I didn’t know that it was Bill Cunningham who was behind the lens of the camera that captured New York’s most stylish moments, and one of my favorite parts of the New York Times, until I saw the documentary Bill Cunningham New York back in 2008. I thought the creator of that column must be a hip young thing that had a sharp eye for the fickle world of fashion, a stylized version of a super cool New Yorker, decked out in the latest trends. Instead, the creator of that column was an unassuming and thrifty, totally sensible and unfashionable Boston born man who peddled around New York on his bike with his camera, and an eye for trends and personal style. He was the earliest and classiest member of the fashion police.
I’ve loved fashion since I made clothes for my Barbie dolls back in the day. Bill Cunningham loved it too. As a little girl from a small town in Connecticut, I lived for the trends he picked up, the photo montages of black and white clothing, or the hot handbag, or the latest shoe trend–New York women with sweeping-the-ground capes, and oversized furs, and strappy summer dresses. Who hasn’t gazed at that column and felt like they were getting a little insider info, like Bill was letting us in on a fashion secret?
In 2009, New York named him a living landmark. I know he has had landmark impact on me. I will miss his sharp eye, his stylish editorial on one of the world’s most fashionable cities, that ever-present column that was as reliable as the air. Some people bring color to the world, some fashion. Bill Cunningham, clad in his utilitarian blue French work coat and khaki pants brought the details of personal style from behind his lens. I will miss his perspective.
He had a remarkable style all his own.