Good Reads: Fashion Book Guide 2017

Happy 2017! Boy, does it feel good to begin a new year and wipe the slate clean. I love the promise of a new year – how can you better yourself? How will you make this the best year ever? How can you reach your goals? If you are anything like me you might write down a list of resolutions and targets you wish to achieve in a diary or so but to be honest… I never look at the list after the second week of January and somehow fall into poor habits yet again… (“But NO! This will be the year I shall NOT slouch” reassures my naive millennial brain) To be realistic though resolutions don’t work unless we really want to gain something out of them. And this year I am making a rule to read more. I love to read but I somehow find less and less time to sit down, switch off the day to day stress and delve into an imagined world or a different century. This year I will find the time. So below is a curated list of my Top 10 Must read fashion books and their accompanied synopsis for anyone within the industry or passionate about the subject. So sit back, cuddle up with a hot cocoa (soy, almond, hazelnut, coconut, oat, cow, sheep -am I missing any?-milk of choice) crack open a hardy read and relish the joys of a good book 🙂

  1. Inside Vogue by Alexandra Shulman

From the moment I unwrapped Inside Vogue on Christmas morning – I felt a twang of excitement as I flicked through the dry pages and caught key words such as Victoria Beckham, Karl Lagerfeld and Haute Couture. How thrilling it is to read a first hand account from one your ultimate role models. Of course, the joy of books is being able to enter a new world, a different time and shape shift to your heart’s content, but with Inside Vogue you feel like yourself, sitting down with Alexandra Shulman herself at a local cafe, who is chatting to you about the marathon of Vogue’s centennial year – filled with its fair share of highs and lows of organising the National Portrait Gallery Exhibition, Vogue Festival, Vogue 100 Gala, and a secret cover featuring the Duchess of Cambridge.

This authentic, human story continues throughout the diary and enables you to feel welcome in a very exclusive world – almost like you are “in the loop” exposed to candid opinions and observations about other industry members. I personally found it was utterly refreshing when Ms. Shulman called out a certain photography duo for simply not acting professional. Nice to know that the rules our parents taught us still apply, even in a very high-profile fast paced setting.

Not only does Inside Vogue satisfy the curiosity of the fashion hungry, desperate for a peak behind the scenes, but the diary outlines a significant year full of unimaginable volatility. September 2015- July 2016 saw a rise in global terrorism and heartbreaking migration. These were the months leading up to Brexit and Trump’s presidency. I would imagine that in many years to come, this first hand account will gladly be referred to in describing the subtle, yet threatening macro-environmental forces.

The parallels between the a shifting geo-political forces and that of the fashion world, and the fashion world with the mundane everyday filled with its tedious hiccups such as a temperamental boiler, grants unprecedented depth and honesty to this diary and is in my opinion a must read.

2) Why Fashion Matters by Frances Corner

In provocative and intriguing entries, Corner teases out the glorious intricacies and contradictions of an industry that simultaneously values technology and craft; timeless style and fast fashion; the bespoke and the mass-market; consumption and sustainability; cold, hard numbers; and creative expression. From “Shop ’til We Drop” to “The White Shirt” to “The One Trillion Dollar Business” each entry offers a unique avenue into fashion and its impact, both positive and negative, on lives around the globe.

For anyone who claims to love fashion must read this seminal book as it describes the purpose and importance of fashion and destroys the argument that “fashion is frivolous”. Dame Corner explains fashion’s influence on the economy, society, and politics as well as our own relationship to self expression. Simply Fascinating.

3) The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake

Back in 1950s Paris, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld were pals and the rising stars of the fashion scene. But by the late sixties the city was invaded by a new mood of liberation and hedonism, and dominated by intrigue, infidelities, addiction and parties. Each designer created his own mesmerising world, so vivid and seductive that people were drawn to the power, charisma and fame, and it was to make them bitter rivals. The Beautiful Fall is a dazzling exposé of an era and the story of the two men who were its essence and who remain its most singular survivors.

I love how the book documents the emotional journey of both geniuses and describes the shift of couture to ready to wear. Drake adds a personal element to these designers and for me is the absolute must read for any fashion lover.

4) Gods and Kings by Dana Thomas

More than two decades ago, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen arrived on the fashions scene when the business was in an artistic and economic rut. Both wanted to revolutionize fashion in a way no one had in decades. They shook the establishment out of its bourgeois, minimalist stupor with daring, sexy designs. They turned out landmark collections in mesmerizing, theatrical shows that retailers and critics still gush about and designers continue to reference.

In her groundbreaking work Gods and Kings, acclaimed journalist Dana Thomas tells the true story of McQueen and Galliano. In so doing, she reveals the revolution in high fashion in the last two decades—and the price it demanded of the very ones who saved it.

