Bill Cunningham's Secret Memoir 'Fashion Climbing' Will Be Published in September

Just in time for Fashion Week.

Bill Cunningham will have the last word on his remarkable life. The famous street-style photographer left behind a "secret" memoir when he passed away in June of 2016 at the age of 87.

According to the New York Times, where Cunningham worked for almost 40 years, the discovery of this autobiography, titled Fashion Climbing, came as a surprise to his family.

“Bill kept his family life in Boston and his work life in New York very separate,” Cunningham's niece Trish Simonson said. “He told us stories over the years, but nothing that painted a full picture of what he did and how he came to do it. The drafts of the memoir we found, titled and edited and written in his own unmistakable voice, filled in a lot of blanks of how he made it from here to there, and what he thought along the way.”

Christopher Richards, who works as an editor at Penguin Press, which acquired the manuscript at auction, says the draft "seems so unexpected."


“He really didn’t divulge anything about his life to his friends and his colleagues. He was so private. I think it was a shock,” he told the paper. 

The book reportedly documents Cunningham's life from his childhood and service in the Korean War to his early millinery business in New York and the beginnings of his photography career. It will also tell the story of a young man from Boston, who didn't quite fit into his Irish Catholic family.

“It’s a crime families don’t understand how their children are oriented, and point them along their natural way,” reads a line from the book. Another excerpt published in the Times, which describes the abuse Cunningham faced for trying on a dress, is almost hard to read.

“There I was, 4 years old, decked out in my sister’s prettiest dress,” Cunningham wrote. “Women’s clothes were always much more stimulating to my imagination. That summer day, in 1933, as my back was pinned to the dining room wall, my eyes spattering tears all over the pink organdy full-skirted dress, my mother beat the hell out of me, and threatened every bone in my uninhibited body if I wore girls’ clothes again.”

But despite the sometimes difficult passages about his family, the Times describes the book overall as "a rosy account of an irrepressible dreamer," one who truly made it in New York.

The book will reportedly be published this September, as the Times pointed out, "just in time for fashion week."

*This story originally appeared on
*Minor edits have been made by the editors

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