Vogue On Fashion Books
To celebrate the release of the ‘Vogue on’ books, British Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman recently hosted a talk and presentation at the V&A along with the four authors Bronwyn Cosgrave (former Features Editor of British Vogue), Fashion Historian Judith Watt, Contributing Editor to Vogue Charlotte Sinclair and the former Features Associate of British Vogue Chloe Fox.
The talk covered legendary designers Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen through the inspirational unseen Vogue archive of sketches, catwalk shots and intimate photographs of the designers at work.
Daphne Guinness photographed above wearing a dress Alexander McQueen’s 2008 collection ‘The Girl Who Lived in a Tree’.
‘Vogue On offers an authoritative overview of the work of the 20th century’s most influential designers. Unique access to the treasure of the Vogue library combined with concise, elegant and informed writing ensures that this series is an unmissable addition to any enthusiast of fashion’s library.’ – Alexandra Shulman.
Vogue on Coco Chanel celebrates the most influential female designer of the twentieth century. A testament to the lasting influence of Chanel, her designs remain as sought after today as when they first appeared.
Bronwyn Cosgrave: ‘I thought I actually knew a lot about Chanel, I was a huge fan when I worked at Vogue – I acquired a lot of Chanel! I realised how little I knew about her when I started doing my research at the Vogue library, what really astounded me is that Chanel started her career in 1913, 100 years ago and she didn’t stop working until she died in 1971.
Starting chapter number two with Chanel no.5 was difficult as there are 61 books written on Chanel and I have read all of them! Chanel designed her perfumes like a couture piece which you think they go into a lab but it wasnt like that for her she wanted a scent which was very sensual and something that she would want to wear – it’s a love story. At the time Chanel was seeing the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich and they set off to the South of France and Pavlovich introduced Chanel to her nose, helping her design this scent based on one he had given her.
The funny thing is Chanel always downplayed everything, she launched the perfume very stealthily – she used to get the shop girls to douse the fitting roms in her Rue De Cambon boutique and when customers asked about it, she would send them a bottle and they would ultimately get hooked on the scent.’
Vogue on Elsa Schiaparelli presents the enduring legacy of this daring designer, featuring images from the first picture of her bow-knot sweater in 1927 to the surrealist ‘tears’ dress of the late 1930’s.
Judith Watt: ‘Elsa Schiaparelli was extraordinary and I was very delighted to learn Diego Della Valle has bought the brand and is the process of re-launching it! It was a real challenge for me to write- where do you start with Schiaparelli when there are so many things to say about her?
With Schiaparelli’s label running from 1926 until declaring herself bankrupt in 1954, her career was very short and very very intense. But she was described by the New York Times as a comet, as someone who arrived on the Paris fashion scene seemingly from nowhere, taken under the wing of French Couturier Paul Poiret and promoted by him and living off the charity of friends.
Vogue launched her career in 1927 where she produced her first collection and what’s fascinating about her is the way she moved from modernism to cubism and how that transformed, becoming very engulfed with surrealist artists like Man Ray and Salvador Dali – though this woman was extraordinarily shy and hated having her picture taken.’
Vogue on Christian Dior recounts Dior’s search for the perfect form, analysing his unique vision of a woman’s ideal silhouette.
Charlotte Sinclair: ‘I wanted to start with an image of Dior on the morning of his debut show on February 12th 1947, looking miserable and terrified. He had come out of nowhere as far as the general public was concerned, but he had always been a very skilled illustrator and had ambition to start his own couture line, while working with Pierre Balmain.
By the time he opened his first show which was the iconic new look, he had a buzz about him and the New Look was interesting because it was very controversial – modernising the female form with corseted tops, padded hips and the hugely decadent use of materials in the post-war age.
He was incredibly inspired by architecture and almost wanted the clothes to wear the woman, as one model had said – ‘they’re very beautiful but you couldn’t sit down in them.’ So, because of this much needed glamour through the intense austerity that was felt – this shocking New Look became the Paris landmark and people used to visit the house as much as the Eiffel Tower.’
Vogue on Alexander McQueen traces his career from humble beginnings as an apprentice on Savile Row to the creative director of a global brand.
Chloe Fox: ‘When I was writing the book I found it hard to attain a perspective on a career that is still very much going with Sarah Burton but with someone so recently and tragically gone. Regardless, I do think Alexander McQueen was the genius of his generation. \Hos women were powerful and they rose out of historical past and strode into a digital future, the world that mcqueen burst in onto was a hotbed of energised creativity in the early 90’s and a new culture was being born with people like Damian Hirst and McQueen himself – they were angry, they were anglo-centric and they were shocking.
McQueen graduated in 1992 from Central Saint Martins and his entire collection was bought by Isabella Blow – she gave him unprecedented access to the world of fashion and thrust him into a limelight which I think he resisted at first. But she was pivotal in his career and what McQueen like to do most was to shock.
His legacy lives on with Sarah Burton but McQueen certainly made his mark in the world of fashion.’
Buy the series for £15 each online now.
– Sufiyeh Hadian