As any visiting guest can attest, my apartment is strewn with so many fashion glossaries, source books, design guides and oversized picture compilations it’s a wonder I ever leave. I mean the reading material is over flowing!
Which is the perfect reason to buy some more.
These days, fashion books are not only a great indulgence (some can run well over $100) but also a surprisingly colorful home accessory. The covers are glossy, the topics are glamorous, and if you take a moment to study the content, you’ll be amazed at how interesting it can actually be.
When I was attending school in England we had Colin McDowell as a visiting speaker. McDowell—a fashion writer and commentator who’s written 16 books on the likes of Manolo, Galliano and Ralph Lauren—was full of opinions and stories on the fashion world, which is his first and possibly only passion. I distinctly remember him saying that they key to publishing successful fashion books was getting a good interview. That and the pictures. While the writing must engage, the pictures must tell the story. Which makes sense as in today’s world image is everything.
So what are some of the best fashion books right now?
Assouline’s assortment of titles attaches a gritty, human element to the world of fashion. I especially love Africa is in Style, which offers a look at how African culture affects the catwalk collections in New York, Paris, Italy and London. The book, which includes archival photos, illustrations and photographs, gives African designers a voice as they continue to contribute to the new ideals shaping the world of fashion.
Currently I’m obsessed with style related books, which deal more with movements in fashion then a single designer. One in particular I like is Rebel Style. I peeked through this at Club Monaco a while back while I was waiting for a friend and couldn’t put it down! I have an affinity for old-time movie stars—which is probably part of the draw—but I’m equally intrigued by this transition from pre-World War II style to post World War II. In addition to this book, I also like Audrey Style, by Pamela Keogh Clarke, is another good re-cap of old Hollywood. It was one of the first fashion books I read from front to back. I remember I grabbed it before a flight and just as I was touching down, I finished it. What a fascinating account of Audrey Hepburn’s life! She was irrevocably attached to fashion and admired by so many. If you’re into era-fashion, you’ll really enjoy either of these.
Another favorite publisher of mine is Phaidon Press. I like how they combine contemporary culture with fashion. Colin McDowell has a few published by them, one in particular, Fashion Today, is a brilliant anthology of all things fashion related. It starts with Dior’s New Look in 1947, which as every fashion observer knows, was the start of something big.
A final favorite is Sample, which I first discovered at Urban Outfitters and later bought on a whim. The cover, which uses accordion pleats in pure white to suggest the neutrality of the subject, offers an artistic component along with the words. The book compiles information on 100 fashion designers, in alphabetical order, in two-page spreads. It’s an encyclopedia of sorts, with photographs, sketches, drawings and computer renderings to illustrate each designer’s past and present work.