Edita reads | Alexander McQueen – Genius of a Generation by Kristin Knox

Edita reads Alexander McQueen - by Kristin Knox

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I’m gonna tell you something you don’t want to hear
I’m gonna show you where it’s dark, but have no fear.

– Kavinsky – Nightcall

I really wanted to write about the Savage Beauty exhibit at the V&A for a while now. It was equally important for me to honour the museum’s requirement for no photography. Considering the amount of people watching the Alexander McQueen exhibition, I don’t actually think it would be possible to make any good-angled photos in any case. Still, all the thoughts and feelings started to hoard in my head – a release was vitally necessary.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine gave me a fantastic book on the late designer – Alexander McQueen: Genius of the Generation by Kristin Knox. Coincidentally the book carries the same sentiment as the Savage Beauty exhibit, so combining the two was in the stars. I call it emotional fashion. McQueen’s designs provoke you to feel. It’s you and Lee against the world, the rest does not matter. The fact that the rest doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter either.

McQueen’s designs emphasised an art-or-die aesthetic and that’s what I’ve always loved about his work. Theatre, fine arts, literature as well as historic, traditional craft and metalwork – all of it has a home in McQueen’s creations. It’s art that touches the soul and fashion that makes one honoured to be the owner of a piece by Alexander McQueen. It’s an emotional whirlwind and you are no bystander, not even a mere participant. You are at the epicentre of it all, the culmination point, the reason. You, the viewer, not even the wearer, play the hugest role in McQueen’s fashion.

Some designers design clothes to wear, McQueen created clothes to watch. With our mouths open and without uttering a word. The fear of beauty. Savage, captivating, all-conquering, mind-enslaving beauty.

Edita reads | Couture Wedding Gowns by Marie Bariller

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We place so much expectation on a wedding dress. It has to be the “one”, “the” dress, the “most important dress a woman will wear in her life”. Sounds very stressful, if you ask me. Since we’re on the topic of questioning the system, here’s another thing I can’t figure out: Most important, eh… Says who?

Who said that one’s wedding dress has to be all of the above? With a tank full of questions, I opened the tome on wedding attire – Couture Wedding Gowns by Marie Bariller. This book is no laughing matter and I can afford no sarcasm, in fact I can’t afford anything at all – this is a catalogue of the most expensive dresses in the world. It doesn’t go above the prices of the creations listed here.

From Alberta Ferretti, Chanel through Jean Paul Gaultier to Zuhair Murad, this book has the biggest wedding dress masterminds profiled, quoted and their brilliant creations exhibited. There were a few names I expected to see but didn’t. One was Bruce Oldfield, the other Catherine Walker. I felt at least one traditional British couture house had to be in – but not on this occasion.

That doesn’t take away from the wedding lalaland that this book easily makes any bride (or not yet bride) escape to. If you didn’t know what dress was for you, after opening this book you will. You just will. Even if it’s not published in this bridal bible.

What made it interesting for me is that this book reveals what it feels for the designer him or herself to sketch, conceptualise and make a wedding gown. For these types of commissions fashion and trends take the backseat while personality and emotions are the Anna Wintours on the front row. Designing a wedding dress is an intimate affair for everyone involved.

I still find it mind-blowing that the couturier’s task is to summarise a woman as a dress, a white one. Sounds like an extraordinarily strict brief, but this is what separates the boys from the men of wedding couture: one white dress, not any two alike. That well may be the reason why it is “the” dress – it is an extension of the woman. Without her it is nothing and on her, everything.

Thank you Abrams and Chronicle for my copy. You can buy yours directly from the publisher too.

Edita reads | Piaget

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When I was a teen, I remember hating watches. I thought they were just plain ugly pieces that one was supposed to wear when he was older. I now know why I felt this way – I had no good examples to look at. Piaget was not a word in my vocabulary. Thank goodness for growing older and growing wiser. Thank goodness for this book.

The truth is this tome (and it is certainly a tome as it is heavier than my monthly grocery shop) is not necessarily for jewellery lovers. If you consider yourself one, you will delight in looking at the pretty pictures and the vintage Piaget ads here and there. You will be limited to this though.

To truly soak in the glory of this book, you must be willing to immerse yourself in the world of jewellery, from the meticulous process of making it, marketing the goods, through to understanding a brand with historical significance. All of these aspects are covered in Piaget, so to really enjoy this book in a maximalist sense, being a jewellery lover is simply not enough – you must have a healthy obsession with fine jewellery and watchmaking.

Lest we forget that Piaget is the brand that invented jewellery that tells time. That is a radically different way of looking at traditional watchmaking, that is known to be rather rigid and almost exclusively masculine. This is the moment when you picture a man (à la David Gandy) in a a sharp suit looking to his right, a golden Rolex around his wrist nonchalantly shining in the morning sun. Piaget thought, yes, let’s have that. But let’s also make watches sexy and exaggerated. So add a particularly feminine lady in front of our David Gandy lookalike wearing stacks of fine jewels and no watches. After all it’s her timeless jewellery that tells time. Genius.

