The Fashion Library
Books and films dedicated to the art of fashion.
Fashion and its contribution is regularly overlooked in history. Often viewed as frivolous and without significance, its importance is not always understood. Historian Amber Butchart’s new book, The Fashion Chronicles: The style stories of history's best dressed, is full of proof and truths about the impact it has had since man first began adorning themselves in clothing. Butchart’s new book covers ancient to modern figures that cross gender, cultures, and continents. Some of the subjects I knew and some I didn't. Some I had heard of, but wouldn’t have readily associated them as fashion icons.
The Fashion Chronicles is full of anecdotes, like how the modern necktie originated in Croatia, that make it not only informational, but entertaining to read. With their stories, Butchart also includes several themes about how fashion was, and is, used to convey ideas such as status, wealth, political affiliation, and perceived intelligence.
Next in line of great fashionable films come McQueen, a documentary directed by Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui about the extraordinary life and career of Lee Alexander McQueen. Being one of my favorite designers, I've read and reviewed books about him before, but with this, I found there was more to learn. Full of jewel encrusted skulls and gilded wings, McQueen is the film we've all been waiting for.
With McQueen, we get an up close account of the multifaceted personality of a tortured genius. A creative person trying to stay true to himself whilst pushing boundaries and innovating the industry. Lee unfortunately also had a history of abuse and drug use that made him intense and paranoid. In the end, it seems the pressure to produce and please took its toll and in February of 2010, Lee took his own life.
As I'm always browsing for new fashion books, I was pleased to come across Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon Musings of a Geriatric Starlet. The nonagenarian was the subject of the late Albert Maysles' Emmy nominated documentary Iris where we viewed her life and work. But, even after a full length film, I knew a spirit like Apfel would have more to give and I was certainly eager to learn.
We all know that she has been recognized for her uniqueness, having been the topic of dedicated museum exhibitions and a representative of major fashion and beauty brands, but it was endearing to read more shopping stories from her childhood and tales from her interior design days. Accidental Icon includes art work, marital advice, her love for embroidered fabrics, and the importance of accessories. Capturing and curating these types of fashionable stories is one of the reasons I created this blog.
Next from the Fashion Library is BRILLIANCE AND FIRE: A BIOGRAPHY OF DIAMONDS by Rachelle Bergstein, author of WOMEN FROM THE ANKLES DOWN. Having a fondness for sparkly jewelry and having been born in the month of April, I was doubly excited to read about the industry. (I would go on to learn that the diamond was added to the birthstone list by jewelers taking advantage of the diamond boom.) Unfortunately, as I read along, my excitement was short lived. As with Bergstein's last book, BRILLIANCE AND FIRE is well researched and I would soon learn I knew little of the actual business.
GODS AND KINGS THE RISE AND FALL OF ALEXANDER MCQUEEN AND JOHN GALLIANO is the latest book from Dana Thomas, author of DELUXE: HOW LUXURY LOST ITS LUSTER. It is an in depth look at the lives and work of two of the most gifted and skilled designers London has ever produced. Lee Alexander McQueen was and will always be one of my favorite designers and I often read about his life and work however, this was my first time reading about John Galliano. While Galliano's aesthetic doesn't always speak to me personally, I still very much appreciate his art and craftsmanship.
Two thousand and fifteen is proving to be an excellent year for fashionable films. So far there have been stories of haute couture, stylish icons who collect jewelry, and now a film about the clothes we wear and the people who make them. Over the last couple of years, I've read several books about ethical production and sustainability, but none of them have had the visual impact that this does. After watching THE TRUE COST I only had one question. How has something as necessary and beautiful as fashion become so ugly?
Fashion is a $3 trillion dollar industry with one 1 in every 6 people alive in the world today working in some part of the global fashion game. This makes it the most labor dependent industry on earth. The economic and social importance can not be denied and shouldn't be thought of as trivial.
Last year I saw a trailer for a documentary about a New York based nonagenarian known for her bold sense of style and clever one liners. Her name is Iris Apfel and she is the subject of one of Albert Maysles' last films. Now showing at the Film Forum, IRIS is a personal narrative of her fashionable life and loves told through her own words and pictures. Being immersed in the world of fashion, I had definitely heard of Apfel before, but I was soon to learn that there was so much more to her. That underneath the multiple large necklaces and layers of scarves was a truly extraordinary woman.
