While there’s no easy way to sum up the momentous contributions Bill Cunningham has made to the fashion industry, it’s probably simplest to say he’s the man who invented street style photography. But that hardly does justice to the industry icon, who had an encyclopedic memory of runway shows and trends, noticed the smallest sartorial details (while often missing that they were often worn by enormously famous people) and who celebrated everyday New Yorkers’ style while wearing his trademark blue jacket in all weather. As Anna Wintour once said, “We all dress for Bill.”
Though he passed away in June, on Monday a large number of New York editors, friends, family and favorite photography subjects gathered at Carnegie Hall to pay tribute to Bill one last time. Among the notables paying homage to Cunnhingham: Wintour, the Times’ publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., Sandy and Joan Weill and even one of his nieces, who all spoke about Cunningham’s amazing eye for style and memorable personality. Didn’t swing an invite? Here’s what you missed.
His bike and blue jacket were a constant presence on stage.
Throughout the evening Bill’s bike with his signature blue coat draped over the handlebars leaned against a mock up of the 57 St. and 5 Ave street signs, his favorite corner to photograph, which has since been renamed in his honor. As speakers entered and exited the stage, many would stop for a moment to fondly pat the bike seat and pay a final remembrance to their departed friend.
Anna Wintour almost broke down in tears.
Though the Vogue editor-in-chief has a reputation for a frosty demeanor, while reading Lord Byron’s “So We’ll Go No More a Roving” in tribute to the late photographer, she began to get choked up, wiping away a tear as she made her way off stage.
Many of the speakers and guests wore blue in honor of Bill.
The fashion theme of the evening was decidedly cerulean, with guests and speakers decking themselves out in his preferred hue, adding thoughtful details like a bicycle pin or a cameo featuring Bill’s portrait.
Their were more fantastic hats in the crowd than in a Phillip Treacy showroom.
Those who have seen Bill Cunningham New York, the documentary about his life, know that Bill began his career as a milliner under the pseudonym William J. And throughout his life, he never lost his love for a show-stopping fascinator.
Bill loathed attention and fanfare.
Bill absolutely hated his birthday. In fact, for his last one, he tried to hide in the elevator and had to be coaxed out by his longtime collaborator John Kurdewan. As many remarked throughout the evening, the entire memorial was something Bill would have abhorred and been extremely embarrassed by. All the more reason to give this fashion legend the posthumous toast he so deserves.
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