From 1874 to this day Piaget has stayed within the confines of its own motto: Always do better than necessary. Because of that as time goes by, Piaget’s jewellery keeps on ticking as the brand’s diamonds and emeralds continue shining on. Get this book to find out just how brightly.

This book is written by Florence Müller. Photographs are by Philippe Garcia and Steve Hiett. Get a copy via Abrams and Chronicle. Thank you for my copy!

Edita reads | Eva Perón. The Woman with the Whip

Eva Peron Style Board

Eva Perón is definitely an icon of something. Perhaps an icon of a woman who came from nothing and left life having everything. Reading up on her online, I have never seen such black and such white – Argentinians either love her or absolutely despise her. This is exactly what has led me to read her biography, so beautifully, and may I add severely critically, sculpted by Mary Main.

What a political bio review is doing on a fashion blog? Let me elaborate by quoting a very wise person who was kind enough to share a certain truth with me: “I believe“, he said, “that men can write only for men while women can write for both genders.” While the feminist within me was raising her eye brow saying “duh“, the realist thought baloney, everyone can write for everyone. On this occasion the feminist side of me, along with this very wise man, were right. THIS book could have only been written by a woman; as political and allegedly sadistic maneuvers of Eva Perón were described with a typical masculine emotionless distancing from the situation, which gave way to the revealing of even the most brutal details, for instance the fate of a student called Bravo, while the feminine attention to luxurious clothing and details simply coloured the black and white pictures of Evita. That is the reason this biography is reviewed for pret-a-reporter.

I referred to Evita as an icon of something. I could have said she was a style icon, seeing as she wore the most expensive and fashionable clothes in the world in her time. But giving her such a title would probably leave a bad taste in a lot of readers’ mouths very similar to US Vogue’s Asma al-Assad: Rose of the Dessert fiasco. You will have to forgive me for the fact that I will speak about her style but that does not mean the pretty surface will be seen in this review as an eraser to all the ugly that was within Evita, the hero and the villain.

Eva came from a poor family. She had little education, and in fact she had little interest in education. Instead of smarts she chose wits, one of them being manipulating others in order to get what she wanted solely by making use of her arguably greatest asset, her gender. As unorthodox as this may sound, I have respect for that. It takes a tremendous amount of drive, ambition and energy to get where she got in such a limited time frame as, lest we forget, she died at 33.

As many who come from rags to riches, she made sure her attire alone was worth a standing ovation, not to mention her emotional and painfully repetitive speeches. When she was addressing her “beloved shirtless ones” (a term she used which referred to her followers, the working class and people with low income) her lyrical speeches were almost hypnotic because of the never-ending repetition. The evidence of this shameless hypnosis, in this writer’s opinion, is a printed image of her resembling Virgin Mary. One probably can not get closer to God than that in this world.

The author of the biography explained the reason behind her lavish wardrobe and lifestyle really well. Here are some pieces of the puzzle: She had no female friends, she would not be photographed with females, she would give out toys to children which they could look at but could not play, she built strange and luxurious Ciudades de Infantes  (City of Children) where kids would allegedly appear for show rather than really make use of the Señora’s humble generosity. Speaking of being humble, she referred to herself as “the most humble of the shirtless ones” or “a simple Argentinian woman” while donning the latest couture that she didn’t even pay for (or paid just half of the expenses), saying that the designer should have been happy that SHE decided to don his or hers creations. That led an array of fashion houses into bankruptcy, and others who demanded she paid up saw their shops shut down. The paradox was that she was just afraid to show weakness and worked on the notion that she was above competition. Mary Main compared her to a “little girl who had to have the best toys and dresses and would not share these with the rest of the playground.” An observation which I would sign my name under.

The book concentrated a lot on the gems that she wore – not a piece of costume jewellery in sight. Everything had to be encrusted in rubies and diamonds for the “most humble of the shirtless ones“, Evita. Unlike Kate Middleton or Queen Elizabeth, she’d never repeat an outfit – in fact on her visit to Spain (under Franco’s rule at the time), she would change outfits more that thrice a day, for galas, meetings and outings.

As a simple Argentinian woman, Evita stole hearts of many – she had a fanatical following and gave women the right to vote. But what’s not always mentioned is that she gave women the right to vote for her. This is why the “most humble of the shirtless ones” in the eyes of the world has become either a saint and deity, far beyond a mere style icon, or the reincarnation of Lilith – a demon who manipulated men, stole and shamelessly flaunted latest fashions, the money for which arguably came from the poor people that Evita loved so much. Maybe that’s why she loved them so?

