Bill Cunningham is still influencing the world in ways even he could never have imagined.
The famed street-style photographer died last year at age 87. Now filmmaker and former Home Shopping Network chief executive officer Mark Bozek has collaborated with Apple Inc. to create a series of free in-store experiences inspired by Cunningham.
On Sept. 15, Bozek launched the first in a string of panel discussions focused on his yet-to-be-released film about the photographer at the Apple store in Manhattan’s SoHo. Comprised of rare interview footage of the late photographer taken in 1994, Bozek’s film will offer a glimpse into Cunningham’s artistic mind.
“Consider him something like [cultural anthropologist] Margaret Mead of society journalism,” remarked André Leon Talley, who joined Bozek and New York Times art director Carol Dietz during last week’s in-store presentation.
“I learned from him dignity, I learned from him to believe in yourself and to follow your own principles,” continued the former Vogue editor at large, whose own documentary, “The Gospel According to André,” will be released next year. “I’m really happy to do this and I really loved Bill Cunningham.”
For their part, Apple is embarking on an initiative led by senior vice president of retail Angela Ahrendts, whereby the tech giant will provide a more interactive offering to customers. Launched earlier this year and dubbed “Today at Apple,” the series of educational in-store events continues this fall with organized “photo walks” around all 497 global Apple stores. These events will enable customers to capture local street style (à la Cunningham) using their iPhone, of course.
Additionally, Bozek will hold similar panel talks about Cunningham in six other locations — Brooklyn, London, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo and Singapore. Fashion photographer Max Vadukul will lead the discussion in Williamsburg on Wednesday with others, such as photographer David Montgomery and designer Zandra Rhodes, joining the conversation in London later this week.
“Global! Global!” exclaimed Talley of Cunningham’s appeal. “He could go anywhere, talk to anyone and charm them. He was easily at home in a conversation with the greats like Diana Vreeland as he would be with you on the street.”
“The overall takeaway [with my film and the talks] is that Bill Cunningham is an amazing teacher,” observed Bozek. “He referred to himself as a fashion historian. This [film] is an hour and 15 minutes of fashion history like no one has ever heard before from a genius that knew it and studied it better than anybody I’ve ever known.”
“The Times of Bill Cunningham” will premiere in its entirety later this year, but for now, guests of Apple’s in-store experiences can view the film’s trailer. The footage, which was captured when Bozek was only 27 years old, was originally used in a one-minute video played at the CFDA Awards in the mid-Nineties.
“[Bill] felt comfortable and he gets very emotional, but very focused about what he wanted to tell,” noted the filmmaker. “If it was just repeating stories that are out there, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Drawing from his background as a retail executive and inspired by this collaboration with Apple, Bozek has cofounded with Russell Nuce a company called Live Rocket, which specializes in retail, brand and entertainment partnerships.
The nascent venture sets out to address the shifting tide of the retail market by producing and developing “new proprietary content and brands for retail and entertainment platforms,” with Cunningham leading the wave.
“It’s altogether fitting that [our first project would focus on] Bill Cunningham, a man who absolutely understood — long before most — the trends of not only fashion, but society and culture,” remarked Bozek. “He understood retail theater and [the] need to continuously maintain [relevance].”
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