INSPIRATION

LIVING IN STYLE | Rachel Zoe
Rachel Zoe, fashion designer and stylist to the stars, follows up her 2007 bestseller Style A to Zoe with a guide for not only dressing but also entertaining, decorating and travelling in style. Written in conjunction with Monica Harel, it’s essentially a PR exercise designed to make her style more accessible to her many fans (she has 1.2-million followers on Instagram alone). 

While it may be tempting not to take the rail-thin, perpetually stressed Zoe too seriously (especially when she confides that she never wears shorts because of her “chickeny” knees), the breadth of her achievements is impressive – and exhausting. These include her reality TV series, The Rachel Zoe Project, which aired in 15 countries, and the launch of her collection in 2011. Although not a serious fashion tome, this is a fun read, 
offering insights into the life of a talented powerhouse.


MEMOIR 

#GIRLBOSS | Sophia Amoruso
Sophia Amoruso seems an unlikely woman to be heading a multimillion-dollar online fashion company; it’s perhaps because of this that her book has become the manifesto of feisty women on the path to success everywhere. 
Amoruso is frank about her past – “I went from a broke, anarchist ‘freegan’ dead set on smashing 
the system to a millionaire business woman who today is as at home in the boardroom as she is in the dressing room,” she writes. 

The entrepreneur who, in a single  year, “had a profile on Forbes, was on the cover of Entrepreneur, listed on CNNMoney’s 40 under 40, (and) Inc.com’s 30 under 30”, becomes 
somewhat insistent that luck had no  part to play in her remarkable story. She maintains that her success is rather due to hard work and persistence. While #GIRLBOSS certainly inspires, it’s written for a younger audience, and the writing occasionally becomes irritatingly 
hackneyed.  


MEMOIR

VIVIENNE WESTWOOD | Vivienne Westwood & Ian Kelly

This serious biography explores not only Westwood’s life and career but also decades of British history and the way in which the fashion industry has developed alongside music and modern art. As Dame Vivienne Westwood (once the pariah of the British establishment) counsels, “everything is connected”. 

Biographer Ian Kelly spent over a year immersed in the designer’s world, becoming a close friend and confidant in the process, and getting to know her family, her company’s insiders and the nonsensical intricacies of the fashion industry. Westwood is complex and  fascinating. She has never shied  away from publicity, overt sexuality or tackling the world’s most pressing issues and yet remains trusting and childlike.

“You have to look for the beauty. In everything. In every moment. And everyone,” she says. I consumed the 500-page biography in gulps, cramming it in and then decelerating to wallow in Kelly’s sinuous prose. In a world where 
clothes are designed to become unfashionable almost upon wearing them, Vivienne Westwood reminded me of why I’m so drawn to the industry and shows how fashion, as a wearable expression of art, can change the world for the better.


REFERENCE

THE FASHION BOOK | Phaidon
The most recent edition of Phaidon’s The Fashion Book makes for both absorbing reading and valuable reference. An abbreviated dictionary, the book details the who’s who of the global fashion world in the 20th and 21 centuries, from designers and photographers to icons and hair stylists.

Entries are listed in alphabetical order, each contained on a page consisting of a short note describing pertinent facts and influence and a photograph or illustration. Opening the book at random is akin to falling down a sartorial rabbit hole as you dart between the more than 570 entries it contains.

Its cross-referencing system and index illustrate the networks of inspiration, mentorship and collaboration that exist in the industry, and the cyclical nature of the art.


REFERENCE

THE STYLE BIBLE | Simon Rademan

South African couturier Simon Rademan has compiled his experiences into a comprehensive style bible that contains elements as diverse as “undergarments”, weight loss, manners, how to spend less at your wedding and 125 tips designed to keep you off his worst-dressed lists (once published in Rapport but now only on his website, so you need not worry unduly). 

A curious mixture of both style and elements, the book is presented well, written cleverly  and accompanied by line sketches  that adeptly capture iconic style moments in history or shape and movement of a garment.

However, it also contains several cringe elements. Among the quotes scattered through the pages – some more relevant than others – are several attributed to the designer himself. And, then there is a quote by Karen Carpenter: “I was just tired of being fat, so I went on a diet.” Carpenter died of heart failure caused by anorexia. It’s clear Rademan is knowledgeable. 

Among the prosaic detailing of every textile, celebrity diet and garment known 
to (wo)man (skirt, blouse, coat … useful if you’ve just arrived from another galaxy), are fascinating historical details and canny insight into the perpetually changing fashion industry.

However, these (and the excellent chronological style encyclopaedia that 
concludes the book), are mired down by banal, somewhat patronising statements, such as “washing one’s hair is not only hygienic and practical; it also has the ability to cure a blue mood”. It attempts to be an all-encompassing manual, but a clearer  idea of target market and more editing would have resulted in a more authoritative guide.


HISTORY 

FASHION MUSE: The Inspiration behind iconic design Debra Mancoff | Debra N. Mancoff
Art historian Debra Manco ’s sumptuously illustrated book explores the relationship between fashion designers and their muses. It’s divided into chapters categorising types of muses (such as The Classical Muse, The Muse in the Mirror, Model as Muse, and Shock Value) and each regales the reader with stories of partnerships between designers and their inspirations (such as Hepburn and Givenchy, or Schiaparelli and Dali)  om past to present.


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