FASHION ON FILM: UNZIPPED (1995)
by Jeremy Danté
NEW YORK – black and white grain hits the screen, as a familiar voice narrates a bad review of a fashion collection. it’s isaac mizrahi, 90’s fashion giant, unforgettable personality. while chaos ensues in the streets of new york city, i sit back and rather opt for a moment of 90’s nostalgia. with cinematography by ellen kuras and robert leacock; there was no greater cinematography mark than that of the black and white documentary, in the 90’s era. distributed by miramax on august 11th, 1995, ‘unzipped’ collected $2.8 million at the box office, becoming one of the highest grossing documentaries of the 90’s. much of my fashion obsession started with supermodels, but as a child i was too engulfed in music to pay attention to fashion at the same level in which i do now, but here what you have with this documentary is a solid piece of style heaven. all the icons were there, john galliano, andre leon talley, candy price, polly mellen. and let’s not even get into the model casting- naomi, cindy, christy, linda, kate- they were all there. you seen a young amber valetta being called a liar, when mizrahi asked where she was from, and she responded with, ‘oaklahoma’. as the first installment of my fashion documentary film series, i love getting into the spirit of show season by popping my favorite docs into the DVD player and reliving such moments. that sense of creativity is what fuels my interest in fashion. im not into the bullshit social structure, or the fact that the show goes off without a hitch- it’s that build up, the process where the clothes go from ideas to intensity- from sketch to being fitted on the model. originally suggested as a film choice by my good friend, sam, i scored my DVD of the documentary on a whim, in a local music store that has a wide range of indie film choices. to my dismay, i found the DVD in-store, after having failed at trying to locate a mint condition copy on the internet. the same day i failed, giving up on my search, i had hoped to snag an alternative choice instead, and there it was- ‘unzipped‘. i was shocked, and all the while too excited. the film did not dissapoint, and has fast become a favorite of mine, just as sam said it would. it showcases the entire duration of process, for what it takes to build a collection. before today’s industry of monstrous globalization; in the 90’s, even the fashion calendar functioned differently. a young anna wintour is even seen in the documentary, checking in to see the show, sans signature shades. the runway show serves as the films crowning glory of a finale; breaking the black and white aesthetic to unveil an iconic 90’s taste level. directed by mizrahi’s then boyfriend, douglas keeve, the film was put together perfectly. transitioning through dialogue that poetically narrates mizrahi’s creative process. showcased through top billing characters of the industry, the film was a collaboration with elle magazine, and many of it’s key editors of the time were seen throughout. the film was said to have put such a rift in the relationship between keeve and mizrahi, that it ultimately became reason for the couples split. a culmination of mizrahi’s spring 1994 collection, the bold colors and use of fur were quintessential of the 90’s, and created a wave of trend in all markets. i love the film for the reasons that it resonates so accurately of the time in which it was filmed. the documentary provides an overview of the potential held in the fashion industry at that time. it’s interesting to contrast the differences in production, the similarities in process and the importance of building content into fashion as well as story lines. the industry has aggressively expanded since then but it’s interesting to observe how it functioned differently. this show season, i’ve opted for a different approach to runway; instead, looking to retreat elsewhere to invoke the spirit of what i feel represents fashion, from a creative sense. while i do pay attention to the shows by force of habit, nothing has really jumped out at me. i guess there’s always paris. this documentary represents the true essence of fashion, or what it used to be, in new york. it was more casual and less about instant celebrity, it was more about the process, more about industry heads as friends. less about the social climb, at the face of things. while i don’t doubt that the industry hierarchy existed, even in the 90’s, in today’s society, specifically in new york- the social climb is seemingly inescapable. for lover’s of creative process, inspiration and design- this is a must see. a charming journey of inspiration.