Oct 06

Vogue On Designers | Book Review

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Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Alexander McQueen

Out Now, £15 each, hardback


 Sometimes I love my job, and the opportunity to review these books was one of those times. These books are as beautiful, elegant and enjoyable as the designers the books are about. I love the layout of the books and each one has great quotes from the designer.

Vogue on: Coco Chanel, by Bronwyn Cosgrave. Vogue on Chanel may be a short book but it is incredibly comprehensive. The book is full of pictures and quotes. It is hard to read the story of Coco Chanel’s life and not be inspired by what an amazing business women she was. To Vogue’s credit it does not brush over the rumours about Nazi collaboration (Chanel had an affair with a German officer during World War II) and the book is well-researched and beautifully written. The Vogue archive pictures are to-die-for and I learnt a lot from reading this book. Coco Chanel managed to leave her mark, not just fashion, but also the world. An excellent businesswomen she built an entire empire by creating a signature look.

Coco Chanel’s private life was as interesting as her business. She dated the Duke of Westminster and traveled in high society. She was backed by Kitty De Rothschild who stated, “I shan’t buy a thing without showing her. That child’s got more taste than the rest put together.” After this stamp of approval the elite of the day bought her clothes in droves, and still do.

I loved this book. It is a triumph for Bronwyn Cosgrave. A perfect gift for Christmas and beyond.


Vogue on: Alexander McQueen,  by Chloe Fox. This book is different from the others as I actually remember Alexander McQueen, and was very upset when he tragically took his own life. He is the most modern of the fashion designers and I remember some of the collections. For 15 years the mouthy, East-End, working-class boy-did-good, McQueen was deliberately controversial.

Talented beyond belief, McQueen was also arrogant, likable and visionary. He knew how to be quotable and work the press as much as he knew how to design beautiful, wearable clothes. This book has a ting of sadness as both McQueen and Isabella Blow committed suicide. Blow had ovarian cancer and McQueen killed himself not long after Blow, and then his mother died

McQueen’s label lasts and the mantle has been handed to Sarah Burton, who designed the wedding dress of Kate Middleton. Burton talks fondly of her former boss in this book.Burton says, “He was my inspiration everyday. Everything I know, I learnt from him.”  In fact, the book has access to all of the main players in McQueens life. A must have for fashion lovers and McQueen fans.

In this book Plum Sykes says, “The fact was, Alexander created a new silhouette for a generation. When you look back at the history of fashion, the only designers with any longevity – from Balenciaga to Dior to Yves Saint Laurent – are the ones who created their own iconic shape.” This quote is what you learn from Vogue’s series of books on designers: they all created their own shape.I really hope there will be more books in this series.


Vogue on: Christian Dior, by Charlotte Sinclair. Dior was such a visionary that he completely changed how women dressed. The ‘New Look’ he invented stunned the fashion world and had a cataclysmic effect. The truth is, Dior did more than create a look, he created a revolution. When Dior showcased his new range so many people would come that even the staircases would be filled. There is a wonderful picture of Marlene Dietrich in this book, clutching her ticket as a child would hang onto candy. This book, and indeed all of the others, is not just a book on fashion, but a book on history. Vogue on Christian Dior is a fascinating read, I could barely put it down. I could also stare at the pictures for hours.

All of Diors couture clients had their own mannequin that was made to their own measurements. Upon reading this I rather longed to be incredibly rich and that Christian Dior was still alive, as it sounded so romantic and wonderful. One of the reasons Dior was so successful was because he gave women what they wanted. “I brought back the neglected art of people pleasing.” He said.

Of course, all of the designers these books are about are dead now. An era ended. Even Alexander McQueen, sadly gone too soon. I hope Vogue do more books in this series. Yves Saint Laurent would be an obvious, and much deserved, subject.

Vogue on: Elsa Schiaparelli, by Judith Watt. Like the rest of the books in the series, Vogue on Elsa Schiaparelli is well illustrated, picture perfect and wonderfully written. Schiaparelli may not be as well known to the wider public as the other designers but she remains influential.

Schiaparelli was also a rare thing, even today: a female fashion designer. She had a lasting rivalry with Coco Chanel who was dismissive of her. Schiaparelli was born into high society but lost all of her money after her husband spent her dowry and then left her and her young daughter. She went to work and managed to open her own label. She said: ‘Poverty forced me to work, Paris gave me a liking for it.” Schiaparelli  not only managed to design her own “look”, she also made designs for different types of women, no matter what their body shape or personality. She was also an artist, collaborating with Salvador Dali and Man Ray,

This book is a brilliant story of flair, tenaciousness and perseverance. A wonderful book.

“Life on the dotted line was of no possible interest.” Elsa Schiaparelli


Vogue On is an influential and covetable series of short books from the fashion bible Vogue, celebrating the defining fashion designers of the last century.  The first four books in the series illuminate the significance of Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior and Alexander McQueen, each pioneers of their time, and draw extensively on the Vogue archive, the definition of portraiture and fashion illustration. 


Alexandra Shulman, Editor of British Vogue, comments “Vogue On offers an authoritative overview of the work of the 20th century’s most influential designers. Unique access to the treasures of the Vogue library combined with concise, elegant and informed writing ensures that this series is an unmissable addition to any student or enthusiast of fashion’s library.”


Vogue, the international fashion bible, has charted the careers of designers through the decades. Its unique archive of photographs, taken by the leading photographers of the day from Cecil Beaton to Mario Testino, and original illustrations, together with its highly respected fashion writers, make Vogue the most authoritative and prestigious source of reference on fashion. No magazine is better positioned to present a library on the most influential fashion designers of the modern age.