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Eight uber-camp fashion films to binge after House Of Gucci – Dazed

2021 has been kind to fans of fashion moments vaguely affiliated with cinema: with the return of IRL red carpets, Zendaya has had a catwalk for each of her Dune press tour looks, while the BTS photos of Oscar Isaac’s Scenes From a Marriage fits, courtesy of costume designer Miyako Bellizzi, momentarily won the internet (I mean, who am I kidding? They’re still very much implanted in our brains and probably on a bunch of moodboards somewhere too). 
But what was the last really good, wildly stylish, properly juicy fashion film? A vehicle that excelled at marrying the tribes of aesthetics and pop culture, took a detailed look at the industry, and gave us something effortlessly camp in return? Where are this year’s Portfolio or Unzipped?
Fashion, it’s fair to say, is not typically afforded an easy ride on the big screen, with the industry habitually presented as shallow by cis white male directors (as per the wider film industry for most of the last century). An absurd number of features also centre, for one reason or another, murder, with models and designers alike meeting miserable ends a prominent fixture within the genre. A clever device to unpack the horrors of the industry? Perhaps. 
In amongst the tropes that pretend to hold up a mirror, however, there are productions that invite glamour, laughs, and real intrigue; cult classics that demand several re-watches purely because you want to hear a certain line uttered again. 
Which makes us think, was Ridley Scott pondering a similar disillusion when he began work on House of Gucci? Probably not, but the Lady Gaga vehicle has been on our minds ever since the first trailer dropped in July and the pop star uttered the words, ‘Father, Son and House of Gucci’. With its arrival at your local multiplex imminent, below we’ve rounded up some of the best films that feature the correct toxic combo (hot fashion, that is).
The first English-language film from Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, Blow-Up took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1967 and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director at the Oscars the same year. Almost a caricature in its execution, the film depicts a cheeky London scene at the centre of the swinging sixties during the swinging 60s. David Hemmings’s Thomas – a young photographer modelled quite obviously on David Bailey – gets high, flirts with would-be models, and begins attempts to solve a murder, which he’s caught on camera while taking voyeuristic pictures of a couple in a park. “A world where the beautiful and the bizarre take on new forms,” asserts the voiceover in the trailer. If you’ve not seen it you’ve definitely seen a poster of it in a university bedroom.
Before the Paul Thomas Anderson picture had even been released it was subject to drama: was it really going to be a Charles James biopic? Was it really going to be Daniel Day-Lewis’s last ever film? The reality was that no, Reynolds Woodcock (played by Day-Lewis) was a fictional character informed more closely by Spain’s Cristóbal Balenciaga than the American designer, but yes, to date at least, it was the actor’s big screen finale. Set in London in the 1950s, Phantom Thread tells the story of a haute couture designer who becomes enthralled by a young waitress he meets in a café; she quickly becomes his muse while their relationship ultimately turns ugly. Four years on, it’s still a favourite for Twitter’s meme-makers. 
“There’s Miss Maxwell. What a bitch!” cries an audience member at a fashion show in William Klein’s feature debut. “Who?” responds her neighbour. “The editor in chief who just walked in.” Starring Dorothy McGowan as an American model in Paris being followed by a French film crew, the black and white picture is a satirical depiction of an industry Klein, a celebrated photographer at the time, knew well. Modelled on the fashions of the era – metal frocks that cut into limbs drawing blood; the cropped ‘do and heavy eyeliner of Peggy Moffitt – Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? is both stunning and sometimes quite silly. 
A nod to the other American dream (becoming America’s next top model, of course), The Neon Demon explores beauty, youth, and jealousy, with Elle Fanning and Abbey Lee cast in the leads. “It wasn’t really until I decided to cast Elle that it became clear what the film was going to be,” director Nicolas Winding Refn told Dazed in 2016. Painting an extreme picture of the modelling industry – one which features cannibalism and casually loose mountain lions – Winding Refn pays credit to the picture’s name throughout, using glaring studio bulbs, evocative catwalk lights, and the twinkling houses of Los Angeles at night to construct a wholly fake environment. 
At one point set to star Barbra Streisand – she ultimately refused due to the “kinky nature of the story” but later sang the movie’s torch song – Eyes of Laura Mars is another narrative that marries murder and fashion. Starring Faye Dunaway as Laura, a photographer whose work is staged in the vein of Guy Bourdin (Helmut Newton was actually responsible for the photos used in the film), murder is a whisper in all her fashion images, and when her friends start being killed she becomes a suspect, such are the similarities between her work and some unpublished police photos. As with any study of a fashion shoot, there’s also a cameo from a wind machine.  
Perhaps one of the most iconic depictions of the fashion industry in the last decade, the Anne Hathaway vehicle remains quotable in most millennial circles. Bringing us Stanley Tucci as the gay fairy godmother (aka Nigel the art director), and Meryl Streep as a thinly-cloaked Anna Wintour type – as well as the endless discourse over who the real villain of the film is (Andy’s boyfriend Nate, obvs) – despite playing into a number of stereotypes about what people at fashion magazines are supposedly concerned about, there remains a cultural soft spot for this modern classic. Interestingly it also echoes scenarios of reality shows at the time – but unlike Lauren Conrad, Andy actually did go to Paris. 
Starring one Ms Diana Ross, Mahogany remains one of the few fashion-centred films with a Black lead and a Black director. Despite poor reviews on its release – much of it put on problems during production, with a change of directors and even Ross leaving before filming was completed (the title too, is highly questionable) – the film has endured as an early example of representation because of its impeccable ensembles, largely the work of Ross, and its interrogation of racism in the industry. Tracy (Ross) dreams of leaving Chicago for the fashion scene in Europe, where her designs will win her fame and potentially some kind of acceptance. When she finally makes it to Rome as a model, however, things don’t exactly live up to her expectations. 
Blocked by Karl Lagerfeld in Germany, Robert Altman’s comedy-drama from 1994 was apparently inspired by a Sonia Rykiel show he attended with his wife a decade earlier. “The lights went out, the music began, and I thought ‘so that’s it, it’s a circus’,” he’s reported as saying, “I’ve got to make a film about this!” With a stunning cast of some of the biggest names in film and fashion – think Julia Roberts and Sophia Loren, Naomi Campbell, Issey Miyake, and Christy Turlington – over the years the film has achieved cult status, beloved by those who infiltrate the same industry it parodies. The Lagerfeld rumour meanwhile is simply chef’s kiss.


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