Couture Confessions: Fashion Legends in Their Own Words

Image of Couture Confessions: Fashion Legends in Their Own Words
Release Date: 
June 14, 2016
Rizzoli Ex Libris
Reviewed by: 

Couture Confessions is a book that should assessed based on two distinct points of view depending on the reading experience/history of each reader. For the more uninitiated reader, Golbin offers a mini biography of each designer, but for the more seasoned and informed reader, many of the subjects and what they have to say may be a bit “over inked.”

The concept of the book is that each designer is given a chapter except that all the information is brought forth in the form of an interview. Each interview is conceived with direct quotes from that specific designer, so in essence the questions were seemingly conceived once the answers were in place. For the most part, there is little new information to be gleaned by the more experienced reader while the unseasoned reader will find each chapter to be electrifying and hugely informative.

“Balenciaga is the father of disciplines, understated, chic clothes,” said John Fairchild.

Part of the issue is that the most celebrated and renowned of designers are the ones who have had the most “ink” devoted to them so that much of what the more informed reader will read is old news. In the book’s defense there is one chapter that seemed to be extraordinarily short and yet of peak interest and that is the interview with Balenciaga. Instead of the subject “speaking,” the questions are answered by anyone from Diana Vreeland, Cecil Beaton, and John Fairchild to Christian Dior.

“If Dior is the Watteau of dressmaking . . . full of nuances, chic, delicate and timely . . . then Balenciaga is fashion’s Picasso,” said Cecil Beaton.

Another plus when reading Couture Confessions is that within these interviews there is a treasure trove of brilliant quotes from many of these deceased designers as well as personalities of that era.

“Fashion dies young,” said Jean Cocteau.

In general the chapters seemed to drone on and on. Part of this might have been avoided if the tone of each chapter had been a tad more humorous, less informational. At times one felt like this is really TMI (too much information) and who cares? Author Golbin so often produces books which have elicited great expectations and are some of the best titles in the genre but here Couture Confessions fell flat in my eyes, but again, it depends on one’s point of view or reading experiences.

Of note in Couture Confessions are the wonderful woodcut-looking illustrations of Yann Legendre. The featured designers are Poiret, Grès, Balenciaga, YSL, McQueen, Vionnet, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Lanvin, Balmain, and Dior.