The Original: Bill Cunningham

What makes us original? Is it the clothes we wear or the things we do that make us original? Today, in this Victorinox Swiss Army The Original special we look back at the man that pioneered street style photography, Bill Cunningham.

Did you know that before the rise of streets style photographers , Bill was already documenting fashion on the streets for the past 50 years? Before Scott Schumann, Garance Doré, and Facehunter, before self proclaimed bloggers/photographers (maybe both), before the internet, heck even digital cameras there was Bill. Hailed as the pioneer of street style photography, Bill roamed the streets of New York on his bicycle and his trusty 35mm Nikon documenting fashion in New York. “The best fashion show has always been on the streets. Always has been, always will.” Bill says in his 2011 documentary film Bill Cunningham New York.

It reportedly took the movie’s producer 8 years to convince Bill to be filmed for this documentary. The movie reveals a stubborn man who goes about pursuing his passion without payment. “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid,” Bill says. A recluse, he lives outside Carnegie Hall in a studio without a kitchen and bathroom, which he finds unnecessary. Born in a working class family in 1920, Bill dropped out of Harvard University and had a short stint in advertising before quitting to pursue his love for making hats under the name “William J”. Aftere being drafted in Korean War during WWII, Bill returned to New York and found a job as a writer for the Chicago Tribune where he contributed as a fashion journalist. After receiving his camera as a gift, Bill started snapping the streets where his photos were published at the New York Times for the first time in December 1978, creating a completely unique way to tell his story of the fashion world. Today at the ripe old age of 80 years old, Bill can still be found roaming the streets, doing what he loves to do. Watch the preview of Bill Cunningham New York below and be inspired.


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