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Category: Books

How Common Sense Fails Us

Excerpt From: Duncan J. Watts's Everything Is Obvious. A book I'm currently reading, and highly recommend if this subject matter is of interest to you: How Common Sense Fails Us.

Beginning of chapter 8:

Of all the prognosticators, forecasters, and fortune-tellers, few are at once more confident and yet less accountable than those in the business of predicting fashion trends. Every year, the various industries in the business of designing, producing, selling, and commenting on shoes, clothing, and apparel are awash in predictions for what could be, might be, should be, and surely will be the next big thing. That these predictions are almost never checked for accuracy, that so many trends arrive unforeseen, and that the explanations given for them are only possible in hindsight, seems to have little effect on the breezy air of self-assurance that the arbiters of fashion so often exude. So it’s encouraging that at least one successful fashion company pays no attention to any of it.

That company is Zara, the Spanish clothing retailer that has made business press headlines for over a decade with its novel approach to satisfying consumer demand. Rather than trying to anticipate what shoppers will buy next season, Zara effectively acknowledges that it has no idea. Instead, it adopts what we might call a measure-and-react strategy. First, it sends out agents to scour shopping malls, town centers, and other gathering places to observe what people are already wearing, thereby generating lots of ideas about what might work. Second, drawing on these and other sources of inspiration, it produces an extraordinarily large portfolio of styles, fabrics, and colors—where each combination is initially made in only a small batch—and sends them out to stores, where it can then measure directly what is selling and what isn’t. And finally, it has a very flexible manufacturing and distribution operation that can react quickly to the information that is coming directly from stores, dropping those styles that aren’t selling (with relatively little left-over inventory) and scaling up those that are. All this depends on Zara’s ability to design, produce, ship, and sell a new garment anywhere in the world in just over two weeks—a stunning accomplishment to anyone who has waited in limbo for just about any designer good that isn’t on the shelf.

Alasdair McLellan’s 'Ultimate Clothing Company' [Books]

Ultimate Clothing Company by Alasdair McLellan

Dashwood Books:

Being from the North of England Alasdair McLellan's youthful curiosities channeled romantic notions about being English and Northern since he began to photograph in 1986. He has admired those who have directed generations through their own similar obsessions such as Bruce Weber’s playful and sexually charged imagery of America and Steven Patrick Morrissey’s unfaltering melancholy and mythological observations. McLellan’s work maintains both the edginess of these influences as well as the unashamedly lyrical pulse which makes the work a tune for the masses. The Northern, working class aesthetic of Bradford’s Buttershaw Estate, immortalized in Alan Clarke’s classic film Rita, Sue and Bob Too!  has continually had a pull for McLellan —  his photographs play with the tension of the ordinary in a similarly unselfconscious way as it's writer Andrea Dunbar.

Alasdair McLellan’s Ultimate Clothing Company is both an intimate and introspective monograph edited and designed by art directors Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag M/M (PARIS) and beautifully printed in a numbered limited edition of 2,000 with a poster-wrap dust jacket.

Published in Paris by Alasdair McLellan, 2013
Edition of 2,000 copies / designed by M/M
Suggested retail $65

Art Partner:

How does the title, Ultimate Clothing Company, relate to the images?
Ultimate Clothing Company comes from a jeans shop from my hometown of Doncaster, where me and my mates would shop every Saturday. It related to the project as clothes are important when you’re growing up in the north of England.

Deborah Turbeville Books

Deborah Turbeville The Fashion Pictures

According to Amazon's Deborah Turbeville's page, there are only two books currently in Print. 2009's Casa No Nam, and 2011's Deborah Turbeville: The Fashion Pictures. You can still buy used copies of her other books, though some of them are fetching a pretty penny.