Always on the hunt for new fashionable literature, I recently came across GIRL IN DIOR by Annie Goetzinger. I was surprised to learn that unlike any of the other books in my collection, this was a graphic novel. This seemed new and interesting and I was intrigued.
GIRL IN DIOR is the story of Clara, a young woman whose failed attempt at reporting leads to her becoming a model and muse for Monsieur Christian Dior. Basically, every fashion girl's dream. The novel begins in 1947 with Dior's first couture show and ends 10 years later with his untimely death. Although Clara is a fictional character, the novel includes all the men and women who helped create and shape Dior.
Dior and I
Yesterday I was so excited to attend an afternoon screening of the highly anticipated documentary DIOR AND I downtown at the Film Forum. It is the latest offering from director/writer/producer Frédéric Tcheng who is known from his work on other great fashion based films. The movie covers an integral time of the famous French fashion house Christian Dior as they announced the appointment of their new Creative Director, Raf Simons. The timing of Simons' appointment meant that he would have only 8 weeks to put together an entire haute couture collection, an undertaking that normally takes 4 to 6 months. Haute couture is a very serious thing, not to be taken lightly. The documentary provides an in depth behind the scenes look at the Belgian designer's artistic process, the business, and supplies plenty of humorous commentary from the dressmakers. I have been waiting impatiently for this film to debut for some time and thankfully, I was not disappointed.
After reading Caroline Weber's QUEEN OF FASHION as research for my upcoming book, I was eager to learn more about 18th century french fashion and the origins of haute couture. After searching Amazon, I came across ROSE BERTIN THE CREATOR OF FASHION AT THE COURT OF MARIE-ANTOINETTE, a detailed account of the queen's favorite dressmaker. Originally published in 1913 in french by Émile Langlade, the text has been translated and reprinted. We already know the importance that Marie Antoinette's wardrobe played during her reign, so it makes sense that the only thing more important than the dresses themselves was the woman who made them.
Whilst conducting research for my upcoming book about the deeply rich world of haute couture, the art of hand made custom fitted clothing, I came across Rose Bertin, an 18th century Parisian milliner and dressmaker. I learned that Bertin was Marie Antoinette's favorite stylist and is credited for bringing haute couture and Fashion to French culture. She helped outfit the monarch in the extravagant outfits and accouterment that would solidify the French queen's place in history as a Fashion icon.
It's certainly no secret that I have a strong admiration for Lee Alexander McQueen and the design house he left behind. I recently picked up a copy of Judith Watt's ALEXANDER MCQUEEN THE LIFE AND LEGACY, a beautifully written biography told through the seasons of Fashion. The text includes a foreword written by close friend Daphne Guinness and is incredibly detailed and well documented. Of all the published material I've read about McQueen's life, this work by far seems the most intimate and captivating. I'm not sure what took so long for this book to come my way.
McQueen was a brilliant Fashion designer who often took his cues from the unconventional. His ability to merge themes of death with romance, love and melancholy, and history with religion was nothing short of amazing.
I am always in the market for a Fashionable read, so you could imagine my delight when I came across a book titled WHY FASHION MATTERS by Frances Corner. At the expense of sounding like a cliche, I most certainly judged this book by its cover. It was red and black and I was wildly intrigued by the title. I knew I was going to purchase the book before I had even read the synopsis printed on the back. You see, I know why Fashion matters to me, but I wanted to know why Fashion mattered to Corner.
In this small hardcover, Corner expresses her personal opinions (101 to be exact) on the business and art of Fashion. Along with her profound musings, she also poses some seriously thought provoking questions. She touches on a profusion of topics that include the extraordinary world of haute couture, ethical manufacturing, and the perils of Fast Fashion.
Shoes much like clothes have long been a necessity and as a result, the two seamlessly go hand in hand. Rarely will you find someone wearing one without the other. So naturally, my Love of Frock extends to the issue of footwear. After all, everyone knows that the right outfit can easily be ruined by the wrong pair of shoes.
