The world lost a legend on Saturday, with the passing of iconic fashion photographer Bill Cunningham. The 87-year-old New Yorker—rarely spotted without his bike, blue workman's jacket, and camera—worked at The New York Times for some 40 years, capturing street style as it evolved.
Known for his kindness and fierce integrity, the photographer shied away from the spotlight—but he had many famous fans, nonetheless. "Another unicorn leaves us," Finnish model Tiina Laakkonen tweeted on Sunday, while Andy Cohen wrote: "What a wonderful, kind treasure he was." Vera Wang's touching tribute said: "As someone who was always supportive, kind, elegant and brilliant, I will miss your enormous contribution to fashion, but even more importantly, your passion and humility. You always called me 'child' and thanks to you, I will always try. Rest in Peace my dear friend. xxV" Even Anna Wintour once said: "We all dress for Bill."
But the shutterbug also communicated with those outside the industry, sharing his keen insights in a friendly, approachable way. His weekly video series for the Times chronicled New York's ever-changing fashions, flashing photos and offering commentary from Bill himself. The last such column gave us a peek at the trend toward black-and-white, graphic patterns, which he called: "fantastic."
Another recent video called out summer's off-the-shoulder trend. "It's wonderful," he said, crediting Proenza Schouler for the silhouette's resurgence.
Bill was delighted at the freedom of expression he spotted during another June shoot. Fashions ranged from political tees to flowered suits to bold yellow coats. "Everywhere you looked, there was liberation from the rigid dictates of fashion," he marveled. "Everything we treasure about this country was seen in capsule form."
In the springtime, Bill had his lens trained on pleated skirts. "The movement of the skirts is absolutely lovely," he enthused.
And in May, he noted the rise of colorful men's dinner jackets. "I suppose you could say the peacock is flaunting his plumage," Bill quipped, noting that the trend had its last peak in the 1960s.
The world will miss the photographer's week-by-week take on the state of fashion, but the mark he left on the industry is indelible. "His pictures taught me that while what was on the catwalks was interesting, it was what happened to the clothes afterward — how they were used, or not used — that really mattered," wrote New York Times fashion director Vanessa Friedman. "It wasn’t that he rejected fashion; he loved it, with a never-ending enthusiasm for discovery. But he understood that its power was personal."
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