In Memory of Bill Cunningham

A few weeks ago, I rewatched 'Bill Cunningham New York'. Whenever I need some inspiration, or I need a reminder as to why I aspire to work in the fashion industry, I watch the documentary about the arguably first street style photographer, Bill Cunningham. His commitment, passion and humble attitude to his remarkable career always leaves me equally tearful and inspired. 
Last week, the heartbreaking news broke that he had, at the age of 87, passed away. So many members of the fashion world have been writing words of respect and remembrance for this wonderful man. 

Anna Wintour famously stated that "we all get dressed for Bill", and his interest in the fashions on the streets was innovative. He, himself, said that he was "not interested in celebrities, in their free dresses". I think this is important. As a fashion history student, I'm constantly taught about the 'trickle-down' theory. The Trickle Down Theory was first coined in 1899 by American economist and sociologist, Thorstein Veblen in his book The Theory of the Leisure Class. It discusses the idea that the fashion worn by the upper class were  then imitated by the lower class. [1] That is to say that fashions start from the elite and design houses, before 'trickling-down' to the high street and by the time 'ordinary people' wear a trend, it is already out of vogue. Much like Miranda Priestley's famous cerulean jumper speech from 'The Devil Wears Prada'. However, in post-modern society, there has been a shift from high culture to popular and sub- culture as the main influence on fashion trends. This is also reflected in the way fashion is distributed  throughout the different classes of society. This is called the 'Bubble Up' Theory. “Instead of trickle-down, bubble-up. Instead of the bottom end of the market emulating the top end, precisely the reverse.” [2] Unlike the 'trickle down' idea, this theory suggests that the creativity of the ordinary is used as inspiration for trend forecasting, and thus influences the upcoming trends of the designers newest collections. Street Style is a huge factor in the evolution of 'trickle down' to 'bubble up'.  

Bill Cunningham's infatuation and introduction of the everyday fashions of the people of New York, and Paris, pioneered Street Style. His 'On The Street' feature of the New York Times are collages of images he had taken on his old school film camera, riding around New York on his push bike in his blue jacket. 
I will now share some of my favourite, and of course black heavy, 'On The Street' pages from the New York Time's fashion pages. 

[1] Clothing and Fashion Encyclopedia (2009) Theories of Fashion, http://angelasancartier.net/theories-of-fashion
[2] Polhemus, Ted (2010) “Streetstyle”, viewed 6th September 2012, http://www.tedpolhemus.com/main_concept6%20467.html


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