books usually appeal to the eye with zippy photographs,
playful illustrations, arresting typefaces. But the best
of them will offer something for the head and heart —
a surprising point of view, thoughtful essays, a
distinctive style — that makes the experience
memorable. Consider these three new books: "John
Galliano Unseen" (Yale University Press, $60) by
Robert Fairer; "Food in Vogue" (Abrams, $75),
edited by Taylor Antrim; and "Items: Is Fashion
Modern?" (The Museum of Modern Art, $45) by Paola
Antonelli and Michelle Millar Fisher.
— big, bold, almost impossibly saturated with color
and often witty as hell — bring a delicious bite to
"Food in Vogue," a look at the fashion
magazine’s approach to food over the decades. It’s
an attitude best described as totemic rather than home
ec/useful — and that’s the fun of it. I mean, who
knew frozen vegetables could look so good? Well, Irving
Penn did — and the proof is the very first photo, his,
in the book.
it’s "Chicken in Heels" from Helmut Newton
in 2003 or a Eric Boman’s plush toy bunny climbing
into a stewpot for 2014’s "Hop to It," these
images speak to something more elegant, exotic, urgently
elemental than the usual what’s-for-dinner ho-hum. The
photos are arranged in an order clearly meant to
surprise and, perhaps, shock. The emotional zing is
compounded by the oversized (10-by-13.4-inch) format
that allows the images to practically leap from the
to the appeal is a collection of food-themed articles
and essays, notably from Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue’s
much-lauded food columnist.
Galliano Unseen" captures the lush, romantic genius
of an iconic couturier whose fall from grace in 2011 was
sparked by what The New York Times later described as a
"drunken anti-Semitic rant." The reference to
that incident is oblique here. An introductory essay
notes he "ceased designing" for Christian Dior
and his own label in 2011, and "after a period of
rehabilitation," became creative director of Maison
Margiela in 2015. But then the audience for whom this
book is intended knows full well the the arc of Galliano’s
suspect that for many who pick it up, this
season-by-season look at Galliano’s collections from
1996 to 2011 will spark nostalgic gasps of recognition
of a favored silhouette, an innovative cut or a sensual
drape of cloth. Robert Fairier, billed here as American
Vogue’s "exclusive backstage photographer"
for over a decade, captures the energy of Galliano’s
shows through behind-the-scenes glimpses of models
striking poses before hitting the runway.
Leon Talley, the former editor-at-large for American
Vogue, joins Claire Wilcox, senior curator of fashion at
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and Fairer
himself in offering thoughtful reflections on Galliano’s
life, work and enduring appeal.
Is Fashion Modern?" is the title of both an
exhibition running at the Museum of Modern Art in New
York City and its companion volume. The book lists 111
pieces of clothing and accessories that, according to
its back cover, "have influenced the world in the
past 100 years." The list starts with 501 jeans
from Levi Strauss & Co. and ends with YSL Touche
Eclat, "a combination concealer and face
highlighter in an all-in-one tube and brush"
released in 1992 by Yves St. Laurent. In between you’ll
find items ranging from aviator glasses to the Fitbit to
the little black dress to the white T-shirt.
book is loaded with photographs and illustrations, but
there’s a lot of text, too, giving it a scholarly
feel. That’s deliberate, I think, as the Museum of
Modern Art has not hosted a clothing exhibition since
1944. An introductory essay titled "Who’s Afraid
of Fashion?" by co-author Paola Antonelli, a senior
curator in the museum’s department of architecture and
design, captures the museum’s trepidation well.
Antonelli makes a compelling case in her essay for the
significance and cultural importance of fashion, a
message one hopes her museum, and others, will heed. The
book offers plenty of examples, many of them sparked by
neat facts and telling details.