The fashion world loves petite things, skinny things, colorful things — except when it comes to its books. Among the season's fashion-themed...
The fashion world loves petite things, skinny things, colorful things — except when it comes to its books.
Among the season’s fashion-themed, coffee-table, gift-worthy books the trends are big, thick, and black-and-white.
The mammoth “Louis Vuitton” (Abrams, $125) by Paul-Gerard Pasols features a monogrammed leather handle on the cover, inviting readers to pull open the lid on the luxury brand’s 151-year history.
The first image isn’t a now-ubiquitous LV logo or a runway shot of toast-of-the-town designer Marc Jacobs’ latest collection; it’s a portrait of Louis Vuitton himself, a mustached Frenchman born in a mountainous region in 1821.
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He had a yearning for adventure and he found it in the lively, gossipy city of Paris; even then he understood about the power of publicity.
While he’d taken a job as an apprentice to a box maker, he eventually elevated himself to a trunk maker. The rest is history — and the book devotes many pages to explaining what life was like in France in the mid-19th century.
A more modern master of his craft is Manolo Blahnik. Women covet his shoes like no others (though Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin are nipping at his heels). His shoes are status symbols. They’re sex symbols.
However, “Blahnik by Boman: Shoes, Photographs, Conversations” (Chronicle, $85), a collaboration between Blahnik and photographer Eric Boman, focuses on the artistry and handicraft of the shoes themselves. There’s no Carrie Bradshaw from “Sex and the City,” no Amazonian Brazilian model in a bikini and stilettos. The only sexy thing on these pages are the curvy heels that often stand 4 (or more) inches tall.
“Beene by Beene” (Vendome, $65) was conceived by designer Geoffrey Beene but it was still in the works when he died last year. Marylou Luther, James Wolcott and Pamela A. Parmal are credited in the final version as contributors.
The book traces Beene’s 40 years in fashion, through words and photos.
Beene is considered one of the godfathers of sophisticated sportswear, making the link early on between comfort and luxury. He also embraced bold graphics, especially black and white with splashes of color, yet was classic enough to be a favorite designer to first ladies and first daughters.
One of the stories recounted in the section “Beene’s women” is of President Nixon acknowledging Beene in a White House receiving line as “the young man who makes my wife’s frocks.”
Pierre Cardin also has a long fashion history in “Pierre Cardin: Fifty Years of Fashion and Design” (Vendome, $55) by Elisabeth Langle. Langle is a personal friend of Cardin, one of the first couturiers to create a ready-to-wear collection, back in 1959.
The book is arranged chronologically, with the first two-thirds resembling a newsreel, marking changes in style trends. In 1951, women wore long pleated skirts under belted suit jackets. Fast-forward to 1959 and they were wearing strapless cocktail dresses with voluminous draped skirts. In the 1960s, Cardin dressed the Beatles and TV’s “The Avengers.” In 1996, Cardin’s style had a sleek futurist tone.
But Cardin is also known as a restaurateur, furniture designer and sculptor, and those accomplishments dominate the last third of the book.
“Madeleine Vionnet” (Chronicle, $100) by costume restorer Betty Kirke with a foreword by Issey Miyake is back in print after 14 years with a new cover photograph of her white crepe romaine pajamas and short cape of rose velvet from 1931.
Vionnet might not be as well known nowadays as her contemporaries Jeanne Lanvin or Coco Chanel, but she was equally influential and her stamp is still seen in modern styles such as the bias cut and double-sided fabrics.
This book has photographs and Vionnet’s own sketches as well as patterns dating back to a 1918 silk crepe dress that was rectangle-based, cut on the grain, finished with a jabot, cowl neck and rolled hem.
In “Blood, Sweat and Tears or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Fashion” (teNeues, $150), photographer Bruce Weber writes in a diary style about the friends, fun and late nights he’s enjoyed after what sounds like a lifetime in the business.
He shares memories of the late legendary editor Liz Tilberis and fondly recalls an assignment lugging a giant Galliano gown through Vietnam with Kate Moss in search of a man with a beard who would pose with her.
Of course there are tons of photos. Most are black and white and a few are not by Weber.
Most of the big names in modeling over the past 30 years are found somewhere in the almost-450 pages, but Weber does seem to have a particular fondness for Moss. And for children and dogs.
Late photographer Helmet Newton’s work is chronicled in “A Gun For Hire” (Taschen, $39.99) with a particular emphasis on collaborations with Yves Saint Laurent in the 1980s-90s.
Newton coined himself a “gun for hire” because, he said, he didn’t consider his work “art” even though some of his photos hung in museums and galleries. His wife explains that Newton decided at a young age — when he was poor and just starting out in a notoriously fickle industry — that he’d take any job that came along.
Several other books are sure to appeal to those with certain fashion fetishes:
• “Dressing A Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars” (Abrams, $50) by Trisha Biggar.
Biggar served as costume designer on the three most recent “Star Wars” movies and she welcomes readers “to our worlds.” The wardrobe staff on the films ranged in numbers from 80 to 120, she explains, and making head or body casts was one of the most time-consuming tasks.
The book highlights costumes from all the films, paying extra attention to the scores of outfits worn by Padme Amidala, who, maybe not so coincidentally, was played by fashion plate Natalie Portman.
• “The New English Dandy” (Workhouse, $45) by Alice Cicolini.
British men are known for their usually fashionable, occasionally foppish style, and this book focuses on the 20- and 30-somethings searching for a look to call their own. Sometimes they get it right — as shown by writer Peter York in a sharp blue suit and tailor Tony Lutwyche in a purple velvet one — and sometimes they don’t.
• “Tiffany Diamonds” (Abrams, $50) by John Loring.
Tiffany diamonds are famous around the globe for their quality, charisma and the tradition they reflect. Loring aims to include all those facets in the book.
There are pictures of sparkling diamonds in elaborate and creative settings, but some of the most interesting images are the sketches that became famous pieces of jewelry or the receipt of a $50 diamond ring sold in 1896 with a money-back guarantee.
• “Daniel Swarovski: A World of Beauty” (Thames & Hudson) by Vivienne Becker and Rosemarie Le Gallais.
Few contemporary runway collections are presented without mentioning Swarovski crystals — they’re often what add a little extra oomph to an evening gown or eye-catching accessory. But none of it could’ve happened without the efforts of a Bohemian crystal-worker and budding scientist more than a century ago.
Daniel Swarovski discovered that crystals could be mechanically cut and polished, allowing for factory production on a significant scale. His heirs have taken that knowledge and now use it to decorate everything from chandeliers to glitzy versions of necklaces based on traditional American Indian designs.
• “The New Boutique: Fashion and Design” (Merrell, $49.95) by Neil Bingham.
Fashion, art, architecture and business all come together at the chicest boutiques. Bingham traces the development of the modern retail movement to new stores in London, Milan, New York, Paris and Tokyo.