Donald Robertson, ‘My Super Heroes’ © Donald Robertson
Donald Robertson found fame as an illustrator when an assistant set him up an Instagram account in 2012 (@drawbertson). The fashion world was rapidly taken with his frantic, childlike, colourful pop sketches, which have earned comparisons with Andy Warhol, and brand collaborations.
This uplifting (albeit a little gushy) book features jaunty depictions of fashion legends such as Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour, scribbled captions by the artist and appreciations by the likes of Valentino.
Love, Cecil, by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Abrams, £40
Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s visual biography presents a “behind-the-scenes glimpse” at the motivations, inspirations and obsessions that drove one of fashion’s most prodigious photographers.
With access to his journals, scrapbooks and letters, Love, Cecil seeks to fill in the shapes around the artist, a surprisingly lonely character who always thought himself an “outsider”. Neither does she shy away from addressing his less endearing qualities, his quick irritation and the anti-Semitic comments that ruined his later career.
Mostly, however, her efforts are focused on showcasing his “omnivorous drive to create” and a body of work that still dazzles near 40 years after his death.
Fiorucci, by Sofia Coppola, Rizzoli, $45
The cult appeal of the Italian fashion label, founded by Elio Fiorucci in 1967, reached its apex in the 1980s as a rainbow-coloured retail experience combining Panini sticker posters, angel-emblazoned T-shirts and kitchsy, Pop Art prints.
This book revisits the best Fiorucci iconography, and includes interviews with many of the brand’s collaborators and fans. As film director Sofia Coppola writes in the foreword: “Nothing was more exciting and glamorous.” Certainly, no shop was ever more fun.
Dries Van Noten 1-100, by Dries Van Noten, Tim Blanks, Susannah Frankel, Lannoo, £130
In March, Belgian designer Dries Van Noten presented his 100th collection. This set of two books bring back to life each fashion show since his first “real” one in July 1991, through images and vivid anecdotes and the designer’s own words.
Van Noten has a passionate following for his opulent fabrics, exotic embellishment and bold colour. What stands out is how fresh the early collections still look and how beautifully his joyful aesthetic has matured.
Worn in New York, by Emily Spivack, Abrams Image, £18.99
The follow-up to Worn Stories, a collection of first-person tales about favourite jackets and beloved band tees, Emily Spivack’s sequel asks artists, designers and musicians to nominate an item of clothing that reminds them of “a significant moment or experience in New York City”.
The resulting 68 confessionals include functionalists and flauntists: the Canadian model Coco Rocha recalls the wine-stained, Elizabeth Taylor-owned suit she wore to the Met Ball; a female fire-captain offers her FDNY uniform, and the writer Gay Talese nominates a Brioni suit he’s been wearing since 1959.
All combine to create a sweetly alternative portrait of human survival in the big city.
The power of two: an extract from ‘Fashion Together’ by Lou Stoppard
Collaboration has become a buzzword in fashion in the past decade. I began this book when designer-high-street hookups were booming and luxury brands had increasingly started calling on artists and famous faces to produce one-off collections and products. These were tools that worked to pull in press and cause a splash. But I’m interested in the lasting partnerships — the unions that exist behind the scenes, and the decades-long working relationships that have shaped each participant’s vision and life. How is credit shared? How is work divided? Is jealousy or ownership an issue? Is there a recipe for success?
The book is a study of collaboration. Some duos, like the design partnerships Viktor & Rolf and Proenza Schouler, talk of operating as one mind. For others, the process is the opposite: the partnership gives people the opportunity to share the workload, utilise individual strengths, and save time. In some pairs, one member serves as a moral support or cheerleader; in others, the dynamic relies on constructive criticism and the prospect of a challenge. The dictum that opposites attract holds true in work environments, too.
I remember feeling, this could be a kindred spirit. And perhaps there is no greater pleasure than such a thought
Working out the pairings was another challenge. Some relationships were obvious, like the photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, or Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, who work together. Others were harder. Collaborative people tend to be prolific in their collaborations — committed to several creative minds. The photographer Nick Knight and Daphne Guinness talk of their relationship as one composed of “orbits” and the web of individuals — Alexander McQueen, Gareth Pugh, John Galliano — who have connected them.
Knight could have appeared in this book with any number of names. Alexander McQueen, too, offered many relationships to analyse — his stylist, Katy England, his milliner, Philip Treacy, or the dancer Michael Clark, who was so instrumental in creating his catwalk spectacles. I was drawn to the less tangible, more unexpected partnerships that operate outside of the usual structures of the industry. I was intrigued when the designer Jonathan Anderson declared of his relationship with Benjamin Bruno, who collaborates with him on his namesake label JW Anderson and at Spanish house Loewe: “Ben has the fashion and I have the commerciality.” Their interview demonstrates how professional relationships can become unique, specific partnerships.
In many ways, this is a book about love. Many duos are friends or lovers first and collaborators second. And while some of the pairs have generated huge revenues for businesses and brands, it’s rarely money that ties them together. The architect Philip Beesley, when discussing first meeting the designer Iris Van Herpen, says: “I remember feeling, this could be a kindred spirit. And perhaps there is no greater pleasure than such a thought.”
These kinds of collaborations never really end. Shaun Leane, speaking of his 17-year-long collaboration with Alexander McQueen, describes the late designer’s influence still: “I’ll make a piece for one of my collections and think, ‘Lee would love that!’ Then I know it’s a winner. He’s embedded in me.”
Some partners are almost impossible to define: they simply inspire. I tread carefully when using the word “muse” — as Michèle Lamy says of her collaborator and husband Rick Owens, the term suggests a certain passivity. When looking back at the history of the fashion relationship, I was less intrigued by the pairing of a well-dressed woman on the arm of a designer than by the more dynamic, layered partnerships that have set the tone for today’s collaborations — Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí, Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, to name just a few. I tried to look at partners who, like their forebears, bucked trends and caused the industry to evolve.
The fantasy of the designer dreaming up ideas in isolation has never been accurate. But the difficulties and pressure many designers face are better recognised now, and that sense of a solo creative — feared, adored and admired — seems outdated. Today, the notion of a “collective” is gaining popularity. Teamwork is now celebrated as a pragmatic way to excel in a tough industry. The late Joe Bates, one of the founders of London knitwear label Sibling (which, in an unusual set-up for the time, was formerly run by three collaborators), once observed that a trio is a fail-safe mechanism because, when disaster strikes, as it inevitably does, “if two are on the floor crying, there’s still one standing”.
Fashion is about co-operation. Dialogue, discussion and even confrontation are central to innovation. Is there a recipe for productive collaboration? Of course not. But each of the duos are bound by trust. Most acknowledged that, more than a shared artistic vision or a common creative sensibility, trust makes for a great relationship. Like happy romantic unions, successful creative partnerships rely on a certain amount of chemistry. The relationship works or it doesn’t. And when it does work, it is a joy, pure and simple. Togetherness is nuanced, magical, hard to define, and, when right, beautiful to observe.
This is an abridged extract from ‘Fashion Together: Fashion’s Most Extraordinary Duos on the Art of Collaboration’ by Lou Stoppard, Rizzoli, $75