By Ruth Rowland
I was delighted to be asked to work on the cover lettering for fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham's book, Fashion Climbing. The book précis gives a brief but insightful overview of this extraordinary man's life:
Born in 1929 in an Irish suburb of Boston, Bill Cunningham dropped out of Harvard and moved to New York City to pursue a career in fashion. In 1948, he started his hat design business, ‘William J’ ; his hats were featured in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar and worn by Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy. In the 1960s the business closed and he became a fashion journalist and photographer.
In 1978, he joined the New York Times. In later years, Cunningham could regularly be seen on his bicycle, in his French workman’s jacket, photographing fashion trends for his columns ‘On the Street’ and ‘Evening Hours’. He was the subject of the acclaimed documentary Bill Cunningham, New York (2010) in which Anna Wintour confided that ‘we all dress for Bill’.
Bill Cunningham died in 2016, aged 87. He had always lived modestly, amidst ‘William J’ hatboxes and the filing cabinets housing his photographic archive. The prepared typescript of Fashion Climbing was found among his effects.
I decided on brush lettering to capture the vintage feel of the beautiful cover photography, while still retaining a contemporary edge. It was great to work on this project for Vintage, I'm often asked to create titles and author logos that capture the essence of a particular epoch and it was a pleasure to explore the stylish world of Bill Cunningham's New York.
I've had a fascination with design history since I studied it at art college and I can find myself researching styles as disparate as medieval calligraphy, mid-century handwriting and contemporary graffiti for commissions.
If you'd like to see more of my hand lettering for book covers for specific historic periods and people, take a look at my Wartime and Tudor books in my publishing folder. If you have a historic style you'd like created but don't see here, get in touch and we'll discuss it - I always enjoy the challenge of interpreting a new style of lettering to work with a cover design.