Celebrating Bill Cunningham

… the legendary journalist, one of New York City’s most beloved photographers, who started his long career as a milliner.

At once elegant and whimsical, Cunningham’s hats were favoured by upscale clients who enjoyed wearing fashionable works of art. His beach hats were, in his words, ”a bit outrageous”. Woven raffia show-stoppers topped with cascading sprays of feathers or chiffon, the hats sported deep crowns created to to fit comfortably over the high-piled bouffant hairstyles of the early 1960s.

Cunningham opened his first millinery shop in a brownstone on East 52nd Street, where he cleaned for his landlords in exchange for living and work space. He then moved uptown o West 54th Street and to West 57th Street, before relocating to the Carnegie Hall Studios. In addition to hats, he also made muffs and masks, often of feathers. Cunningham regarded feathers as the ultimate ”objects of beauty”. 

Bill Cunningham is remembered today as a milliner, photojournalist and social anthropologist. His most treasured, life-long pursuit, however, was that of a loyal friend. Over the nearly seventy years he lived in New York, he touched a wide circle of friends with his energy, creativity, kindness and quiet humility. 

New-York Historical Society acquired a number of objects, personal correspondence, ephemera, and photographs reflecting the life and work of Bill Cunningham, including his bike, camera and iconic blue jacket. They were all on display between June and September 2018.

New-York Historical Society

June 23rd, 2018

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