Advanced Style is a documentary film that follows successful fashion blogger Ari Seth Cohen, whose blog of the same name has become something of a street style phenomenon in his native New York and beyond.
Street style blogs, websites and commentaries are a dime a dozen these days, and New York is probably home to the largest concentration of them. You want wacky? Colourful? Eccentric? Easy enough to find. But what if you want all of those things, plus a 50+ demographic? That’s where Cohen has found his niche. Photographing women of ‘a certain age’ and getting to know many of their personal stories and the inspiration for their elegant, outlandish and utterly unique sartorial styles has become his career. His blog is hugely popular (it’s spawned a coffee table book of the same name) and several of his favourite subjects are now almost minor celebrities in their own right.
Perhaps inevitably the success of his blog and his wonderful, memorable subjects has led to the making of the documentary which follows Cohen as he photographs several of the ladies who feature most prominently on his blog, and shows the development of Advanced Style from a blog paying homage to his stylish grandmothers to something of a media darling, with appearances on daytime TV and high fashion shoots with acclaimed designers.
As a storyline, the film doesn’t really follow a strong thread and is more of a collection of vignettes and interviews with the ladies of the blog. It’s a weakness to the documentary, but luckily the charisma, elegance, and sheer ballsiness of Cohen’s subjects make up for any of the lapses in cinematographic excellence. The 5 main women who feature are simply a delight. Ranging in age from 60 to 95, these women are all utterly unique and each has a wonderful story. The common thread with all of them is their attitude to ageing – that it’s a time to celebrate, to liberate yourself from the rigours of what is expected of you and embrace the colours, shapes, and styles that speak to you. One lady insists a woman should always have her nails polished and her lipstick on, another has spiky pink hair and becomes the face of a fashion campaign, yet another (at 93 years of age) still teaches a painting class and reads without glasses. Many have a wonderful knowledge of clothing construction, costume and fashion, and there is an infectious sense of fearlessness that is common to all the women in the film. It is inspiring to watch – and certainly made me feel like my wardrobe is drab and mainstream by comparison!
In addition to the wonderful ensembles and wacky accessories these dames wear as daily garb, the film also offers them an opportunity to give commentary on the fashion industry (cue disparaging remarks about the young, thin homogenous nature of fashion models these days) and plenty of enthusiasm for keeping young by exercising, getting out and about and having a great time.
For anyone who has even a slight interest in fashion, strong inspiring women and a fabulous attitude to ageing, Advanced Style is a must-see. You could take your 90-year old mother or your 12-year old daughter and everyone will have a fabulous time. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Natalie Ridler