s Ronnie Scheib.
4) “Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer”
DIRECTOR: Vlad Yudin
RELEASED: Sept. 18
BOX OFFICE: $250,000, from 10 theaters
LOGLINE: A trip into the celebrity-strewn world of the titular iconoclast, who currently serves as creative director of Moschino, in addition to designing stage costumes for Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Madonna.
WHY IT MATTERS: While he may not have the name recognition of some of fashion’s most enduring houses (yet), Scott has carved out an influential niche for himself by combining pop culture touchstones with an anarchic sensibility, making him one of the industry’s hottest commodities.
CRITICS SAID: “Anyone who follows Scott’s career in any depth may be frustrated by the film because the brush strokes are broad, and the focus feels more about the scrum and swirl around the man than the man himself.” Los Angeles Times’ Adam Tschorn
5) “The True Cost”
DIRECTOR: Andrew Morgan
RELEASED: May 29
BOX OFFICE: $500,000, all box office, VOD and streaming revenue
LOGLINE: An investigation into the human cost of fast fashion offerings, the doc takes viewers into sweatshops and cotton fields to illustrate the damage our desire for affordable style has wrought.
WHY IT MATTERS: Although it may not have answers, “The True Cost” aims to expand consumers’ awareness of how their money is being spent, serving as a conversation-starter for an evolving issue.
CRITICS SAID: “Offering few solutions beyond a single fair-trade fashion company, ‘The True Cost’ — whose serene interludes compete with sickening recordings of Black Friday shopping riots and so-called clothing haul videos — stirs and saddens.” New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis