Two books about fashion and design…

Vogue Essentials: The Little Black Dress by Chloe Fox

This book arrived and I couldn’t stop myself from immediately becoming totally immersed in it. The idea is simple – stunning photography from the Vogue archive – from Beaton to Demarchelier via Bailey, models Shrimpton on the cover to Moss and Lily Cole, plus Coco Chanel and the LBDs of all the great designers of course, the selection of photographs in colour or black & white presents a history of fashion photography through the medium of one item of clothing.

The introduction gives us a full appreciation of the LBD. After that the book is divided into four thematic chapters: sleek simplicity, all in the detail, vamp it up, and modern twist; each chapter also has an introductory text which sets the theme in context of fashion history.

To be honest, I am more interested in the photography than the dresses. The double-page spread to your right is typical. Each of the photos used has a paragraph or two about it – the ‘story’ title and when it was shot, the photographer, designer, stylist, model, together with details about the dress and sometimes the accessories. The Index lists all the designers, photographers and models.

This book will definitely appeal to fans of the Design Museum 50 series, such as Fifty Dresses that Changed the World.  It’s about the the same size as those books, but where the Design Museum books are matte, the Vogue one has all the gloss!

I’ve surrendered this book (along with my Design Museum ones) to my daughter, but I really enjoyed looking at it, and there were enough words to give a good context.

Source: Review copy.    Vogue Essentials: The LIttle Black Dress (Conran, 2018) hardback, 160 pages.  BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link)


A Life in Pattern by Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely is currently the subject of a career retrospective at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London – it’s on until late September.  This large slab of a book has been issued to coincide with the exhibition. And this is a beautiful book – full of Kiely’s iconic tessellated designs on everything from handbags to shopping bags, from homewares to her fashion lines. Many of the designs are reproduced full size, taking a whole page – the colours are astounding!

I have a confession to make – I’m not the biggest fan of Orla Kiely’s ubiquitous patterns- although I do own a couple of the shopping bags she did for Tesco! I wasn’t planning to go to the exhibition, but I am, however, very interested in the process of design, so when offered this book to review I said yes. What I’d hoped to get from it was an appreciation of her design process – how her patterns such as ‘stem’ evolved, how she chooses the colours, a but about how she makes the repeats work, production and so on, but this is not that kind of a book. There are a few design sketches dotted through the book, but they are not explained further.

I had also hoped for some insight into the book’s subtitle: “And how it can make you happy without you even noticing.” but this wasn’t expanded on either really.

For there are just nine pages of text: a foreword by Leith Clark, a two page introduction by Kiely, and brief introductory texts for the five chapters plus the thank yous at the end. Admittedly, in her intro, she does say that she considers the book:

‘a visual document of our history and work’ and ‘In this book, we are showcasing the final works more than the process…’

Her most famous design ‘stem’ gets it’s own chapter and it is fascinating to see the variation in the pattern that made her famous. Chapter two is on handbags; three and four focus on her winter and summer fashion collections which were less interesting for me; the final shortest section is on homewares (right).

The majority of the book is of finished designs and products, in glorious technicolor. It’s lovely and glossy; all her fans will want a copy on their coffee tables – I’m still not enough of a fan for it to sit on mine.

Source: Review copy    Orla Kiely, A Life in Pattern (Conran, 2018), big softback with flaps, 304 pages.  BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link)


9 thoughts on “Two books about fashion and design…

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Kate Spade wasn’t so well-known by non-fashion folk in the UK, but having looked her up, I love her handbags. The book you mention sounds really fascinating (I’ve been to read your post).

  1. Liz Dexter says:

    I love Orla although I only have some paper carriers from the shop, a mug and a lovely big bag my best friend overwhelmed me with two birthdays ago, and I’m going to the exhibition with her in August. I read another book on the topic which had loads of text and more on the design process, it’s in a a joint review here and might be more interesting.

  2. lizipaulk says:

    If you’re interested in good design in general, there’s a really interesting documentary series on Netflix called Abstract. It’s in four (?) parts and so far the series has looked at shoe design (Nike), architecture, sculpture, and there’s one more to go. We’ve really enjoyed it.

Leave a Reply