On Saturday night, the New York Times confirmed we had lost the world’s greatest street style photographer following a stroke: Bill Cunningham.
The 87-year-old worked for the New York Times for nearly 40 years as a “dedicated chronicler of fashion and as an unlikely cultural anthropologist”, and tributes to the photographer show just how well respected he was.
Michael Kors wrote: “Without the great photographer Bill Cunningham, there would be no street style. Talent, taste and kindness in abundance!!! RIP Bill.”
Rihanna, meanwhile, added: “First rule in this thang – when Bill asks for a picture…pose bitch!”
And Lena Dunham? “Saw Bill out and about doing his thing for the first time when I was seven – I didn’t know who he was but I knew he made everyone important stop and adjust.
“It was the exact same vibe when I saw him a month ago, fancy people suddenly unsure in the presence of this special eccentric. He was powerful but he was gentle and kind.”
Cunningham’s career in the fashion industry began as a milliner in the 1940s before landing a job as a columnist for Women’s Wear Daily. Since, clad in his signature electric blue jacket, Bill paved the way for a street style phenomenon that has taken the fashion world by storm.
Speaking in his 2010 documentary, Cunningham New York, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour said, “I’ve said many times that we all get dressed for Bill.”
Bill added, “I’m not interested in celebrities with their free dresses. I’m interested in clothes.”
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And despite having made such a big name for himself, Bill’s humble roots stayed firmly put. The documentary showed his single bed in the same studio he had occupied since moving to New York, while he added, “If you don’t take money, it can’t tell you what to do.”