Lately, I’ve taken a huge interest in fashion. And although I do love a good magazine, it’s been books that have led me to discover so much about this bizarre and fantastic industry.
What have I learned? Fashion isn’t as shallow as I thought it was (I blame The Devil Wears Prada for those ideas). Also, there are some amazingly creative and astute people in this rapidly changing industry who have truly inspired me to think differently about the clothes I choose to wear.
Without further ado, here are four of my faves:
The Asylum: A collage of couture reminiscences…and hysteria by Simon Doonan
Mr. Doonan is a witty and sharp writer, and his keen eye and lifetime spent in the fashion trenches provide more than enough material to keep the reader amused. Firsthand anecdotes are hilariously recounted and cast an eye on the lunacy of fashion, including the inevitable cast of fashion eccentrics and their antics. His writing style draws the reader in and this book feels like a good chat with a fabulous, fashionable friend.
In My Shoes: A Memoir by Tamara Mellon
Tamara Mellon may have grown up with wealth, but that certainly doesn’t mean happiness or an easy ride. The co-founder of Jimmy Choo has had dramatic highs and tragic lows, from the life of a party girl to dealing with a crazy mother, a drug-addicted husband and incompetent business partners. It’s a story of determination and survival, which is both inspiring and sad. The book also looks at the business of fashion today, which is largely focused on power struggles and money. It’s a great read for anyone interested in the nitty gritty of starting an empire.
Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
Oh, Grace. Most of us had our first view of Ms. Coddington in The September Issue opposite the steely Ms. Wintour, and promptly wanted to know more about her. From a dour childhood in Wales to the top of the fashion world, Grace seems to have gently risen through the fashion ranks using a combination of talent, friendship, hard work and sheer creativity. Her life seems like a dream—friends with all the best photographers, exotic trips and access to the most beautiful clothes in the world. Although there seem to be a few areas I could have skipped (she really, really loves cats) the insider view on her life and the world of fashion is mesmerizing.
Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas
A behind-the-scenes look at the world of luxury, this book isn’t all a tale of woe but it’s pretty close. Giving the reader an eye into the way that fashion houses are currently run (hint: it’s more about profit and less about creativity), she gets us up close and personal with famous names like Louis Vuitton, Hermés and Prada. Amusing anecdotes and stats keep the reader continually surprised. Who knew that Miuccia Prada is a reluctant designer, “avant-garde” raw-edge cutting is merely a money saving device, or that 40% of the Japanese population own a Vuitton product? Thankfully it’s not all doom and gloom, and she shows us how some houses still continue to do things the old way, preserving trades and techniques. Overall, it’s a fascinating look at this billion-dollar industry.