Chloe: Attitudes [Books]

Chloe AttitudesThis handsome volume chronicles the rise of the fashion house Chloé, a crucible of creativity for some of fashion’s most notable designers. The fashion brand Chloé may be sixty years old, but she still exudes a youthful elegance and femininity. As the first high-end Paris fashion house to sell exclusively ready-to-wear clothing, Chloé has since redefined its look for the modern woman with flattering colors, quality materials, and a series of must-have It bags. Chloé started in 1952 when Gaby Aghion invented the revolutionary idea of luxury prêt-à-porter, taking the craftsmanship of haute couture and making it available to a wider audience. Her focus on the beautiful yet wearable gave the line currency with chic young women. Born in Egypt in 1921 and moving to Paris when she was in her twenties, Aghion dressed some of the most fashionable and powerful women of her day, including Jackie O, Grace Kelly, and Brigitte Bardot. Her vision has always been maintained through the company’s extensive career. The company’s lively and fresh energy has been sustained through the decades partly because it seeks out new talent, including then-28-year-old designer Karl Lagerfeld, who started with the company in 1966. The book explores his career at Chloé, along with Martine Sitbon (in 1988), Stella McCartney, who joined Chloé when she was 26 (in 1997), and Phoebe Philo, who was responsible for Chloé’s major reinvention from 2001 to 2006, where she is credited for bringing a sensual and personal touch to the line. It is currently helmed by Clare Waight Keller, who previously reinvigorated the fashion line Pringle of Scotland. Chloé, in short, is the modern woman—refined and redefined.

Chloe: Attitudes
Text by Sarah Mower, Foreword by Gaby Aghion, Contribution by Marc Ascoli
Pub Date: October 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Rizzoli
Price: $85.00 ($51 Amazon)

★ Henry Darger, Throw Away Boy: The Tragic Life of an Outsider Artist [Books]

I just received this book, about the life of Henry Darger. It's 10 years in the making and should give us an expounded look at the life of one of my favorite artists.


51xC-LipuJL._SY346_Henry Darger was utterly unknown during his lifetime, keeping a quiet, secluded existence as a janitor on Chicago's North Side. When he died his landlord discovered a treasure trove of more than three hundred canvases and more than 30,000 manuscript pages depicting a rich, shocking fantasy world-many showing hermaphroditic children being eviscerated, crucified and strangled.

While some art historians tend to dismiss Darger as an unhinged psychopath, in Henry Darger, Throw-Away Boy, Jim Elledge cuts through the cloud of controversy and rediscovers Darger as a damaged, fearful, gay man, raised in a world unaware of the consequences of child abuse or gay shame. This thoughtful, sympathetic biography tells the true story of a tragically misunderstood artist. Drawn from fascinating histories of the vice-ridden districts of 1900s Chicago, tens of thousands of pages of primary source material, and Elledge's own work in queer history, the book also features a full-color reproduction of a never-before-seen canvas from a private gallery in New York, as well as a previously undiscovered photograph of Darger with his life-partner Whillie.

Engaging and arresting, Henry Darger, Throw-Away Boy brings alive a complex, brave, and compelling man whose outsider art is both challenging and a triumph over trauma.

Coming Fashion Books

A Queer History of Fashion

Financial Times Style blog reviews some up coming fashion books in Autumn’s best dressed books. I highlighted the above one because the description on Amazon did it more justice (below). It features model Jenny Shimizu.

From Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, many of the greatest fashion designers of the past century have been gay. Fashion and style have played an important role within the LGBTQ community, as well, even as early as the 18th century. This provocative book looks at the history of fashion through a queer lens, examining high fashion as a site of gay cultural production and exploring the aesthetic sensibilities and unconventional dress of LGBTQ people, especially since the 1950s, to demonstrate the centrality of gay culture to the creation of modern fashion. Contributions by some of the world's most acclaimed scholars of gay history and fashion - including Christopher Breward, Shaun Cole, Vicki Karaminas, Jonathan D. Katz, Peter McNeil and Elizabeth Wilson - investigate topics such as the context in which key designers' lives and works form part of a broader "gay" history; the "archeology" of queer attire back to the homosexual underworld of 18th-century Europe; and the influence of LGBTQ subcultural styles from the trouser suits worn by Marlene Dietrich (which inspired Yves Saint Laurent's "Le Smoking") to the iconography of leather. Sumptuous illustrations include both fashion photography and archival imagery.

