Fashion Climbing is the story of a young man striving to be the person he was born to be: a true original. But although he was one of the city's most recognized and treasured figures, Bill was also one of its most guarded.
Set against a backdrop of postwar retail, high society and fashion, this obscenely enjoyable romp fills in part of the Cunningham back story and provides tantalizing peeks into the psyche of the guarded and mysterious Bill ... Bill’s quirky, unpretentious voice guides the reader through the postwar period of Manhattan glamour ... Fashion Climbing, with its truncated timeline, leaves the reader gasping for more ... His observations about fashion and culture sharpened over time. I can only hope there’s another installment lurking in his archives.
Fashion Climbing is delightfully dishy, snarky, judgmental, harsh, kind, adoring and ridiculously straightforward ... He was an incomparable observer of the New York social scene ... the most wonderful part of Fashion Climbing for this reader wasn’t the divine and transformative writing about the clothes or the parties, it was reading about all of Cunningham’s personal heroes — all women ... it is hard not to be gobsmacked reading it ... Fashion Climbing is smart and pure, revealing of a person’s sense of truth, self, business, confidence and wonderment at the world.
The language, full of phrases such as 'stitching up a storm' and 'a dope like me,' suggests that it was written in a pre-Internet age, but to the end, Cunningham always sounded like a man whose turns of phrase were firmly rooted in black-and-white Hollywood-ese ... It’s not so much the language that places his memoir in time, but rather its tenor. It’s upbeat and chirpy — free of today’s irony and angst-riddled navel-gazing ... Cunningham’s memoir is, to use one of his favorite words, a marvelous glimpse into the fashion world as New York was coming into its own ... He seems a bit of an unreliable narrator — unreliable because of sheer stubborn cheerfulness ... Cunningham writes with forthright simplicity ... He was profoundly private, and anyone who reaches for his memoir hoping that it will offer insight into his personal life will be disappointed ... Fashion Climbing is a letter from another era. It can be both charming and anachronistic.