WOMEN FROM THE ANKLE DOWN THE STORY OF SHOES AND HOW THEY DEFINE US, written by Rachelle Bergstein, annotates a historical and cultural view of the modern shoe and its relationship with women. The paperback is colorfully illustrated with stories of Hollywood cinema, comic book super heroines, and a host of famous cobblers.
I was recently invited to attend a screening for this year's best Fashion documentary CARINE ROITFELD IS MADEMOISELLE C. The film, by Fabien Constant, follows Roitfeld as she embarked on a new career as creator of CR FASHION BOOK and the challenges she faced with starting a new magazine. Surrounded by friends and family, Roitfeld creates the most beautiful stories and dreams all while arguably becoming the chicest grandmother around. After only a few minutes of viewing, you will see that Roitfeld has a great sense of humor and a super cute son. As per requisite, a host of Fashion's major players make cameos and all lend their personal insight about Roitfeld. Bottom line, she is the stylist and editor we all want to be.
A fruitful trip to Strand Book Store has yielded another great find in the way of Fashionable books. Next from the Fashion Library comes THE COAT ROUTE CRAFT, LUXURY, & OBSESSION ON THE TRAIL OF A $50,000 COAT BY MEG LUKENS NOONAN. The book is the story of a journalist who travels the world to decipher the origins of a custom made overcoat. Along the way, she essentially meets every person who had a hand in creating what should be considered a piece of art. Her journey even finds her in a remote village in Peru to observe the shearing of vicuna, a distant relative of the camel. The animals live high in the Andes and produce fleece that is finer than cashmere and subsequently much more expensive.
I enjoy New York Fashion Week for the runway shows, but also for all the Fashionable events that take place. With the Spring Summer 2014 season came the book signing for LEANDRA MEDINE'S MAN REPELLER SEEKING LOVE. FINDING OVERALLS. I've had the pleasure of meeting Medine prior to her book release and being a reader of her Fashion based blog, I decided to make the trek uptown to Barneys New York's Upper West Side location to claim my very own copy. Wearing a man repelling outfit as the invitation suggested, she autographed my tome with a red sharpie.
After reading Elizabeth L. Cline's OVERDRESSED THE SHOCKINGLY HIGH COST OF CHEAP FASHION I couldn't help but find myself wondering about the other side of the industry, about the luxury market. Enter DELUXE HOW LUXURY LOST ITS LUSTER by Dana Thomas. This book essentially picks up where OVERDRESSED left off.
Being a purveyor of luxury goods, I am always very interested to know more about the origins of my items and I enjoy learning and exploring the history behind the brand. Knowing the story behind the dress or handbag only adds to the fantasy... and to the luxury. Sadly, fashion these days has become more about commerce and less about art. This had led companies to offer us a watered down version of luxury in a bid to boost profits.
I was recently having lunch with a couple of friends when the discussion turned to my latest read, OVERDRESSED THE SHOCKINGLY HIGH COST OF CHEAP FASHION by Elizabeth L. Cline. Having studied Fashion design in college, I pride myself on knowing about garment construction as well as the business of the industry. Needless to say while reading this book I genuinely found myself, for lack of a better word, shocked.
OVERDRESSED explores a darker side of Fashion, the impact that cheap clothing has on our society and on our environment. The author traveled abroad to visit factories, conducted interviews, and with choice diction, tried to find the reasons behind our obsessions.
Somerset House is currently hosting the Valentino Master of Couture exhibit until the 3rd of March. I am deeply saddened that I am not currently in London and have no plans to be so before then. The exhibit will focus on Valentino's work in couture, displaying over 130 garments that were worn by Fashion figures such as Jackie O and Sophia Loren.
The presentation also features a collection of personal correspondence, photographs, and original sketches. I love the idea of Valentino being a collector, preserving as much of his distinguished career for posterity as he can. I love that he has kept so many pieces of his memories and that he is sharing them with the world.