Positives: A very well written biography which takes you right into the heart of 40s-50s Argentina and lets you not only  sit besides one of the world’s most influential women but also enter her mind amid the repetitive speeches and emotional declarations of selflessness.

Negatives: This is a strongly-worded anti-Peronista book which does not portray Eva in positive lights at all. Not that it’s total anti-Perón propaganda, but chances are that it will make you think less of her. It might be a good idea to read something in favour of Evita and only then draw conclusions about her.

Recommend? Yes. It’s a ride, a deep and exceptionally well written ride. For a book with almost zero dialogue, it reads lightning-quickly and doesn’t spare any detail – be it rumoured political murder cover-ups or descriptions of gala gowns and silk chemises.

Eva Peron style

Last time pret-a-reporter read Fashion Babylon.

Edita reads | Fashion Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones

Fashion Babylon

Sometime ago, a co-worker of mine came up to me and said: “You can’t like fashion and not have read this”. Afterwards, she slapped the book on my desk.

So, we decided to do a book exchange. She handed me Fashion Babylon, I gave her Tabloid Girl by Sharon Marshall, and before I start my review, I’d like to say that both books were in the same league as they were full of clichés, but perhaps in retrospect, Tabloid Girl was funnier.

The ugly truth about fashion…

… which you most probably know already. The dirt here, while interesting, will not really be new to you if you are a keen fashion follower. Designers putting high street shirts on their catwalks last minute, models on laxatives and a 100 cigarette per day diet… Well, maybe I did not know that the aforementioned diet also included a pack of Haribo a month. It’s fair to say that while I was aware of a great deal of these “true stories”, they were weaved into the book wonderfully. I enjoyed every bit of the gossip and the humour.

The main character…

… is a designer of an emerging small label. The book starts right after the brand’s show during London Fashion Week, which was open to the style press’ scrutiny and slaughter. I found her feelings similar to those of Isaac Mizrahi’s in a documentary about his job as a designer, Uzipped (1995). Whilst the main character is fictional (or so the author says) I can’t stop wondering who it is based on. I really want to know. Really.


… snort here, snort there. Not to snort before 4PM here, to snort at 11AM there. In a nutshell, there’s a lot of snorting going on in the fashion world.

Goddamn designers don’t make clothes in my size…

… and this book explains why. While I will not expose the particular logic behind this, I can tell you that the reason why you will probably not find a default size 18 Chanel dress is much more banal than you think. Just so you know, it’s not because curvaceous figures aren’t welcome in the fashion world. On the contrary, the buyer is always right and as long as he or she has money to have sucked out of her, she will get even a size 60 made especially for her or him.

Those models look like humanoids…

… for a reason. Fashion Babylon will also educate you as to why you don’t remember any models’ faces these days, unlike the age of the supermodel, when Naomi, Linda, Eva and Kate ruled the fashion scene. If you really want to nail the model look and be at your thinnest, you will know how the catwalk queens do it. The author will not spare you the details of how Eastern European girls achieve the level of skinny which is celebrated in style magazines. Only you might not celebrate it.

The designer price tag…

… is not affordable for the mere mortal. Truth to be told, some designers themselves wouldn’t be able to buy the clothes they make. However, in this book you will find exactly why a cashmere sweater by super-awesome-brand-which-I-want-to-wear-right-now costs as much as it does. You’ll be able to judge for yourself if you still want it. To be fair, you probably will, because Sienna Miller wore it.

Celebrity’s designer gear…

… is free to them. Well, not always but often. In fact, some brands pay celebs to parade their pieces – I won’t tell how much and who, but you are probably have a couple of ideas. Yes, it is stupid that fashionistas who would sell their souls to the devil to carry an IT bag can’t afford it, and celebs who quite franky don’t give a rat’s ass about fashion are fed these stylish gems, which they are likely to pass on to their mums, sisters, friends or just dump in the trash.

Edwards-Jones leaves you with an idea about how serious or how plain dumb the industry can get, ending Fashion Babylon with someone simply asking the main character : What are your ideas for next season’s collection?

This made me love the author’s wit as the question symbolised a never ending cycle of the style world, and of course the fact that they all live in their own little bubble.

Positives: The style of writing – it’s to the point, funny and raw. Like any nice and dirty exposé should be. Another positive is he moment when a model is found handcuffed to a heater with two vibrators in her moments before a runway show. Yes, two. In her. Thought I’d repeat that.

Negatives: You won’t learn anything drastically new about the fashion world, most of the information is what you heard from your fashion obsessed friend or from your mum who kept it mean and truthful when you had your “I want to be a model” stage.

Recommend? Drugs, sex and beautiful people. I don’t think I need to say more.

Last time pret-a-reporter read To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle.