Monday, November 28, 2011

Inspiration, Illumination, and Delight: Diane’s Favorite New Style and Fashion Books

My picks of the exceptional books of the season.

These are the eight essentials, the soulful new style and fashion books to add to your library, and to re-read for years of pleasure, ideas, nostalgia, information and thrills.

My favorites include books by and about classic fashion icons and shimmering talents, including Diana Vreeland, Marisa Berenson, Deborah Turbeville, Christian Louboutin, Dior, and forever, Chanel. Images and ideas leap off the page.

Pure bravura, is Carine Roitfeld’s sexy and subversive and opinionated book, ‘Irreverent’. It’s idiosyncratic and style-shaping and certain to become a cult item.

I adore the newest biography of Chanel (very insider). Revelatory. Reminiscences of her dear family.

I could not resist the extravagant and no-holds-barred book of shoes and seduction by Christian Louboutin. With its life-size images of shoes and suggestive arch allure, for Louboutin lovers his book is sex on toast.

I’ve always been rather fond of Marisa Berenson, the eternal ‘it’ model and actress, who shook her scrapbooks to reveal a lifetime in the gaze of the camera. Her glam snaps depict chic decades of fashion trends, her tanned Euro boyfriends (usually in brief swimsuits), Vreeland-directed fashion shoots, libidinous locations, and jetset escapism. Love.

Constant themes and threads running throughout these luscious books—with appearances by Diane Vreeland, Richard Avedon, Chanel, Irving Penn, all of the last centuries fashion greats. For that reason alone, they’re worth the trip.

Come with me for a flick through the pages of the new best books. 

‘Nostalgia in Vogue’ edited by Eve MacSweeney (Rizzoli)

With a foreword by Anna Wintour, in which she writes, “I always say that a great fashion picture can tell you exactly what was happening in the world at that time.”

It was Wintour who launched the Nostalgia column in Vogue. Each month, she invites a noted writer, designer, photographer, artist to select a classic Vogue image that has been important and possibly changed their lives. 

‘Nostalgia in Vogue’ is a brilliantly art-directed book with photography of Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, Francesco Scavullo, Deborah Turbeville (see her new book below), as well as Horst P. Horst, David Bailey, Hiro, Toni Frissell, and Norman Parkinson, the greats.

Mostly Avedon and Penn, which is perfect for me.

I open the book at any page, and find Bruce Weber writing so candidly about growing up in small-town Pennsylvania and keeping a scrapbook filled with images of Jean Shrimpton in the Greek islands, an inspiration for his life. 

In her essay, Mary Quant looks back in ardor, and there’s also Manolo Blahnik writing of growing up in the Canary Islands and then meeting Diana Vreeland. Karl Lagerfeld encounters Irving Penn, Mary Blume befriends Balenciaga, and Mario Testino loves Helmut Newton’s fearless embrace of fast living.

This is a book to savor and read—and to leave open at a favorite image (Jean Shrimpton and Jeanloup Sieff, Betty and Francois Catroux). Best of all, like the best nostalgia, it takes you away from the present. Love it. 

‘Intimate Chanel’ by Isabelle Fiemeyer, with photography by Francis Hammond and with a foreword by Gabrielle Palasse-Labrunie (Gabrielle Chanel’s only direct descendant) (Flammarion)

I’ve been collecting the best of the many Chanel books and they now decorate a special shelf in my library. But this quietly beautiful volume offers special insight into her love life and family life, her style, her relationships, and rich details of her interiors. Palasse- Labrunie is the grandniece of Chanel (her great-aunt was known as Auntie Coco) and she enjoyed a close-knit relationship with her for forty years. No scandal-mongering here. 
“Without symbols there was nothing. As a child, Coco must have needed something to cling to. She constructed her own myth out of mysteries, signs and symbols, and lived it and was imbued with it. In her interiors, she re-created the setting of her first love affairs, arranging Coromandel screens as if she was erecting a tent, and sprays of white flowers, books, and oriental furniture and objets d’art that she would buy from Paris dealers or her Chinese antiques dealer in London.” — from ‘Intimate Chanel’

The Chanel book draws readers into her swirling and lavish and fragrant world of artists, jewels, fashions, models, letters (Jean Cocteau, Berard, Dali). 

Her grandniece knew her generosity, her drive, her inner torments, her obsessions, the divine and fabulous style influences, her obsessions with art and collecting. 

It’s luscious stuff, compelling. And who knew that, according to her family, every night, from 1935 until her death in 1971, Chanel would slide into her white silk pyjamas, slip into her bed at the Ritz, then summon her maid who would prepare an ampoule, so that Chanel could self-inject with Sedol, a morphine derivative. Fascinating.

For fashion addicts and lovers of insider biographies, a must. 

‘Diana Vreeland The Eye Has to Travel’ by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (Abrams, New York)

This past fall, I had the great good fortune (thanks, Damion) of seeing a preview of the new film ‘Diana Vreeland The Eye Has to Travel’ by Lisa Immordino Vreeland. The film will be released in Spring 2012. It’s sure to be a cult classic, with rich clips of Diana Vreeland captured in mid-gesture and mid-pronouncement, vivid and witty.

My favorite film moment: Vreeland proclaiming at the age of 68 after she left Vogue, ‘I want to die young, at 70. I want to die young, at 80. I want to die young, at 90.”

She died at 89, young. 

In the book, Immordino Vreeland, who is married to Mrs. Vreeland’s grandson Alexander, chronicles over fifty years of the fashion doyenne’s life and fashions. A reader senses that this author speaks for the Vreeland family (all of whom, including Mrs. Vreeland’s sons, Frecky and Tim, the grandsons, and great grandchildren, were at the screening I attended).

