Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs

Image of Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs
Release Date: 
September 4, 2018
Penguin Press
Reviewed by: 

“Bill Cunningham was a New York institution, part of what made NYC the fashion capitol of the world.”

This book is the story of Bill Cunningham, the person, not the public persona as we knew him, but the trajectory of a New England boy who had far grander plans than being a stock boy at Jordan Marsh, despite parental objections.

Hilton Als said, “Bill Cunningham gave the world his delight in the possibility of you. You wanted to pull yourself together . . . to gather together the existential mess and bright spots called your ‘I’—the minute you saw Bill’s skinny frame bent low near Bergdorf’s on Fifth Avenue and Fifty Seventh Street, his spot, capturing a heel, or chasing after a hemline, because here was your chance to show love to someone who lived to discover what you had made of yourself.” 

There is a joy, exuberance, and especially warmth that exudes from Fashion Climbing because the story is told in Cunningham’s words and not by a biographer. The reader becomes absorbed, entranced, and even emotional when reading this man recount his life before he became that smiling face in the blue jacket that was ubiquitous at every fashion show, city street, and event in New York City as well as at 57th Street and 5th Avenue. That corner has since been renamed in his honor.

Unquestionably this is a book for New York fashionphiles or anyone who has followed Cunningham through the years via The New York Times. Some will call it an exposé, a baring of the soul or simply a biography, but no matter what you might call it, the end result is the same: he is dearly missed and remembered fondly.

Cunningham truly opens a Pandora’s Box that exposes his underrated and possibly hidden talents extending beyond the back of a camera, a devilish sense of humor as well as a reminder of his contagious charm and his neverending smile.

Bill Cunningham was born to be in fashion, and as trite and corny as it may sound, fashion was his passion; he became part of the world he had only dreamed of as a boy. He was as much of the world of fashion as any top tier designer or socialite. His stories are classic in that they show us aspects of his personality and past that are wildly amusing and show off Cunningham in a way that makes you laugh.

Fashion Climbing is a must read for anyone who is involved in fashion in any way. Bill Cunningham was a New York institution, part of what made NYC the fashion capitol of the world.