Model Turned Spy: Toto Koopman

WWD: Model Turned Spy Toto Koopman's Story Rediscovered in New Tome

Eye-toto-koopman04Europe between the wars was full of fascinating characters, many of them forgotten today. Now Jean-Noel Liaut — a Frenchman who has written 11 books on subjects that include writer Karen Blixen, designer Hubert de Givenchy, model/actress Natalie Paley and antiques dealer/decorator Madeleine Castaing — has rediscovered one: Catharina Koopman, known as Toto. She was born in Java and became an haute couture model in Paris, then a spy for the Allies, an inmate in Ravensbruck, the longtime girlfriend of art dealer Erica Brausen and an archaeologist.

Koopman created a beautiful compound on the then-primitive Italian island of Panarea, where she and Brausen, who launched the career of Francis Bacon, entertained guests prominent in the arts and society. Their circle included Alexander Korda, Luchino Visconti, the Duchess of Devonshire, Joan Miró, Alberto Giacometti, Peter Brook, Pierre Boulez, Lee Miller and Bruce Chatwin.

Liaut tells her story in “The Many Lives of Miss K.: Toto Koopman — Model, Muse, Spy” (Rizzoli Ex Libris), translated by Denise Raab Jacobs. Its subject’s life offers many surprises. “She was a free spirit,” says Liaut. “She was fascinating for many different reasons. She spoke five languages fluently, she was a brilliant wit, she was beautiful, but it’s much more than that. All her friends are still completely captivated by her — the glamorous outsider.”

Practical Typography

Matthew Butterick's Practical Typography Online Book:

This is a bold claim, but i stand be­hind it: if you learn and fol­low these five ty­pog­ra­phy rules, you will be a bet­ter ty­pog­ra­ph­er than 95% of pro­fes­sion­al writ­ers and 70% of pro­fes­sion­al de­sign­ers. (The rest of this book will raise you to the 99th per­centile in both categories.)

All it takes is ten min­utes—five min­utes to read these rules once, then five min­utes to read them again.

Amber, Guinevere, and Kate Photographed by Craig McDean: A Decade of Fashion Photography [Books]

Amber, Guinevere, and Kate Photographed by Craig McDean A Decade of Fashion PhotographyWith energy and glamour, iconic photographer Craig McDean captures the celebrated evolution of fashion’s biggest muses: Kate Moss, Guinevere van Seenus, and Amber Valletta. With their waiflike frames and unique features that contrasted with the supermodels of the ’80s, Amber, Guinevere, and Kate became the anti-supermodels that, alongside grunge, signified a global shift in culture. And Craig McDean, an artist with a talented eye for the striking and unusual, photographed them from their beginnings. McDean, whose works are praised for their conceptual and sophisticated edge, is well respected in both the photography and fashion worlds. Shot on film from 1992 through 2002, this roughly chronological volume of 150 color and black-and-white images includes never-before-published photographs, outtakes from famous shoots, and contact sheets. Texts by Mathias Augustyniak of M/M (Paris) and author Glenn O’Brien add depth and perspective to the works. The photographs within this volume capture the essence of an era that changed fashion forever and will be treasured by fashion, style, and photography lovers from all generations.

Being released: October 22nd, 2013. $100

The Mechanical Smile: Modernism and the First Fashion Shows in France and America, 1900-1929 [Books]

Style File: Where Did Models Come From?

The Mechanical SmileThe signature struts of today’s catwalkers, such as Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss, can be traced back to the early twentieth century, when the shift toward movement and modernity produced a desire to see clothes in motion. Staged in the U.S. and France, these first fashion shows were—as Caroline Evans posits in her new book, The Mechanical Smile—”a nodal point” for the convergence of everything from visual art and cinema to international trade and women’s liberation. “This shift occurs in the same period as cinema, so you have lots of moving devices, and people were particularly fascinated by the technology,” Evans, a professor of fashion history and theory at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, told from London. “Collectively, it contributed to a sense of modernity and a sense of speed and acceleration.”

Release Date: July 2nd. [Amazon]