Last Thursday night I attended the DIANA VREELAND THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL documentary at the Angelika Film Center. I just want to begin by saying if you have any interest in the history of Fashion, GO SEE THIS FILM. Put together by her estate, the film includes several family photos, past interviews, and commentary that includes her two sons. Vreeland was full of witty remarks and exaggerated advice and I think that's what made her so special. She understood the epic power that Fashion had over everyone. One can easily grasp how enchanting and charismatic a woman she was. You leave with a sense that you got a chance to know the real Diana Vreeland and a sadness that you didn't get to meet her in person.
I was hanging around Union Square one evening browsing my favorite book store Strand, when FASHION VICTIM BY MICHELLE LEE caught my eye. They have a very decent Fashion selection and I often come across a great find. I am by all accounts a victim, and this book helps to understand why. Lee's book makes you think about your own personal relationship with Fashion and the psychological effects it has on us. How much are we really influenced by magazines and celebrities?
The author explores so many great ideas and theories about Fashion. Released in 2003, a lot of the theories she puts forth ring even more true with the invention of things like social media. Now, everyone can take a picture of anyone, anywhere wearing anything and post it instantly. This is a phenomenon she refers to as speed chic. Lee writes about how certain outfits or pieces of clothing can be tied to a memory. This is certainly true for me.
When I first heard about GOD SAVE MY SHOES, I was incredibly excited to see a documentary that focuses on why women love shoes. Maybe I was hoping to answer some questions about myself... However, the film never came to London, but it is now available on DVD.
Caid Productions, the people behind the film, were nice enough to send me a copy for my very own personal edification. The documentary, directed by Julie Benasra, explores the deep relationship women have with their shoes and features interviews with celebrities and designer cobblers alike. There were some very interesting theories and arguments presented, including one that compares wearing modern heels to Chinese foot binding.
One of my favorite books is SPENT MEMOIRS OF A SHOPPING ADDICT BY AVIS CARDELLA. The book is an autobiography chronicling her severe shopping addiction from childhood until recovery. Her story reads as a timeline of how her addiction grew from a stint as a teenage shoplifter to having a generous wealthy fiance who financed her need to shop everyday. Cardella's tipping point came when her mother passed away and her grieving was done in the form of compulsive purchasing. At one point she recalls a day where she came out of a stupor only to realize she was in the middle of a lingerie department buying 20 pairs of panties, one in every color. There are stories of extensive worldwide shopping trips that eventually left in her severe debt and the men who were along for the ride. In the end, she tells of how she dealt with the real underlying problems and why they made her feel the only way to cope was to buy.
I love to read and I love to read fashion books. (Please let me know if you have any recommendations.) Since my fashion Library is growing, I need to start cataloging some of the pieces I already have. BRINGING HOME THE BIRKIN by Michael Tonello is one of my favorite reads. It's the story of a man who moves to Spain and finds himself without a job. His journey begins with an Hermés scarf he sold on eBay to make a little money. The story is amazing and his search takes him across continents shopping the World's supply of Birkin bags.
I have a new film to add to the Fashion Library! I purchased the BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK DVD from Amazon last week. (This time my package was delivered at a reasonable hour.) The film is set to be released this month here in the UK, but I couldn't wait to see it and I just knew it was going to be great. If you have any interest in Fashion, or even if you don't, you need to see this documentary.
BILL CUNNINGHAM is an octogenarian photographer who has been capturing street fashion for the New York Times Style section since 1978. He often photographs celebrities, socialites, and the everyday stylish person. From film makers Richard Press and Philip Gefter, this documentary follows his work, unconventional lifestyle, and interviews featuring the likes of Anna Wintour.
I have decided to build a Fashion Library for posterity. There are so many great books being published that are full of photos, interviews, and personal anecdotes. Some of my favorite designers and icons have already released fantastic publications. I felt inspired and compelled to start another collection. I already have a few good volumes, but the number is steadily growing.
My new DAPHNE GUINNESS book arrived the other day at some insanely early hour. Cheers Amazon.com. The book, however, was worth the early morning rise. It is well written and definitely a volume that should be added to your collection. Guinness touches on a range of topics, giving her unique opinion accompanied by stunning photos. Co authored by Valerie Steele, the chief curator of the Museum @ Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, it is a compilation of photographs from editorials, interviews, and some paparazzi shots.