x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Fashion goes to the movies for a month

Popcorn at the ready: another month of themed films starts at the Dubai hangout Shelter tonight. Get yourself down to the Al Quoz club for the first in a four-week series of fashion-themed flicks.

Curated by Tima Ouzden, the stylist and scribe of the fashion blog, Howdjuwearit, proceedings kick off at 8.30pm with the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens, followed a week later with last year's Coco Avant Chanel, then Hitchcock's Rear Window. It is all wrapped up with the documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor at the end of the month.

"With all the fashion-related films that came out in the last two years that we don't really get to see in cinemas here, it was something that's been on my mind for a while," says Ouzden, explaining the decision to hold a specifically fashion-themed film month. Having mentioned it in passing to Saadia Zahid, Shelter's director, Ouzden was given the green light. Then came another decision: what exactly to pick. If you reflect on the number of films that have been released concerning the fashion industry or connected to it in some way, even just from recent years, there are several worthy contenders. The September Issue, perhaps, or The Devil Wears Prada for a lighter touch. Tom Ford's most recent success A Single Man; maybe the aforementioned Coco Avant Chanel or one of the other two recent depictions of her life. Even Zoolander or Bruno, if you wanted to have a bit of fun with the subject.

Ouzden wanted her choice to be as broad as possible. "I thought it would be more interesting to show films that are connected to fashion in different, sometimes not such obvious ways, rather than just showing fashion documentaries which might only attract a certain audience." Hence, her final selection. Grey Gardens is the tale of the reclusive East Hampton mother and daughter, both named Edith Beale. Cousins of Jackie Onassis, they shared their decaying house with an increasing number of fleas and cats until the late 1970s when Big Edie died and Little Edie sold it.

Tonight's screening is of the original documentary made in 1975, which brought their story to public attention, not last year's film remake starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. It was chosen, explains Ouzden, as "a documentary about women who inspire designers". Next comes Coco Avant Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou as the young Chanel. As the title suggests, the French film skips through her early years, the foundations of her label and two of her great love affairs. It won four Baftas, and clocked up an Oscar for Costume Design for its French costumier, Catharine Leterrier. Shot by a female director (Anne Fontaine), it offers, says Ouzden, an "unapologetic" insight into Chanel's formative early years, "which she always wanted to escape".

Rear Window, often considered Hitchcock's finest work, is the 1954 release in which a photographer, housebound with a broken leg, spies on his neighbours. It's not such an obvious fashion choice, but it is a film in which Grace Kelly stars as a fashion consultant and her wardrobe has been much pored over ever since. "It's enjoyable on so many levels," says Ouzden. "From the plot, to cinematography, to dialogues and costumes by an award-winning costume designer." The designer responsible, the heavily bespectacled Edith Head, still holds the record for having earned more Oscars (eight) than any other woman in history, and worked with other greats such as Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and Elizabeth Taylor.

Ouzden has left her favourite of the quartet until last: it's a documentary about the iconic designer Valentino Garavani. Painstakingly detailed, the film was created from over 250 hours of footage shot by a team that had unprecedented access to Valentino and his inner circle. It was produced and directed by Matt Tyrnauer, a Vanity Fair writer, and offers an insightful look at the life of one of the 20th century's most important couturiers.

Of the crowd attending the screenings, Ouzden says she has no idea whom to expect - whether fashionistas or film buffs. It's simply aimed, she says, at arousing wider interest in the films. "Fashion is often regarded as superficial and niche by many. I am hoping, in the context of fashion movie nights, to show that fashion is part of everyone's life and everywhere around, in so many ways."

Films will begin every Tuesday evening in June at 8.30 at Shelter, Dubai (). Tickets Dh15 (members free). www.shelter.ae