Bill Cunningham was one of the original street style photographers. He dropped out of Harvard and moved to New York, aged 19 to pursue his first love, fashion. Soon Bill became a celebrated milliner, creating elegant designs for movie stars and socialites of the 1950s. However, when hats fell out of fashion as daily wear, his business suffered and he was forced to close.
Optimistically, Bill reinvented himself as a fashion journalist and photographer. In the 1970s he joined the New York Times and in later years was regularly spotted on his bicycle photographing fashion trends for his columns, On the Street and Evening Hours.
Fashion Climbing is his secret memoir and was discovered as a complete manuscript, following his death in 2016, aged 86. What makes his memoir so interesting, is that he was an extremely private person. However, in Fashion Climbing, he shares childhood stories, including his mother discovering him, aged four, dressed in girls' clothing.
While he shares little of his adult personal life, it is clear that Bill enjoyed the creativity and freedom of New York, away from disapproving family. Fashion Climbing includes never published photographs discovered in his archives and is a delightful snapshot of mid-century New York.
Reviewer: Andrea Molloy Chatto & Windus, RRP $40.00