Rating: Three and a half stars
Since “eccentric” and “fashion designer” have become almost laughably synonymous, it was hard not to assume Jesse Mann’s documentary on Toronto designer Bruno Ierullo would be another predictably excessive and tiresome portrayal of an over-the-top character. Happily, Mann’s fly-on-the-wall glimpse of Ierullo preparing, over a period of just a few weeks, for his inaugural 2009 Toronto fashion collection showcasing 300 of his kaleidoscopic garments, is as down-to-earth as her passionate subject. It eschews glam and gratuitous sizzle to focus on the fretting, stitching, fabric shopping, debating and creative energy that goes into such a high-risk undertaking. And while Ierullo is as colourful a character as his eye-popping creations, Mann focuses more on conveying the workday reality of the life this obsessive nice guy lives — the organic process of design and execution. Against this frenzied backdrop, Mann effectively captures Ierullo’s refreshing humanity, decency and obvious respect for his loyal, tireless collaborators, chiefly Susana Benavides, his maternal, all-knowing and endlessly patient production manager. You’ll find yourself rooting for them as the clock ticks closer to the runway show, a staggering endeavour we learn was inspired by a life-changing personal tragedy Ierullo has overcome. It’s also a validation of what ambition, perseverance, a strong work ethic and a respect for traditional values can yield — in the fashion world, or elsewhere.