Is Style In The Eye of The Beholder? A Look at Fashion in Two Documentaries

Nowadays everyone seems to be a fashion editor, a professional photographer and even a designer. So, just to put things into perspective, I went back to the roots of some iconic roles in the industry thanks to two documentaries.

Fashion is a minefield and style even more so, but we live in the age of Instagram, The Sartorialist and The Blonde Salad. So it’s not surprising that not only do people flood the web with their personal ideas about looks, dress codes and trends, but they also try to capture them on camera in an attempt to replicate Scott Schuman’s fashion photography, or steal Chiara Ferragni’s recipe for success. By the way, no prejudice intended here: after all, isn’t fashion all about reinvention?

Poster for the documentary 'Diana Vreeland. The Eye Has to Travel' (2011).

Back to the documentaries, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011) is focused on the life and career of a woman whose name is probably most synonymous with fashion journalism. Long before Anna Wintour, I mean. As an editor and columnist at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, Diana Vreeland needs no introduction, as she probably invented these roles. Mixing old interviews with Vreeland and new contributions from fashion editors, photographers, models and designers, the documentary directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt and Frédéric Tcheng is a celebration of Vreeland’s spirit spanning almost a century.

Poster for the documentary 'Dior and I' (2014).

Dior and I (2014) took a different approach. Documentary filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng introduces the viewer to the atelier, the heart of the Christian Dior fashion house, by following newly appointed artistic director Raf Simons in his struggle to create his first haute couture collection for the iconic brand. Although here too the director uses old interviews with Dior himself, the presence of the founder is more felt when the camera captures the pride of long-time collaborators of the brand.

If Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel hints at the mythology of a woman that lived the Belle Époque and contributed to writing some of the most exciting chapters of the fashion industry, Dior and I opts for realism in a framework of immediacy (of course within the limits of a medium which is known to filter reality). But they both share a sense of legacy for which fashion still stands: creativity in a constant dialogue between past and present.