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Illustrations by Joana Avillez

This is how my kind of style icons dress – in old clothes and in blue.

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Bill is the original street style photographer who sincerely believed that fashion doesn’t exist only on the runway, but as personally style in the streets. His simplicity while working in the glamorous industry is inspiring. I often hear “I love fashion. Hence I shop”. This man loved fashion too but he didn’t associate it with consumption. His apartment was lacking in furniture, a private bath and a closet ! He was known to not accept gifts from the PR. If anything did arrive, he would send it back. He did not eat or drink at the parties he attended. ( This is how you prevent bias, if you are a reviewer. ) His passion consumed him so much that he didn’t bow to the trappings of everyday life that domesticates most of us. In a documentary on his work, you see him put duct tape on a hole that develops in his jacket. “If you don’t need the money, you don’t let them own you”, he says with a smirk. He loved fashion enough to resign from a publication when they were using his photographs to make a column on who-wrote-it-right and who-got-it-wrong. He didn’t think there was a wrong way to wear a garment and it’s a matter of personal preference. Some quotes to remember him by :

“When I’m photographing, I look for the personal style with which something is worn — sometimes even how an umbrella is carried or how a coat is held closed. At parties, it’s important to be almost invisible, to catch people when they’re oblivious to the camera — to get the intensity of their speech, the gestures of their hands. I’m interested in capturing a moment with animation and spirit.”

“The problem is I’m not a good photographer. To be perfectly honest, I’m too shy. Not aggressive enough. Well, I’m not aggressive at all. I just loved to see wonderfully dressed women, and I still do. That’s all there is to it.”

“If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do.”

“Money is the cheapest thing. Liberty is the most expensive”

“It’s not work, it’s pleasure. That’s why I feel so guilty. Everybody else does work — I have too much fun.”

“I’m not interested in celebrities with their free dresses. Look at the clothes, the cut, the silhouette, the color. It’s the clothes. Not the celebrity and not the spectacle.”

“The wider world perceives fashion as frivolity that should be done away with. The point is that fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you can do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.”

“I could never concentrate on Sunday church services because I’d be concentrating on women’s hats.” The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been. Always will be.

“Fashion is as vital and as interesting today as ever. I know what people with a more formal attitude mean when they say they’re horrified by what they see on the street. But fashion is doing its job. It’s mirroring exactly our times.”

[ A documentary on him. His soon to be published memoir. ] 

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A similar one on the second hand market : 1, 2, 3.

This duster is the oldest garment in my closet. I tried to keep it off the blog because I do not want to sing praises of the fast fashion brand that makes it. But I adore it. In the last 6 years, I moved 10 times and decluttered a lot. It remained. Not as a garment that exists in the back of an overstuffed closet to make a guest appearance twice a year. But as a garment in heavy rotation during spring/fall season. It stopped me from buying more because I do not want to wear this one less often. I have gotten it mended twice. I will continue to wear it – in the spirit of Bill Cunningham. The photographers at Fashion Week wore a blue jacket to pay their tribute to the man. This blue jacket is my tribute.


 

Do you have a garment that honors the spirit of how he wore his blue jacket ? 

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Illustration by Wendy Macnaughton