An insightful read outlining the unimaginable pressures designers face and the relationship between creativity and management – along with the painful consequence of an unequal balance.

5) Valentino: A Grand Italian Epic 

This book traces Valentino’s illustrious career through copious images from his archives, including drawings, magazine editorial shoots, advertisements, portraits, and documentary photographs. Presented chronologically, the visual material is accompanied by a vast array of newspaper and magazine articles about Valentino throughout the years. Combined, they provide an in-depth look at the man, his lifestyle, and his genius.

6) Fashionpedia

Fashionistas from all backgrounds: students, bloggers, buyers, and simple mode of enthusiasts, get ready, this book could become an indispensable tool that will follow you everywhere. Indeed, Fashionary now well known for its collection of books with pre-drawn shapes that allow you to easily put on paper your fashion creations, today introduced the dictionary of the fully illustrated guide that describes absolutely any technical terms you need to know inorder to create a collection from a to Z. History of fashion, materials, accessories, styles, manufacturing, measurements, etc … This is the perfect companion that will make you a real professional and technical expert.

I adore how this “fashion bible” was born from a kickstarter campaign and raised over $ 150,000. Fashionpedia is now stocked in the finest bookstores in the world including Collette and 10 Como Corso (where i first spotted this magnificent read). A must have when referencing styles and understanding the context of clothing.

7) Fashion Show: Paris Style

Paris, the undisputed capital of the fashion world, is rich in talented designers, skilled craftsmen and native chic. It has been a magnet for stylish men and women since the seventeenth century. While fashion and the industries surrounding it have evolved considerably since then, the City of Light’s preeminence remains a constant. Fashion Show explores the ideas and inspirations that have driven Paris fashion through the ages, and it investigates why, in an era of globalization, this venerable city remains an undisputed Mecca. An essay by Pamela A. Parmal, Chair of Textiles and Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, outlines the history of the local fashion industry from its beginnings through the mid-twentieth century. Didier Grumbach, head of the esteemed Chambre Syndicale, Paris, discusses the current state of Paris fashion and its future, exploring the role of the runway shows. And work from a selection of the most influential fashion couturiers and designers of the moment–among them Valentino, Lacroix, Dior, Chanel, Azzedine Alaia, Viktor & Rolf, Rochas and Yohji Yamamoto–appears with brief histories of the houses, profiles of the designers and photographs conveying the grand sweep of their work and their predecessors’, from the age of the kings to the age of award shows. This is the world of fashion at its most exciting and glamorous, a visually stunning and widely accessible history and a celebration of the fine art and high style of Paris couture.

Referenced this book throughout my IB Extended Essay as it perfectly and concisely outlines the brilliance of renowned Parisian maisons. Along with a chapter on the history of Paris Fashion – this book celebrates the diversity and innovation born from this fashion Mecca.

8) Vivienne Westwood by Claire Wilcox

The London Daily Express called this first full study of Vivienne Westwood’s work as a groundbreaking fashion designer “a delight for any followers of fashion.” More than 200 illustrations present Westwood’s dynamic fashions; outfits worn by the Sex Pistols contrast with more recent creations for Sarah Jessica Parker and Cameron Diaz, showing why Westwood is one of the most talked-about designers in the world. More than 25,000 copies of the hardcover edition of this book have been sold worldwide.

9) Vogue: The Editor’s Eye

Vogue: The Editor’s Eye celebrates the pivotal role the fashion editor has played in shaping America’s sense of style since the magazine’s launch 120 years ago. Drawing on Vogue’s exceptional archive, this book focuses on the work of eight of the magazine’s legendary fashion editors (including Polly Mellen, Babs Simpson, and Grace Coddington) who collaborated with photographers, stylists, and designers to create the images that have had an indelible impact on the fashion world and beyond. Featuring the work of world-renowned photographers such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Annie Leibovitz and model/muses, including Marilyn Monroe, Verushka, and Linda Evangelista, The Editor’s Eye is a lavishly illustrated look at the visionary editors whose works continue to reverberate in the culture today.

10) Vogue Model: The Faces of Fashion

Throughout history, fashion models have occupied a curious position: while their faces were instantly familiar, virtually nothing else was known about them. But their impression upon Vogue’s readership has always been considerable — they reflect and represent the ever-changing ideal of beauty. It was models such as Barbara Goalen and Fiona-Campbell Walter in Britain and Lisa Fonssagrives and Dorien Leigh in the US, in the 1950s, who were the first to become household names and to achieve the glamour and prestige that came with world fame. The supermodels of the 1990s turned the profession into a billion-dollar industry, and today models like Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer and Gisele Bundchen are brand names. Our fascination with these sublime creatures never seems to wane. Shining a light on these women’s lives, Vogue Model uses photographs and illustrations from more than ninety years of Vogue’s history to tell the fascinating story of the real faces of fashion.