Drama—real or orchestrated—is a trademark of the fashion industry.
Start with eccentric creative-types, chic muses and dictatorial fashion editors. Add jaw-dropping advertising budgets and whopping photo shoot funds. Then mix couture gowns and ravishing ready-to-wear. How can this not be a glamorously high-stakes business? The stories pulled from this trillion-dollar industry are so wild, so tense, so sensational, they read like fantastical fiction.
The following five fabulous fashion books are filled with so many swoon-worthy images, witty anecdotes and mind-blowing biographical nuggets, you’ll find yourself whispering, “This can’t be true.”
Oh, but it is.
5 Fashion Books to Own, Read and Keep on Your Coffee Table
Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli called Surrealist painters Salvador Dali and Alberto Giacometti her closest collaborators—and Coco Chanel, a vehement rival. Like Chanel’s, Schiaparelli’s designs were a revelation in their time: garments were pieces of imaginative modern art. However, unlike Chanel’s, Schiaparelli’s fashion house failed after World War II and Schiap—as friends called her—quickly slipped into obscurity. Only a sliver of Schiap’s rise and fall was covered in the Met’s exhibit Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations. Get the details in this Cinderella-story-in-reverse.
Looking for a way to justify your hefty credit card bill? Meet Betty Halbreich, living, breathing and bon mot-dropping proof of shopping’s cathartic, life-saving power. Betty arrived at NYC’s posh department store, Bergdorf Goodman, 40 years ago as a young, miserable and lost divorcee. Today at age 86, she is not only Bergdorf’s most hotly sought-after personal shopper, but also confidante to society swans. As author of a best-selling book, Betty garners industry-wide respect through her no-holds barred honesty. Expect gems of style wisdom and witticisms like, “There are two things nobody wants to face: their closet and their mirror.”
Let’s be honest: we all love a little “but you didn’t hear it from me…” insider gossip, especially when those delicious tidbits are about our favorite celebrities. Renowned photographer Cecil Beaton has penned 400 pages worth of such behind-the-scenes observations. Beaton divulges the quirks and fanciful personalities of his inner circle, people who just so happen to be the fashion world’s most-recognized names, like Cristóbal Balenciaga and Christian Dior. But the book is not a gossipmonger tell-all. Beaton writes with warmth and insight. Admit it, you’re just a teensy bit curious to learn more about the socialite who gave out loose emeralds as a thank you to her house staff.
Loulou de la Falaise is considered the epitome of disco-era Rive Gauche chic. A Vogue model who segued into a career as creative collaborator to Yves Saint Laurent, de la Falaise is credited with ushering in a new era of bohemian nonchalance to the staid world of Paris haute couture. De la Falaise was also the inspiration for the iconic YSL women’s tuxedo, Le Smoking. So, why is this the first book ever written about her? How did she slip from the spotlight after 30 years of collaborating with Saint Laurent? Guess you’ll just have to read the book.
Before there were the Sex Pistols, there was SEX, Vivienne Westwood’s first store. At the epicenter of London’s 1970s modern punk movement, SEX purveyed an array of clothes and fetish toys inspired by bikers and prostitutes—as well as a bold anti-establishment message. As punk moved into the mainstream, Westwood continued to express her political beliefs through her namesake fashion house, creating shirts emblazoned with I am not a terrorist, please don’t arrest me and staging a runway show in a Nairobi slum. Most recently, Westwood chopped off her trademark red mane to bring awareness to climate change. You’ll tear through this incredible life story that will equip you with an argument against the flippant remark, “It’s just fashion!”