Fashion Lives: Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis
Fashion Lives should become a textbook or at least mandatory reading for all budding designers, future fashionphiles, and anyone who inhabits the fashion business or considers themselves an aficionado of the “art form.”
Fern Mallis has brilliantly compiled her interviews from the 92 Street Y series and Rizzoli was sage enough to publish them and the combination produces a book that brings a very personal, insightful and very human and sometimes intimate side to a business that is often considered vapid and superficial.
As anyone interviewer will tell you, interviews are only as good as the subject (interviewee) and without question Ms. Mallis’ success level is edging 100%. She manages to convey to the reader that her subjects spoke with great candor and in the most relaxed manner. The questions are well thought out and very particular to each interviewee, even though there are few cookie cutter questions. It is a difficult task to get any creative person to speak freely about themselves personally rather than just about their body of work.
The boomer reader will take special delight in being reminded of times gone by and might even find a few instances where the subject seems to have chosen to forget or re-embroider their past. It should be said now that this is no fault of the “emcee” but rather of the interviewee who has either chosen to forget, omit or glorify their personal history.
The who’s who of Fashion Lives is extensive. The 14 designers who have been selected are a cross section of fashion that span about the past 40 years of the business as well as each having their own very personal point of view when it comes to life and fashion. Their histories are rich, enlightening as well as entertaining.
Mallis was enviably able to persuade one of the greatest photographic stylists/editors (my opinion) of the 20th century to participate: Polly Mellen. Of course no fashion book would complete without photographers and Mallis surely got her pick of the litter here with Bill Cunningham and Bruce Weber. As for the two ancillary personalities, well, that’s just a matter of personal taste but they do provide humor and a very particular eye to the business of fashion.
The book bears a resemblance in context to a similar title from some 40 or more years ago titled Fashion Makers by Barbara Walz and Bernadine Morris; Fashion Lives is the 21st century version of that once contemporary monograph. Be that as it may, Fashion Lives is a must have for all of us who live fashion or those who are thinking of fashion as a future endeavor.