There are spreads of her Bazaar years (pages art directed by Alexei Brodovitch) as well as the Vogue years, 1962-1971 (her influence, iconic fame, and constant presence suggest a longer tenure). A tasty friend of mine commented, “Oh, that book is just pages of Vogue and Bazaar” but she’s wrong. There’s Deneuve, the Beatles, Shrimpton, Gloria Vanderbilt, Penn’s New Guinea Highlanders. To be savored. 

‘Carine Roitfeld Irreverent’ edited by Olivier Zahm and Alex Wiederin, Introduction by Cathy Horyn (Rizzoli). With contributions by Anna Wintour, Tom Ford, Miuccia Prada, Stefano Pilati and Cindy Sherman. (Slipcased, surprising.)

It could be said of Carine, formerly the editor in chief of French Vogue, and object of many a street-photographer’s idolatry, that she’s fearless, trendsetting, edgy. Her images are super-pumped on Kate Moss, nudity, pushing limits, collaboration with top photographers, models and designers. The book pulls readers compulsively into her world, her admirers (many), her favorite models, and her way of seeing fashion. “I don’t want to present the girl next door”, says Roitfeld.

‘Irreverent’ is Roitfeld’s compelling flick through the last decade’s fashion—its triumphs, addictions, silly obsessions (Lara Stone’s gap teeth, male models in girls’ panties, and girls with props (prostheses, chains, ropes, and dental equipment naturally). There’s a voyeuristic thrill, for sure, but this record of her work is essential for fashion design students, designers, photographers (she worked with the best). Pretty flawless and 365 pages of visual intelligence. Bravo.
“I’m always on the lookout for a new female gestural vocabulary. A way of holding herself, crossing her legs. How the model will gnaw a fingernail, play with her hair, or pout. All these delicate things are difficult for a male photographer to see. So, more than the clothes I choose, I explore these details of femininity. I give photographers insight into the private inner world of women.” – Carine Roitfeld.

Karl Lagerfeld once said that if you close your eyes and imagine the ideal French woman, it would be fashion visionary and muse, Carine Roitfeld. Long may she style and edit. 

‘Marisa Berenson, A Life in Pictures’ by Marisa Berenson, with guest editor Steven Meisel. Introduction by Hamish Bowles and a Conversation with Diane von Furtenberg (Rizzoli)

Marisa Berenson has had a dream life, and seems to have lived the first half of it in a bikini, posing for Vogue, or naked, posing for Vogue. Certainly fashion editors (Vreeland) and photographers (Avedon) adored Berenson, and this biography celebrates her gilded youth, her grandmother Elsa Schiaparelli, Helmut Berger, Loulou de la Falaise, Jacques Grange, Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol. Was there a handsome man of the last 5 decades she did not meet? It’s not exactly deep, but it’s joyful. I’ll go for that. 

“When somebody believes in you when you are young and insecure, and gives you a great opportunity, that’s one of the most important things that can happen. Diana Vreeland and Visconti were a huge gift early on because they gave me the mental and physical support and encouragement that I needed to continue.” – Marisa Berenson

“In the seventies, I got into transcendental meditation, so I started a spiritual path, thanks to that experience. I’ve been on that path every since. I am always searching and evolving. I found my own truth in all of that, which has given me my strength in life. My core and everything I am is rooted in that.” – Marisa Berenson

‘Deborah Turbeville, The Fashion Pictures’ with a foreword by Franca Sozzani, and commentary by Deborah Turbeville (Rizzoli) 

Deborah Turbeville follows her own idiosyncratic path. Her images are haunting, scratched, dusty. I leave this book open at a favorite spread (the bath-house pictures, her images in Krakow, the Mexican scenes, her portraits in Venice, the Maine scenario) just to gaze at her hazy and allusive images. Turbeville follows her own dreams with her photography, and she creates beauty and timeless mysteries, and lighting with great lucidity and power. Colors are powdered down, and the black and white fashion shoots seem almost submerged. Evocative. This is a book that will give pleasure for many years. 

“Perhaps the most interesting thing about my photographs is that they are a little bit of an enigma. They are hard to place. They are a little bit of story-telling. They tell you something but they are not really photojournalism. They cannot be categorized. Never try to describe or define your work.” – Deborah Turbeville

‘Dior Couture’ photography by Patrick Demarchelier, with an essay by Ingrid Sischy (Rizzoli) 
Demarchelier is one of my favorite fashion photographers, and he took on this labor of love of creating a portfolio of portraits of more than a hundred gowns from the Dior’s haute couture archives. Several of the gowns (which influenced all subsequent silhouettes) were designed by Christian Dior himself. 

With studio shots, dreamy black and white images, and extravagant groupings of gauzy gowns and models in masks. Beauty, personified. 

‘Christian Louboutin’ by Christian Louboutin, with photography by Philippe Garcia and David Lynch. Foreword by John Malkovich (Rizzoli)

Look up ‘camp’ in the dictionary, and under the definition would be this marvelously over-the-top new book. It’s a shoe fetishist’s dream, with 350 vivid pages of witty and surreal shots of his shoes. The boxed cover is indeed a fleshy pink color, and velvety. Mmmm, Pigalle nights. 

It’s an extravagant and hyper-kinetic book. The folding cover, with an artful popup flower, frames a no-holds-barred celebration of legs, arches, toes and creativity. Louboutin’s greatest hits (shown on celebs, even), include feather and fur-covered numbers, as well as a graffiti covered shoe, and a wedge with heels handmade my Moroccan craftsmen. It’s a lot of beauty and Louboutin could not be happier. Great spirit.
“There are things that are supposed to make you think, but shoes after all are for dreaming. Joy, awareness, and surprise—to me that’s the perfect combination for creating shoes.” – Christian Louboutin

I know these books will bring you a lot of pleasure. Let me know what you think.

Happy reading.