Fashion week is in full swing, with only London and Paris left to showcase the best designs from some of the top houses in the industry. My Instagram feed is already flooded with various #ootd posts from editors and style personalities, as well as top (and weird) looks from labels - erm, what's happening at Gucci?
Anyway, for those of us who are not tottering about and pounding the pavements hoping for the street style photographers to snap a picture of our outfits, it is time to immerse ourselves in some fashion films. Unsurprisingly, Netflix is filled with recently released documentaries on fashion luminaries. Now, a good fashion film, according to Vogue.com, has the power to spark fantasy, affirm career aspirations, and inspire style.
Here, at THE FIFTH COLLECTION, we're obsessed with the behind-the-scenes look at the industry we love so much. Fashion films give viewers a rare backstage access to some of the world's most prestigious maisons and the results are as fabulous as the gowns created within them. Take it from me, I've spent countless hours watching some of the best documentaries on Netflix. Call it, my version of Netflix & Chill.
In this issue, I list four must-watch films/documentaries that will keep you sartorially inspired for weeks to come.
In the latest fashion documentary to land on Netflix, noted fashion personality Iris Apfel observed that the "fashion industry has been dying in its own grave, and people like Dries keep the flame alive. He is a treasure and should be treated as such". Apfel is, of course, speaking about the low-key Belgian designer Dries van Noten, who is known for his eclectic prints, colourful patterns, often richly hued and ornately embellished, as well as designs that are so precise and technical, they are much revered and befitting of a master tailor.
In the documentary, we get a glimpse of his formative years, beginning with his graduate collection, and how van Noten, along with five other Antwerp fashion school graduates (dubbed "Antwerp Six") began defying the rules of fashion in the 1980s.
What I loved about the documentary was the fact that while the focus was on van Noten's many triumphs, a considerable amount of screentime was devoted to the designer talking and reflecting about his failed collections - those that were poorly received (especially in the beginning part of his journey).
The Antwerp Six
What is it? Filmed over an entire year, the fashion documentary takes on an intimate portrayal of one of the world's most successful designers - Dries van Noten. It follows his journey creating four of his colour-rich collections.
Who is it for? A must-see for those keen to enter the design side of the industry.
Don't watch if... you're looking for catty fashion drama. For that, stick to Project Runway or America's Next Top Model.
2. The First Monday in May
From the slow motion footage and montage featuring Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence and Lady Gaga posing for the cameras on the red carpet, this documentary promises an intimate behind-the-scenes look at one of fashion's most anticipated events. But more than that, The First Monday in May gives viewers insider access into the Met Gala, as well as trace chronologically the work that creates the glamour and the ambitious exhibition it’s built around, 2016's China: Though the Looking Glass.
Fashion, as Anna Wintour notes in the documentary, is a kind of theatre. And theatrical this documentary is. Viewer's "VIP access" includes ogling at the stars such as George and Amal Clooney sharing an intimate embrace, and Lady Gaga joking about needing a “mainline of pinot grigio”. But the most interesting character in the entire documentary is, of course, Wintour. It is fascinating to watch how she is intimately involved in every decision concerning the event as well as the exhibition. This includes the design of the napkins and the tablecloths and the seating chart for the guests. Not surprising seeing that her guests are made up of a group so staggeringly famous that figuring out where to put them, as Vogue.com describes, is like "playing chess with pieces who will walk off the board if they don’t like the square they’re on".
What is it? The film follows the creation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's most attended fashion exhibit in history: the 2015 art exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass by curator Andrew Bolton at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Who is it for? Vogue lovers and those who can't get enough of the Met Gala fashion. Also, for those who are interested in the curation process of a fashion exhibition.
Don't watch if... you want to see Rihanna and the behind-the-scenes look at how she was dressed for the Gala night, and stole the show.
3. Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards
This is the life story of the shoe maestro Manolo Blahnik and how he went from fantasy shoes, which had construction issues (models could not walk at all in his impossibly high first collection) to opening his first store in London, right up to designing shoes for the Hollywood Gliteratti.
There are some interesting and insightful interviews with the likes of Anna Wintour, who provided a commentary on Blahnik, as well as Andre Leon Talley, who compared Blahnik to Baudelaire. But if anything, the documentary was too much talk and way too little design - or shoes. It would have been more interesting the design process, or perhaps archival pieces for celebrities and/or VIP clients. I mean, we all want an all-access-pass and we all want to know the gossip.
What is it? An in-depth portrait of master shoe designer Manolo Blahnik and a behind-the-scenes look into the world of the fashion icon.
Who is it for? Shoe lovers, and Sex & the City fans - basically those who, like many, started speaking the language of Manolos after watching Carrie Bradshaw and her obsession with the shoes.
Don't watch if... you're not the kind who'd sit through countless interviews.
4. House of Z
Here's the thing: I actually do like Zac Posen. He is, indeed, a talented young designer who were was in the right place, at the right time. As soon as the romantic gowns and dresses came on to the runway of New York Fashion Week, they were seen on some of the most high-profile actresses in Hollywood. But therein also lie the problem. His meteoric rise to fame caused Posen to crash spectacularly back down to earth. For many seasons, it seemed that the world is done with him.
This documentary thus traces the rise of this talented designer, his subsequent fall from grace, and his slow climb back up. Let's face it, we may love a good crash-and-burn story but if there's one thing we love more, it's a story of the comeback kid. Fashion, as Posen observed in the documentary, "has a dark side. Not all runways and lipstick and fishtail gowns". I think what I really liked about this show was how genuine Posen seemed while reflecting and reminiscing about his past. One can tell how passionate he is as he tries to fight back tears while talking about his failures and the subsequent slow climb back to the inner circles of fashion. Definitely something to watch!
What is it? A documentary that chronicles the meteoric rise of fashion designer Zac Posen, his epic fall from grace, and his challenge to rebuild his company and his reputation.
Who is it for? Romantic design lovers and those who can't help but heartwarming against-all-odds type of films.
Don't watch if... don't want to start crying.
So, have you watched any of these? Or tell us which one (of the many) you love more -- and which documentary we NEED to watch ourselves!