"He who seeks beauty will find it." (Bill Cunningham)

If you haven't seen it yet, rent Bill Cunningham New York. Now. Rent it now! (If you have Netflix, you can download it as an "Instant watch.")

Do you know of Bill Cunningham? He's the genius behind the New York Times Sunday Style section, On the Street. It's that full page of photo after photo of folks on the streets of NYC —  maybe they're all wearing faux leopard hats or toting bright red purses or are all in plaid elephant pants. Cunningham also shoots the pics for Evening Hours, a Times column full of socilaites, artists, fundraisers, gala-goers, and the like.

Thank goodness my good friend, Laurie Wagner, insisted the other night that I watch this film immediately. Because it is absolutely filled with beauty. And here's the best part — kind of a spoiler, I suppose— the beauty is not so much in the gorgeous fashions BIll Cunningham chases down and photographs, but the beauty is in his simple joy, in his infectious chuckle, in his devotion to what makes him feel alive.

What I love so much is that Bill lives in a tiny apartment, sleeps on a cot balanced on stacks of books, and repairs his rain poncho with duct tape. He attends lots of high-ticket gala events, but isn't interested in names or celebrity; it's the innovation and creativity he's after. I love that Bill knows — and is esteemed by — all the fashion mavens, yet his daily attire consists of jeans and his signature blue jacket, which was inspired by Parisian street cleaners.

Bill lives simply, eats simply, and dresses simply, yet, he goes out on the streets every day and fills himself with color, lines, and texture. He seeks, and finds, beauty every day in a myriad of unexpected ways — and he discovers it in people from every walk of life. If his wide smile is any indication, Bill is rich beyond measure.

Bill said, "Some people think fashion is a frivolity that should be done away with in the midst of social upheaval and problems that are enormous." But "fashion is the armor to survive the realities of everyday life."

In this film, through his eyes, we get to see fashion as a way to not only survive, but thrive. Fashion is self-expression. It is yet another form of beauty and art — available on the streets, anytime and anywhere, free for the taking to anyone who seeks it.


Photo copyright New York Times

About the film