September Book Club: The Style Guide

As September rolls in and the weather slowly changes, we start thinking about the fall fashions that will help us transition from heat and humidity to brisk autumn air. And with that in mind, we turn our attentions to our favourite designers and what they will be bringing us for the Fall/Winter season.

But have you ever stopped to think about where these fashion houses began? From humble beginnings to global domination, a leading fashion house has a journey like no other. So, with that said, we have rounded up a handful of books detailing the most popular brands, each of which will provide exciting new insight into the glamourous world of fashion.

In the Name of Gucci

The Gucci family name represents a saga of forbidden love, betrayals, intrigue, and a secret child — one who, despite a childhood spent in the shadows, would one day grow up to inherit an empire. Written by Patricia Gucci, the love child of designer Aldo Gucci, this memoir accounts the story of her criminal birth — in ’60s Italy, it was illegal to have a child born out of wedlock — and her father’s attempts to avoid public scandal and tarnish his reputation as clothier to the royals and stars. Growing up in secret, hidden from the Italian authorities and the Gucci family, Patricia’s fate would take a drastic turn at the age of nineteen, when a coup by Aldo’s legal sons prompted him to appoint Patricia as his sole heir, propelling her into the limelight. The story reads like an epic family drama, set against the luxurious background of high fashion.

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life

The rise of Coco Chanel is one of the ultimate rags-to-riches stories; born into poverty, she lost her mother at an early age and was sent to a convent in central France, which ran an orphanage for parentless or abandoned girls. It was here, in this strict and humble environment, that Chanel learned to sew, and she would later go on to found an eponymous fashion house that changed women’s fashion forever, moving away from the corseted silhouette in the post-WWI years and promoting sleeker, more casual attire. In Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, British author and fashion writer Justine Picard draws upon her own extensive research to paint a portrait of Chanel, a woman whose upbringing and love affairs — most notoriously those rumoured to have occurred during the German occupation of Paris, when Chanel was suspected of being far too cozy with the Nazis — and delineates fact from fiction in a story that feels almost mythological.

Alexander McQueen: The Life and Legacy

The life of Lee Alexander McQueen was tragically cut short in 2010, when the forty-year-old British fashion designer committed suicide. His relatively short career, however, helped reinvent modern fashion, and his legacy lives on; today parent company Gucci maintains the Alexander McQueen label, which is currently run by McQueen’s long-term assistant, Sarah Burton. Alexander McQueen: The Life and the Legacy delves into the designer’s early years in East London, his training at the Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design, his whirlwind career, and tragic death. More than one hundred and seventy-five full-colour photographs offer an intimate lens into McQueen’s professional and personal life, allowing the reader a unique perspective on the “designer of a generation.”

Loulou & Yves

English free spirit Loulou La Falaise was the founder of an eponymous fashion line of ready-to-wear, costume jewelry, and accessories, toting an aesthetic that was bohemian but effortlessly chic. Her enigmatic personality and knack for evocative designs captured the attention of Yves Saint Laurent, and she became his creative right hand, friend, and muse. Indeed, in many ways, Loulou was the lynchpin of the Yves Saint Laurent fashion label, plying her talents for thirty years before branching out on her own upon Saint Laurent’s retirement. Loulou worked hard, lived hard, and played hard — and Christopher Petkanas captures her spirit, as well as the pivotal professional relationship of her life, with crystal clarity.

The Little Book of Prada

Founded by Italian-born Mario Prada and his brother Martino, the fashion house of Prada has been one of the preeminent names in luxury clothing and accessories, an empire that grew out of its original iteration as a leather goods shop in Milan in 1913. This stunning coffee table book is full of photographs that highlight the brand’s history of understated elegance; its pages are comprised of runway shots, photographs of show-stopping garments, museum pieces, and a detailed account of Prada’s ascent to the status of household name. This is some serious eye candy for serious fashionistas.

Halston: Inventing American Fashion

American fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick was one of the “it” figures in the 1970s landscape of arts and culture; rubbing elbows with the likes of close friends Liza Manelli and Andy Warhol, he rose to international fame thanks to his minimalist designs, a reputation he initially earned with his creation of Jacqueline Kennedy’s pillbox hat, worn to her husband’s inauguration in 1961. He is also credited by Vogue with popularizing the caftan, another look favoured by Jackie. Halston: Inventing American Fashion is the first monograph dedicated to the designer’s life and work, studying his rise from a milliner for Bergdorf Goodman to fashion icon and friend to America’s A-list celebrities and socialites. Drawing from personal archives and early sketches, niece Lesley Frowick has compiled interviews and personal narratives by those in Halston’s inner circle, and the result is a compelling dive into modern American fashion.

House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival

Fans of American Crime Story will be familiar with the tragic story of Gianna Versace; the murder of the Italian fashion designer is the raw material for the show’s riveting, operatic second season. This volume, the first English language book about the iconic designer, traces the humble beginnings of Gianni and sister Donatella, a duo whose ambition and singular vision propelled them to international stardom –– a legacy sadly cut short by Versace’s cold-blooded murder in Miami Beach. Author Deborah Ball conducted hundreds of interviews with Versace family members, models, lovers, rivals, and fashion industry heavy-hitters to weave an account of the late designer’s lasting impact and Donatella’s choice to take up the mantle following the death of her brother. This book is a riveting marriage of fashion, tragedy, and intrigue.

Louis Vuitton: The Birth of Modern Luxury

Louis Vuitton, child of a working class family, began designing innovative stackable and waterproof trunks at the height of the Industrial Revolution in Paris; his subsequent invention of a pickproof lock launched the young Vuitton on a journey into the world of luxury travel cases, creating a legacy that would span generations. Louis Vuitton: The Birth of Modern Luxury is the first volume of its kind to examine the ascent of the world’s foremost luxury company. Co-authors Paul-Gerard Louis Vuitton and Pierre Leonforte examine the transformation of the company in the hands of its first three leaders: founder Louis, son Georges, and grandson Gaston. Filled with photographs and behind-the-scenes details on the brand’s most iconic items, this book is perfect for those who swear by that LV monogram.

Georgio Armani

Originally published in 2015 to commemorate the company’s fortieth anniversary, Georgio Armani celebrates the life and work of the Italian designer and his eponymous luxury fashion house. This is a book of milestones, outlining Armani’s key creations and the turning points in his explosive career. Famous for blurring the line between traditional sportswear and elegant business and evening wear, Georgio Armani is one of the key figures responsible for making Italy the fashion hub of the world. Fitting for this tome dedicated to the great Armani is the inclusion of works of the world’s leading fashion photographers, including Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel. This book is a fashionable feast for the eyes.

Hubert de Givenchy

Aristocratic by birth, Hubert de Givenchy was literally fashion royalty. This volume was published to correspond with the first major retrospective of his work, devised by the couturier himself. For those who love the classic fashions and timeless elegance of Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, and Grace Kelly, this survey of Hubert de Givenchy’s finest pieces will stir the fashionistas among us with a soft spot for old Hollywood — and, of course, the eternal staple: the little black dress. (Yes, that LBD in Breafast at Tiffany’s was a Givenchy creation!)